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A funny thing happened to me on my way to the forum

One thing I like to do is participate in online forums (fora?). These are the discussion groups. Back in the early days of the Internet, before the World Wide Web (there is a difference), academics would keep in touch with each other’s scholarship on something called Usenet Newsgroups. These are the old soc.history.war type addresses. Sadly these venues atrophied as they were taken over by trolls and bots. Trolls are posters who purposely try to hijack and redirect a discussion away from rational and courteous behavior. Bots are automated programs that post spam onto forums clogging up the conversations. The newsgroups also were cumbersome to deal with requiring special readers to access.

With the World Wide Web and the easier to use interfaces the forums have proliferated mostly under volunteer auspices. Individual fans of the Ford Ranger or gardening or the Civil War organize a forum, purchase software, usually at their own expense, and start a discussion group. There are ways to post advertising that helps the organizers defray expenses and even monetize the process. Many groups just ask for money like  Two groups that have captured my attention are ones focused on the U.S. Army Air Forces (before the U.S. Air Force) and the American Civil War. I’m a history buff (junkie) and Dad was in “the air force” during World War II.

I visit these forums often several times a day to see what the denizens are discussing, to learn more, and to post responses. I have a couple of areas of interest such as politics and secession, my dad’s experiences, the economics of slavery, and alternative history. I am less interested in reenactments, the details of particular battles, and the naval war. The moderators, made up of dedicated volunteers as well as the site owner, keep the discussions mostly civil and aren’t afraid to lock a thread — a particular discussion — when things get out of hand. Recently a thread on gun control was locked right after I posted a really good reply.

In most of the forums when you log a certain number of posts you get promoted. In the Civil War I am a sergeant. In the Air Corps I am a Group Member. I can sit on the sofa and, as long as the TV show doesn’t involve subtitles, I can surf the forums too.

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