There has been a lot of talk about the value of forums lately, especially where ASCnet is concerned. There is debate whether ASCnet sees the value of their own newgroups which are currently old USENET style nntp-based groups accessible only by dedicated news reader or a reader-enable email client. The attempted move to web forums has been a long and somewhat painful process and presently the project seems to have stalled somewhat. Is there value in web forums or forums in general?
Forums, historically have largely been grassroots, user base driven undertakings by folks with similar interests. Forums likely are not great marketing vehicles though and it is not uncommon for businesses to lose sight of the needs of their user base (clients) and put more effort into marketing their product to new clients than appeasing the needs of their current users. Even Apple has been guilty of this, a company that likely owes a lot to it’s fanatical user base.
Novell is another company that tends to have some very devout users, they certainly make use of their forums, which currently still run on NNTP as well as vBulletin with a custom-coded bridge keeping the two in sync.
It is quite hard to find a company today that does not make use of forums for support purposes. Microsoft, Adobe, Nvidia, and AMD all do it. Even non-tech companies might dabble in support forums, but those who don’t will often find their user base will create their own, as owners of various cars and trucks tend to do.
Forums also offer an impromptu gathering place where people with common interest can gather, exchange ideas and help each other out. So there is definitely value in forums, and that value does go both ways.