Forum sites can generate high visits and page views from a core group of site visitors, but they also generate quite a few headaches.
Also known as message boards, forums come in two flavors: moderated and unmoderated. Moderated boards usually have a moderator who guides the direction of the discussion and sometimes even reviews the posting before it can go live. Visitors often have to register before posting.
Unmoderated boards allow anyone to post just about anything except for the usual list of dangerous or socially unacceptable behavior — vulgarity, threats, libel, etc.
Pros and Cons of Moderated Forum Sites
Moderated forums are high on quality and low on quantity.
They are low on quantity because people often tire of setting up yet another account for another site with another pair of logins and passwords.
They also are leery of privacy and security issues, nor do they like someone reviewing or possibly editing their comments before they go live.
For those reasons, moderated boards have high quality posts, but they attract fewer users and postings than boards without moderators. They also are strong on credibility.
The biggest downside is labor. Picture a moderator who has to read 100 posts and rejects 50 of them for vulgarity, personal attacks or other problems.
The remaining posts have to be good enough to fulfill the site’s goals of audience, revenue or profit. The remaining quality often isn’t that good, so many sites drop moderated forums altogether. They don’t bother with unmoderated forums for the reasons below.
Pros and Cons of Unmoderated Forums
The total freedom of unmoderated boards attracts a much higher number of users, postings and page views. But everything from spam to swearing, insults, threats and libelous comments can appear there.
Webmasters with unmoderated boards usually follow the practice of removing inappropriate postings “if brought to their attention”, as they often say on visitor agreements.
But by that time the trouble makers have caused some damage with loyal and well-behaved users. In more extreme cases, the trouble makers who are left may drive away many loyal visitors They may also trigger lawsuits.
In addition, advertisers have no interest in being associated with boards that could damage their reputation. The boards themselves typically reach a small number of highly active users who love a good fight.
Unmoderated message boards are declining among websites, especially large commercial Web sites, over the last several years because of the trouble they bring.
Any webmaster considering message boards should focus on moderated boards and leave the risky, unmoderated ones to small sites that thrive on controversy.