First there was “chat”. I typed in a subject I was interested in and AOL took me to a virtual room where people were talking about it. I shyly disguised my name and joined in the discussion. Before long, my screeching modem was a regular household sound.

The year was 1995. I was a newly divorced mom and did I EVER chat with some fascinating dudes, lemme tell ya.

I inhaled those people I met. They argued. They had ideas. Some were naughty, some weren’t used to the sudden freedom of expression and so they told us everything, in detail. They came from everywhere.

How Freedom Felt

I fell in love with the Internet because nobody knew me and frankly, neither did I. I could make up a different me every day. Some days I was so hot and people actually believed that stuff!

The rest of the story is the same thing that happened to hundreds of thousands of other people. I built my first web site and hosted it on AOL until I learned a better way. Chatting led me to email lists, Deja News, instant chat rooms, IM, newsgroups and eventually eGroups, which Yahoo! ate up and spit back out as Yahoo! Clubs. I hosted and moderated email lists early on, having passed my 10th year of moderating in 2006.

I was employed as a webmaster by companies that had no idea what we did, nor any respect for us either.

The year I went independent and stopped working for everybody else was the same year I left the SEO industry, dove into Usability full-time and started Cre8asiteforums.

When Do Forum Owners Get to Leave?

I realized something over the weekend, while recalling the first few years when I kept telling the forums staff I wanted to get off the ship and let them have it. Now I can’t leave.

I’ve married it.

Did Brett Tabke marry his forums? Did Jill Whalen marry her’s? Does anyone who starts these gigantic projects ever consider how to get off the ride?

Why am I still typing and not out planting trees?

In the news today is the now announced decision by Ammon Johns to leave his post as Adminstrator for Cre8asiteforums. He was the famous guy there. It was never me and Bill Slawski, though to our credit, we know five people now.

What is MY purpose as a forums founder? Who has even heard of Cre8asiteforums? Not everyone. Who is it for? Not everyone. That is our thing. We are a tribe that represents quality vs. quantity, holistic vs. tunnel vision and fireside chats with beer or peach schnapps over shot gun duels to the death.

It is one of many, many forums to choose from and yet if it disappeared tomorrow, I don’t think the hole in its place would be that large. The hole in the hearts of the Community, however, is a completely different matter.

It is for them that we remain committed. It is for you, we have a soft spot.

There are days when I lack the desire to keep this up and without fail, the forums staff puts me straight. They tolerate me quite well.

Why A Forums?

With social media being the fad, yet another new and wonderful way is available to chat with people. We still need to be moderated, as a recent ruckus at Sphinn will show. It’s still fun to have a place where we disguise our names and scream out obscenities because we’re far, far better than everyone else.

Search engine marketing blogs communicate, even if one sided and not always in a chatty way. Nowadays, we can hear real voices with podcasts and view real bodies with video. Forums can’t replace the beauty of watching people doing things online they’d NEVER do in your actual living room.

Are forums dying out?

Have they become narrower in their purpose? For example, at Cre8asite, there is a core group of both active Community members and moderators who visit and participate often. That core is shrinking as their expertise grows, making them more attractive to employers. This, in turn, means less time for forums.

Whereas, an outer ring of people visit only when they need something. They take. They don’t give. They don’t remain long enough to be known or trusted.

I’m wondering if this is our future. We’re still talking to one another but instead of a nice long discussion, we’re now down to votes, comments, 500 word limited blog posts, hopscotching links to get from one thought to another and otherwise no longer staying long enough to care about each other.

When the caring totally stops, that’s when I know it’s time for me to get off the ride.

This topic went “Hot” at Sphinn on September 18.

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)