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Using Online Forums and Clubs

Online forums are similar to newsgroups except they have one or more moderators to oversee all the messages. Also known as Web boards or bulletin boards, forums also differ from newsgroups because they usually exist internally on one of the major online services like CompuServe or America Online, or on a specific Web site rather than existing as newsgroups do, as Internet entities unto themselves. Some of the larger portal Web sites also offer forums, which are known by such forum synonyms as Clubs (Yahoo, Lycos, Excite), Communities (InfoSeek), or Pods (Tripod).

CompuServe, AOL, and Prodigy have their own forums that are formed and maintained by SysOps (System Operators), a technical term that is now being replaced by the term moderator. Moderators watch for offensive material such as harsh language, subjects that stray from the forum's topic, and advertising. If you have a membership to any of these services and try to use a forum for advertising, your message will be deleted. Depending on the service, you will be warned not to try it again. After a couple of warnings, you may have your membership revoked.

As with newsgroups, people generally join forums because they share common interests, not to get pounded with advertisements. If you plan on "invading" one of these online services, you should contact its customer service department, which will guide you to the proper places for advertising. You can also search around yourself. Every online service has its own search engine. Perhaps you can find a forum that has a section dedicated to buying or trading items. Let the moderator know your intentions, and find out if it is acceptable to advertise there.

Creating an Excite Club

Excite is one of the several online services that allow you to create your own community. To do so, go to www.excite.com/comm/new/ and click on Start your own Club. You will be asked to enter a club name and description. You can choose to have your club listed in the Excite Club Directory, which involves selecting a topic and entering some keywords. Or you can keep your club private so only members can participate. Once you build your own club, you can post photos, events, links, and contact lists as well as host discussions and send community email.

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