Archive for March 7th, 2011

Sanjay Sabnani - CEO of Crowdgather

Those of us who have lived longer than two decades know that there is no substitute for knowledge and experience.  We also know that no individual has extensive knowledge and/or experience in all aspects of life and why sharing those experiences with others is an empowering activity.  Thus the internet message boards (‘boards’) were created during the pre-internet days of networked modems.  For some of you you’ll remember that the earliest version of these ‘boards’ were newsgroups that started back in the ‘70s such as what existed on Usenet.

As a recap, message boards (sometimes called discussion, bulletin boards, forums etc.,) are places on the internet where people can go and ask questions, find answers and share their thoughts.  The ‘boards’ are typically geared toward a specific topic (Autos, Health, PC help, Gaming etc.,) and there are many which cover everything about motorcycles, motorcyclists and the riding lifestyle where you can reminisce about the good old days or pontificate Pan Head repairs.

The question to ask – have social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.,) subsumed the role of motorcycle forums and permanently cast them into  the obsolete trash bin of “You’ve Got Mail” (i.e. AOL)?  Here is a small sampling of various motorcycle forums:

BMW Sport Touring Forum
Ducati Monster Forum
Harley-Davidson Forum
HD Forum
Honda Forum
J&P Cycles Forum
Kawasaki Forum
Motorcycle USA Forum
Motorcycle Forum
Yamaha Motorcycle Forum
Victory Forum
V-Twin Forum

It’s my view there is a great deal of ignorance about forums and their place in the whole social media eco-system.  It’s been somewhat overlooked because of a general reluctance amongst advertisers to advertise on user generated content.  Twitter and Facebook are not what I would call a “deep internet experience.”  What matters most on a forum is the worth of your intellect, the merit of your thoughts and your ability to communicate them.  I would debate this is true for blogs too.  Unfortunately, the presentation of that material on a ‘board’ is not very pretty. There are legacy issues in how pretty they can be made to look because of how arcane the software is, but if you look at them for what they are — as vehicles for many-to-many communication — they are one of the best applications.

Facebook is not many-to-many. It is me and my friends and at any given time it’s me communicating with my friends or me participating in the communication of my friends. We are never all in it together because I may not have friends that overlap with your group of friends.  Forums are designed for a multiplicity of people to communicate and done in an organized fashion with a taxonomy that makes sense.

On a good forum you can read a motorcycle review. You can have a member write a tutorial on how to wire a ballast compensator for a LED tail-light or how to modify/hack engine codes. You have your typical Q&A threads where you can post a question to the community. You can also share. There are very few places that have this aggregate of knowledge.  In fact, forums are the only class of web site other than like say, Wikipedia that has a built-in peer review mechanism.

Sure, Facebook allows you to share social linkages. You’ll see pictures of your friend’s new ride or trip to the beach and you get to congratulate them. LinkedIn captures your work history; who has recommended who and the chronology of your work experience. Twitter allows you to broadcast to any of your followers what you ate for breakfast or if you live in Libya and a member of the anti-Qaddafi revolution where to stage the next surprise.  Foursquare provides everyone a timeline of where you’ve been minute-by-minute, but there is nowhere else [besides forums] on the internet where your passions, your hobbies and your knowledge base is sufficiently given credit for.

So as an advocate of the ‘boards’ I wanted to do a shout-out and give them a bit more love and respect than they get at present.

Photo courtesy of Sanjay Sabnani who is the chairman and CEO of Crowdgather, a network made up of over 65,000 forums generating over 90 million page views per month and 4.5 million visitors a month.

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