Internet forums have the advantage, and sometimes significant drawback, that anyone can participate. Of course forums can be moderated, but there is a difficult balance to be struck between building an online community that has a high level of participation and restricting access to users who the moderators consider enhance rather than degrade the community.
The fact that internet forums are very open places is, for the most part, an advantage. A wide variety of opinion is expressed and most people who choose to participate take discussion seriously and are genuinely interested in the topic. Users hope they are able to provide something useful to the community and strive to ask interesting questions and provide thoughtful and accurate responses. More often than not, users who are complete crackpots are quickly and easily identified1. However, users who aren't obvious crackpots but aren't educated on the topic either, present their ill founded opinion as fact, problems start to arise. The overall value of the community falls when users who have come to the forum to ask a question be educated can't identify the likely level of knowledge other users have.
Most forum software now provides some system to rank the participants, although this is usually done simply via the number of posts they have made. This can be useful for some forums but on others is completely irrelevant and insufficient. Others have gone further and included a system for question askers to rank question answerers. This is a particularly good system for communities where specific answers are required2, such as in forums to provide solutions to programming or software development problems.. But of course, it doesn't suit all internet communities.
This entire post so far has been a round about way of getting to this paragraph. Discussion forums on stock markets have, for a long time, been a very bad place for amateur stock market enthusiasts to hang out. This is for the simple reason that most of the other participants are also amateurs and 99% of the posts are unqualified opinion based on unsound reasoning. That could all be changing with the new community being created at www.topstocks.com.au, who are trying to create "the intelligent community". I was pointed in the direction of Top Stocks while reading the boards over at Young Entrepreneur.3 I haven't really had a chance to play around there yet, but having read their introduction and and how their system ranks participants, I'm expecting it to be a very popular online community for Australian stock market enthusiasts.
Their ranking system is very well described on their site so I'll keep this brief. Basically it involves members making "tips" and "bets" on specific stocks that are listed on the ASX. If the predictions turn out to be correct then the user earns points which adds to their credibility rating. I will certainly be trying it out to see how it all works. I believe if you join today (or, lets face it, probably any time soon) you will get a Pro Membership for free.
- Like the person who continually posts the message "I drink my pee" on the ABC TechTalk forum. [↩]
- The first time I saw this (years ago now) was on the Experts Exchange forums for software developers. [↩]
- Just so I remain transparent, I have signed up with Top Stocks as an affiliate so if you join as a Pro Member using the links in this post, I stand to earn some money out of it. But please note, I've only tried the Top Stocks site for around 10 minutes and really can't vouch for how good it is. I just like the concept. [↩]