I hear from NetBase customers that although Twitter is all the rage, and blogs have been around since the early 2000s, it’s in forums—the Internet equivalent of the old message board—where one gets the most transparency into people’s lives.

Why do people join a forum? I think it’s because the topic is deeply relevant to their life. A parent joins a parenting forum to share experiences and learn from other parents. Someone who has just come down with a disease or medical condition may join a forum devoted to that subject for the support and advice they can find there. People join a wide range of forums because they find it helpful to communicate with others about major issues in their life. People find forums the best way to connect with individuals in a similar situation, which can make a world of difference in coping successfully with that situation.

For a netnographer looking for insights, or for anyone looking for a better understanding of why people feel and act the way they do, forums are a richer source of raw material than many of the newer social media sites.

Understanding ForumSpeak

Speaking of transparency, the heavy use of abbreviations on forums can sometimes make conversations not very transparent at all to newbies. So I thought I’d pass on a couple of helpful lists.
ChatSlang.com provides a long alphabetical list of forum abbreviations.

Here’s a shorter list of popular abbreviations from Today’s Parent: