written by: R.L. Flowers•edited by: Aaron R.•updated: 11/24/2010
Are you new to Internet forums? Read about common Internet Forum Terminology, and learn a bit about common forum culture before you embark into the wild world of online communities.
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Introduction to Forum Terminology
Forum: A place online where people get together for the sake of discussing subjects that they have in common. That is the general idea, but forums can be places that stray far from that ideal goal. So often people join forums and don't know what to expect. There is a certain culture around Internet forums that has been developing since the days before they were popular, going back to mail list groups and usenet.
Before you dive in, you'll want to familiarize yourself with some of the lingo and terminology that is commonly used.
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Must Know Internet Forum Terminology - A dictionary of common terms: Part 1
Avatar: A graphic representation of the user. It is seen by others in the forums when you post a topic or comment. It should be unique so that you can be easily identified by your avatar. It makes sorting through comments a bit easier.
Bump: When a topic or comment is posted and a desired response isn't given, a person will often "bump" the topic back to the top of the forum thread list by simply adding a comment to the end of the thread. This reminds other users that the topic is still open for discussion. Depending on who is doing it, it can be helpful or very annoying. Use carefully.
CAPTCHA: A graphic that displays distorted letters and numbers as part of a submission form. The person submitting the form must correctly type the letters and numbers seen in the graphic in order to successfully complete the form. This is done to prevent automatic programs ('bots') from getting access to forums. See "forum spam" below.
Conversation Threading: Threaded conversations use a hierarchy to organize messages. Each post or reply on a topic adds a layer to the hierarchy. For an example of threaded conversations, see the comments on news at slashdot.org.
Chat Room: A chat room is an area where users can talk to each other in real time.
Double Posting This happens when a user clicks twice on the 'submit' button when posting a new topic or a reply to a topic. This is often handled by editing the second post, removing the redundant content and posting "double post, sorry!" instead of the full contents.
Emoticon Emoticons are text representations of emotions, since emotions and motives are often misunderstood. Examples:
:-) or :) or :D - Smile
;) ;-) - Wink
:o - Surprised
>:-) - Evil (playfully used)
There are many, many more emoticons, but considering all of them is beyond the scope of this article.
Flaming: Berating, putting down or yelling at another user.
Flame Wars: When users flame each other endlessly until somebody gives up or the thread is closed by a moderator.
Flamebait:Posting a topic that is intended to irritate other users. These often result in flame wars.
Forum Spam: Posting advertisements in forums in any way. This can include a legitimate user posting content that is designed to promote his or her business without buying advertising from the forum owners.
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Find out more about web forum terminology. Find out what a bunny and a pancake have to do with web forums.
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Must Know Internet Forum Terminology - A dictionary of common terms: Part 2
Hit and Run Posting: Posting a topic and never returning to check on it, or not responding to other posts in the thread. A small comment just to say "thank you" to those who responded will prevent one from being a Hit and Run poster.
Image Macro:A photo that has large print superimposed on it. A popular Image Macro is a picture of a rabbit that is balancing a pancake on its head (a real photo by a Japanese rabbit owner) with the words "I have no idea what you're talking about, so here a bunny with a pancake on its head." These are often used in a playful manner to add humor to a thread.
Lurker/Lurking: A lurker is a user who browses the forum and never, or rarely, posts a topic or comment.
Moderators:Users with extra privileges who can close topics, ban users, remove posts or edit content of other users posts. They are usually the volunteer 'police' of the forum. In fact they are often called "forum police."
Off Topic:A section of a forum that has nothing to do with the main subject matter. They are often used to have an area for people to visit without having to stay on one subject. It also describes a post in a forum that is out of place. Posting a thread about politics in a forum about cars would be considered off topic.
Sticky post: These are forum threads (conversations) that stay at the top of the topic list permanently. They often are titled "Read this First before posting!" or "Check here first before posting questions."
Signature: A line of text automatically added to every post a user makes. These are often used to say something funny or to display information about the users. They are generally customizable.
Trolls / Feeding the Trolls: See "flamebait" above. Trolls are people who post flamebait, and Feeding the Trolls refers to one who is reacting to the Troll in a serious manner and therefore giving them more undeserved attention and prolonging the flame war.
Word Filter: Some forum owners use word filters to keep content clean. Filtered words are often marked out with asterisks, and some forum owners replace foul words with something humorous.
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More information about Forum Terminology
This list is not meant to be a comprehensive list of terms. There are many more that you can look up if you don't understand something in a forum. We suggest using your favorite search engine to get more definitions on terms that are unclear to you, or you can search on Brighthub for other relevant articles. For example, you may want to check out What is a Web Forum?