Forums and E-mail Groups Foster Online Community Discussions - dummies

Forums and E-mail Groups Foster Online Community Discussions

By Deborah Ng

Online communities start out slowly, with a few tentative members at a time. Sooner or later, personalities emerge, friendships and alliances form, and cliques and heated discussions follow. Forums and e-mail groups are ways to help foster community discussions through the internet.


Online forums are websites or subdomains dedicated to online community discussions. In fact, most early online forums were created strictly for their conversational element and not to sell products or build name awareness. As businesses and brands realized the potential of communities, more forums were created. Various interest groups and support groups also created forums in order to mentor or commiserate.


Most forums are made up of topic folders, with different discussions in each folder. They’re “threaded” into easy to follow conversations so new members can read the discussion from the very beginning — even if they’re coming in at the end.

Forums do require a bit of technical expertise to install and keep running properly, but they’re not difficult to manage. If not moderated properly, forums are magnets for spammers, trolls and other negativity. Still, forums foster loyal communities with members who look forward to participating each and every day.

E-mail groups

Community discussions also take place via e-mail or through Yahoo! or Google’s group options. The most popular e-mail communities are both a blessing and a curse in that they send e-mails to members’ accounts for every response to a discussion topic. So if a member asks a question and 100 people respond, he can expect 101 e-mails for that one specific topic.

Participants do have the option of receiving a single digest e-mail with a set number of messages to defray this overload, but heavy discussions can still be cumbersome. That isn’t to say that e-mail groups don’t have their benefits because they’re useful tools and a convenient way to participate in discussions without having to visit websites and social networks.

The re-using and recycling organization Freecycle is an example of a very successful Yahoo! Group community. In fact, Freecycle has individual e-mail groups for regions all over the world.

Moderators can opt to have closed or open communities, and type determines whether or not to approve new members and comments. A closed community indicates members need approval before they can join. The moderator looks at the potential member’s information to determine whether she is a good fit, and also to keep out spammers.

Open communities allow anyone to sign up without approval, although these communities are the most inundated with spam.

Unmoderated e-mail groups become a spammer’s paradise, driving away members.