To be or not to be is no longer the question. The question now is, "what should the criteria be for ranking, rating, reviewing and summarizing virtual world forums?"
I'm thinking of how Forbes and USA News and World Report and the like state their criteria when they report on businesses or colleges and universities. What would our criteria be?
The first one that pops to my mind is whether or not it is an adult (18+) forum and then from there whether it is G, PG, PG-13, R, X, XXX (with apologies to my international audience for using an American rating system.) Most people already know I'm prone to rank forums by the atmosphere - coffee klatch, bar, bistro, hooligan pub, etc.
This is from a post I made in gotVirtual on July 16, 2011 about gotVirtual.
Basement bar. The kind you enter because someone gave you the inside info. Go down the back alley, down the back stairs. Big dude everybody calls "Mars" will look through a small window in the door and eyeball you before grunting something about a password. Speak. Shut up. Stand there. Wait. Door will open. Walk in. Smoky, boozy, craps game going on, Texas Hold 'Em. People checking you out without really looking at you. Simple, utilitarian. Everything you need. Nothing you don't. Money is where it should be and nowhere it shouldn't. Grab a drink, pick a spot and ante up. Don't ask too many questions. Play the game or get played. Something like that.
ETA: Almost forgot the bistro upstairs.This is from a post I made in gotVirtual on April 16, 2011 about gotVirtual and RLetc.
It was definitely intended to be a "kinder, gentler" place and friendly to advertisers and it was and is. It's definitely more bistro than bar. The main parallel between RLetc and gV is that they are both ostensibly virtual world forums.I tend to refer people to RLetc.com when they say they do not enjoy forum flame wars, fights, dramas and trolls and just want a nice place to talk about Second Life and other virtual worlds like STO and WoW. I refer people who want to go the opposite direction to gV. I refer people into politics, gardening and recipes to SC MKII. I refer people who want SL information and a big crowd or one-stop shop to SLUniverse or SL official. And so forth.
Can't have a discussion about forums with Pep involved without talking about the Community Standards and moderation of those stated standards. (I do realize moderation is a common topic for others as well, and reasonably so.)
Size and traffic would be obvious ones to me as well. Number of members, posts, etc. How long the site has been up. Most popular sections, topics and threads. Maybe registration process and ease of entry into the community. How much the virtual world is actually discussed. Here's a brain dump based on my own thoughts and the comments I have seen others make.
❏ Categories (general vs. specific, SC MKII vs. the SL Artists forum, for example)
❏ Age restriction
❏ Content restrictions
❏ Community Standards
❏ Banned members
❏ Virtual world content
❏ Most popular sections or topics
❏ Most popular threads
❏ Recent activity
❏ Registration process
❏ Ease of entry into the community / welcome
❏ Community culture
❏ Layout, visual appeal
❏ Options (blogs, albums, etc.)
❏ Ease of use
❏ Forum navigation
❏ Tips, tricks, troubleshooting and things you should know
❏ Admins & Mods
❏ Local "celebrities" and well-known players
❏ Usefulness in terms of helpful answers or pure fun
❏ Best ofs
❏ Inworld presence (Forum Cartel, RLetc Bay, etc.)
❏ Youtube videos or channels
❏ What differentiates the forum, if anything.
❏ And then general comments.
Then the question might be, "which forums should be included in the review?"
◆ Second Life Official Forums: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Forums/ct-p/Forums
◆ Utherverse Official Forums: http://forums.utherverse.com/
◆ Blue Mars Developer Forum: http://create.bluemars.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=177
◆ Inworldz Official Forum: http://inworldz.com/forums/
◆ Star Trek Online (STO) Official Forum: http://forums.startrekonline.com/
◆ 3DChat Official Forum: http://forum.3dchat.com/?content=9
◆ gotvirtual.net: http://gotvirtual.net
◆ ProfilesLive.com: http://www.profileslive.com
◆ RLetc.com: http://www.rletc.com
◆ Second Citizen MKII: http://www.secondcitizen.net
◆ SL Offworld: http://z15.invisionfree.com/SL_Offworld_Forum/index.php
◆ SLUniverse: http://www.sluniverse.com
◆ Second Life Unleashed: http://www.slunleashed.com (Owner declared it dead, but the link is still live.)
◆ The Gorean Forums: http://goreanforums.net/
◆ SL Flying for Second Life Aviators: http://www.slflying.net/forum/
◆ Second Life Music Community Forum: http://slmc.myfastforum.org/
◆ Second Life Art & Artist Network: http://slartistnetwork.proboards.com/index.cgi
◆ me2oh: http://me2oh.com/forum
◆ Wasted Life: http://www.wastedlife.com.ar/
◆ Kirstens Viewer Forum: http://www.kirstensviewer.com/Forum/
◆ Kokua & Imprudence Forums: http://forums.kokuaviewer.org/
◆ Phoenix Forum: http://s15.zetaboards.com/Phoenix_Viewer/index/
◆ KingGoon: http://www.kinggoon.net/Forum/
Dead or Dying
✟ Virtual World Universe: http://virtualworlduniverse.com
✟ ItsaVirtualLife: http://itsavirtuallife.com
✟ Second Life Forum: http://secondlifeforum.com/
✟ SLforum: http://www.slforum.com/forum/
✟ The Sexy Guild: http://forums.thesexyguild.com
I have noticed there are a couple of defunct site names and links that now point to gotVirtual.net.
And yes, I'm focusing on forums that are primarily English-language based as the list gets a lot longer if you include all languages.
I'm throwing it all up there in one big pile, so don't be put off by the size. We could choose five criteria and ten forums or some other kind of culling. You get the pic, right?
This is from a post I made in gotVirtual on April 18, 2011, comparing some of the forums:
Online now: 25 (members: 13, guests: 12)
Discussions:1,185 Messages:53,369 Members:198
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Threads 3,167 Posts 95,294 Members 858 Blogs 35 Entries 449
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Second Citizen.net (SC MKII)
Currently Active Users: 105 (19 members and 86 guests)
Most users ever online was 617, 02-15-2011 at 07:55 AM.
Threads: 12,789, Posts: 351,759, Members: 2,274, Active Members: 176
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SL Offworld Forum (SLO)
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Most users ever online was 31 on Feb 23 2011, 10:00 AM
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Total members that have posted on the forum in the last 24 hours: 227
Threads: 54,266, Posts: 1,219,700, Members: 15,239
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Virtual World Universe
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And this is a snapshot (1 & 2) of my observations as of March 18, 2011 (subject to change, natch).
It has so much to do with sensibility, perspective and purpose.
Some people approach a forum like it's a nice bistro where you can discuss all manner of topics like art, fashion and news in a reasonable and courteous manner in calm and quiet tones.
Some people approach a forum like it's a rowdy bar or pub where people play the dozens, fling each other crap, get into bar fights, scrap a little and then ogle someone hot and sing loud and vulgar songs.
Someone from the bistro might stroll into the bar and hear vulgar language and fighting words and be appalled and dismayed. They might see it as toxic and negative. Someone from the bar might wander over to the bistro and find it boring and staid. Both environments might totally bring the other person down.
Some people don't "get" the rowdy bar scene, some people do "get" it and find it distasteful and some people love that shit, roll up their sleeves and wade right on in.
The problem occurs when the bistro crowd and the bar crowd occupy the same space.
This forum is more like the rowdy bar, but we have bistro posters and bistro lurkers, so yeah, it's going to look pretty toxic. I've referred a number of people to gV. There was one person who definitely found this place to be like a festering, toxic grudgefest filled with loons who couldn't let anything go. There was another person who stopped just short of yelling "woohooo" and diving in cannonball-style into the pool.
I asked Dale earlier if she'd seen the movie Gran Turino and the scenes between Clint Eastwood and the barber in particular. I've posted pics of Statler and Waldorf representing two members of this site (and others). Both those references involve two men who are the best of friends... insulting each other. Some people find that strange, some people find it negative and some people see fun, connection and loyalty.
That said, not every boisterous relationship or exchange is underpinned by friendship and fun. Some of the exchanges in here are, just pure and simple, toxic bullshit. Some people are willing to step around the trash, some people want to clean it up and some want to avoid it altogether. And some people are freaking obsessed with rolling around in it.
Different strokes for different folks. Different forums too. I see RLetc.com and SLU being for the bistro crowd. SLO seems to want to be a bistro. SC MKII, in my opinion, wants to position itself as a bar, but is really a bistro. gV and the Utherverse (RLC) forums are bars. Hooligan bars. So if your friend is a bistro patron, he or she would not be comfortable in this bar. I refer the bistro crowd to RLetc.com and SLU and I refer the bar crowd to SC MKII, gV and RLC. Others may choose to do differently, of course.
That's my take anyway.
If you want to see what toxicity on a forum looks like, take a little tour around the Wasteland of the Utherverse (RLC) forum. It's pure Jerry Springer on steroids in there. Almost makes gV look like, well, like a bistro with a bar. It's funny to me too, because of all the talk about the official Second Life forums (and occasional mention of the Sony forums) around the SL-based third-party forums. Most people seem to realize that a corporate product site has to be a little more conservative than a third-party or fan forum site. We get looser the further out we are, right? Well the Utherverse (RLC) forum is the official product forum. Most of the posters of the official Second Life forum would clutch their pearls and faint dead away in the Utherverse (RLC) forum. Those that decry, or even those that supposedly engage in, bad behavior on gV,SC MKII and SLU would likely blanch over there. I suppose it's worth pointing out that the Utherverse (RLC stands for Red Light Center) is a virtual world with a primary purpose of adult entertainment, so that colors things a bit. There's not a big team of educators or corporate suits likely to wander into the forum. You might be interested to know that the Utherverse has clear designs on being more "Second Life like" and branching out from the adult entertainment industry like a porn actress who wants to start doing mainstream movies.
I did take a look to see if there was a site that review the forums and I found this: http://www.best-reviewer.com/best-review-top-5-second-life-forum-websites.htm. I'm not satisfied. I think there is room for a more in-depth review. Besides, it looks more like a cheery, superficial advertisement than anything else.
"One of the favourite past times for many Second Life residents is writing about their Second Life experiences. There are many blogs relating to Second Life and a number of forums where people interact, share ideas, help each other, discuss pressing Second Life issues, as well as troll, flame and argue! Here is a short list of the most well known and well used Second Life related forums."
Orfeu was kind enough to give me a screen capture of the blue-barbed wire problem, by the way, so I hope I was able to fix it for this blog post by getting rid of the embedded titles.