Online-Communication Forums

Online-Communication Forums

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0237-3.ch003
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This chapter takes a close look at online-communication forums. IT professionals often have to prepare information for an online forum. Writing for an online audience (what the author calls online writing) is a vastly different activity than writing for an offline audience (called offline writing here), and being good at one form of writing does not ensure that one will be effective at the other form. Thus it is worth carefully exploring the differences in these two styles. The chapter begins by making a comparison between online and offline writing.
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Online Versus Offline Writing

Prior to the year 2000 most people did more offline writing than online writing, but, around that time there was a dramatic shift and more people began developing online content. In fact, somewhere along the way, many people who did no writing at all began developing materials such as web pages, blogs, and social-networking profiles. New writing styles emerged during this time. After our discussion of online versus offline writing, we include a section that covers various online-communication forums that are particularly relevant to the IT professional. Given the importance of websites to the IT professional, we describe how to develop a plan for creating a website, how to outline a website, how to add content to a website, and how to maintain a website. We focus on a high-level discussion in that section rather than going into a lot of programming details. The chapter concludes with sections on future trends, conclusions, and references.

In this section we explore the similarities and differences between online and offline writing. And, of course, certain pieces of writing will appear in both forms. We should first point out that the chapter on blogging contains a great deal of information about that genre, and the chapters on manuscript preparation and technical papers contain a lot of information which is primarily directed at offline writing. Also, in the next section we cover the various online-writing forums in more detail. Let us begin with general comments about online writing.

Essentially anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can be published. And, in fact, authors can even publish things anonymously. Our focus here is on technical material that is related to information technology and that is published with one’s name associated with it. Widely and freely available desktop-publishing software makes it easy for anyone to make a document look professional, but that certainly does not mean the writing itself is of good quality. With online writing there is often no review process involved. So an author is individually responsible for ensuring the accuracy of one’s writing. That is, there are no referees who might be able to catch typos or more-significant errors. Author reputation is a key concept. An author can spend years developing a good reputation as a credible writer and as a professional. However a reputation can be badly damaged or destroyed by one instance of poor judgment. Thus it is important to make sure that all online material is carefully edited before being published. There tends to be more of a rush to publish online materials, as compared to offline materials, and one should be aware of this fact. One should not get caught up in the rush to publish material rapidly at the expense of the quality of one’s work. For a good discussion of the publishing process and print industry we refer the reader to The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago, 2011).

An average piece of online writing may not be archived for as long a period of time as an average piece of offline writing. However one should keep in mind that anything that one ever publishes online may be available at anytime in the future. In 2009 Google demonstrated this fact when they brought back web pages from their archives to celebrate ten years of business. Google has also archived more than 20 years of Usenet postings (Google, 2011). We do not think that anyone probably imagined that all Usenet posts would be available forever. Other forms of electronic writing may be around much longer than people anticipated as well. One also should keep in mind that online writing is searchable. Thus someone who is interested in finding online-writing materials usually has a slightly-easier time of identifying everything that an author ever wrote. Given that much-offline material is now appearing online, the gap between online and offline writing is narrowing. As offline material is put online, it too becomes easily searchable.

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