One of the more popular online activities is to enter into discussions with others on topics of mutual interest. Discussion boards, also known as online bulletin boards or forums, are places where folks gather and post messages back and forth.
Bulletin boards aren’t the same as chat rooms, however. With bulletin boards, you post a message, then leave. Someone else stops by the bulletin board and posts a response, then leaves. You stop by later and read the response, and so forth.
So, how do you go about finding discussion boards? A good place to begin is Google Groups, which offers a way of accessing the Usenet Newsgroups.
Usenet Newsgroups is a separate area of the Internet that is composed of literally thousands of discussion forums in virtually every topic imaginable. For example, let’s say that one of your favorite recreational activities is riding bikes. You’ll find at least 7 different forums that discuss bicycles in a variety of ways, including rec.bicycles.racing, rec.bicycles.off-road, and rec.bicycles.marketplace. Interested in antiques? Ham radios? Would you enjoy entering into a discussion on politics? Religion? Does someone in your family have a particular health issue? At Google Groups, you can access posts from Usenet Newsgroups, respond to those posts, or start new discussion topics yourself.
Another way of accessing Usenet discussion forums is through a special software program like Free Agent. With Free Agent, you can download Usenet messages and respond to them, or set up discussion topics of your choice. The software is free for academic and non-profit use, and it’s simple to use.
Yahoo! has a special area called Yahoo! Clubs, which also offers a wide assortment of forums. You’ll find clubs in topics such as regional interests, music, travel, education, and genealogy. You have to join to participate, but there’s no cost involved. With Yahoo! Clubs, you can even set up your own club if one that you’re interested in doesn’t exist.
Specific interest groups often have related online forums. For example, Teen Forums offer topics of interest to teens like music, movies, and jobs. The site is sponsored by The Student Center, a Web community for college and high school students and teens.
For medical issues, visit GMN Medical Forums. After choosing a major topic area such as Plastic Surgery, Pediatrics, or Cardiology, you’re presented with several choices, including email networks, online forums, and mailing lists.
Finally, if you’re a sports fans, be sure to stop by the Addict Sports Forums.
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