I started a little Biker Board for a local group I used to hang out with. At its high point we had about 20 active members, and there would be several posts every day. Sometimes, we’d get into good discussions, and threads would get long or branch off into other topics. But as of this writing the most recent post, not counting my own, is 30 days old. The next most recent post is more than 30 days before that one. I show 23 members, but with no posts, I’m not sure I’d classify any of them as active.
But mine is not the only board fading. The first board I joined more than 10 years ago has a member list of more than 500. I joined it for the camaraderie of enthusiasts of a particular motorcycle, but also for information and help with maintenance. I’ve since joined other forums, usually focusing on a particular model of bike. I found them to be wellsprings of information and support. The format lends itself to the exchange of information. I can post a question on a maintenance thread, and get several responses. And as the thread is a specific question, the responses are usually on topic. The advice is vetted with an erroneous suggestion usually pointed out very quickly by other knowledgeable members. Social interests are also handled with separate threads for each topic. Every meeting, ride or annual gathering will have its own thread. Posts are easy to read and understand as they are threaded by topic and presented sequentially by date. It’s an efficient way to share information.
And, of course, there are those who believe it their purpose in life it to inform the rest of us about what our political or religious opinions should be, but they are relegated to other areas so members can easily avoid if they choose to do so. Moderators will maintain a level of decorum and environment appropriate to the venue. Occasionally a member who will not follow the rules will be removed.
I would find more posts each day than I could keep up with when I first joined. I usually selected only those topics that seemed to hold some interest for me. Now, I can go days at a time without seeing a new post. All of the boards I belong to have seen a decline in activity. So where have all the members gone?
Facebook must certainly account for some of them. I know several people who say they don’t use the boards much any more because they are on Facebook. And that is sad. Facebook has its place, but it did not bring the same ease of use to topics. If you have a lot of friends, topics will quickly scroll off the bottom before you see them. And there seem to be more chronic posters on Facebook than I ever saw on the boards. It seems no matter the topic, there will always be somebody posting every few minutes with some irrelevant or off topic reply. Facebook doesn’t lend itself to long posts on very specific subjects such as jetting the carbs on a third generation Honda Magna with associated photos, video and links to parts. Facebook may be free to join, but if its success comes at the expense of those wonderful old boards, then we’re paying a very high price indeed.
－ Guy Wheatley