Forum Refereee!

Jason Scott (who has produced a documentary on BBS culture and is working on one now on interactive fiction) offers a thoughtful analysis of an Atari forum thread that went awry.

The problem with a “what do you think about this”, or the hardest
portion, is listening to what people say and then waiting until it’s
all died down to give a summary thanks and move on. Fulop instead
begins a conversation and ultimately a quasi-interview/roundtable masquerading as a poll.

A web-based forum (in this case, AtariAge) is no longer imbued with
the limitations of bulletin board systems; multiple simultaneous
posters are a breeze, images can be embedded into discussions, and the
software allows for instantaneous restructuring of the postings to
satisfy a linear or threaded regard. While in many ways this is a
positive set of innovations, it also brings along with it potential for
flamewars and flare-ups to immediately consume the parties involved.
There is no waiting period. There is an abundance of meta-discussion
due to the non-scarce resource of access. There is a lower barrier to
entry with commercial and societal interests in lowering the barrier
even further. This is the modern environment and it’s the way it is.

So saying that there were an average of 4.4 posts an hour is not all
that helpful, in fact; you have no idea of the distribution of the
messages. Since people can be writing multiple additions
simultaneously, the forum can actually “breathe” in a manner not unlike
a bellows or chamber in an engine; with posts queuing up in great
numbers and blasting across the message base in waves.