“Having been an administrator of a number of online discussion forums, going back about a decade now, I have a different take on Fong’s views above.
It really isn’t a technology problem, but a people problem. Two of the biggest issues are moderation and anonymity.
Some forum admins just don’t have clear rules and expectations, and allow (in my opinion) inappropriate participation. More, larger forums with no moderation allows for a minority to control the culture, the discourse, and drive away those holding opinions with which they do not agree.
Another problem is the anonymity of most forums – people can sign up as whoever they’d like, and as many times as they’d like, and again affect the forum in a very negative manner.”
In regards to moderation and anonymity, these are the exact two problems I have with message boards. These private forums require creating an account to participate (although, some forums like the RPF, allow viewing without having to log in). Letting members create usernames that mask their identities goes in the face of transparency. Here’s a suggestion that can kill two birds with one stone: use Facebook or Twitter to log in. That way there is no need to create a new account and there will not be an identity issue. Of course, a transparent private board is an oxymoron. From what I’ve seen, moderators are almost never unbiased. If any post gets edited or deleted, moderation has failed. If there are any ads from users, the message board has been compromised.
I agree with Jason that there is a people problem here. But you can’t get rid of the people, so the next best thing is to use the tools of technology to limit their antics. I say eliminate the moderators and pull away the curtains.
(Jason, if you’ve wondered why we’ve been bantering back and forth from my blog to yours, it’s because I refuse to create an account in order to post on your site. Oh, and as far as waiting for Profiles to address any open questions, good luck.)