Message boards provide the structure that simple guest book’s lack. Most of the messages that people post on message boards are fairly short, but unlike in a guest book, messages aren’t just listed in a simple top-down or bottom-up order that’s based on when they’re posted. Instead, a message board lists its postings by topic. In fact, the whole purpose of a message board is different from that of a guest book. Both guest book’s and message boards let people leave messages, but message boards also let people interact with each another.
Before a new message is posted, the poster chooses a suitable subject or topic for it. As other people respond to the message, that topic automatically carries over, and the reply is connected to the original message. Usually, the board lists these postings in a hierarchy, where each response is indented beneath the message it replies to, and the series of messages on one topic is called a thread. Visitors to your site can follow a thread from beginning to end, jump in and reply to any message in the thread, or start an entirely new discussion by posting a new message.
Message boards almost always deal with a particular field of interest that visitors to a Web site have in common. Here are some common examples:
Obviously, a publicly available forum on controversial topics gives people who are less than polite an opening to be disruptive. A worthwhile message board program includes a filter feature where you can specify any terms you want to prohibit. (For example, if you run a board for turkeys, you may not want them to have to see words like stuffing or Christmas). Filters prevent messages containing the terms you list from going onto your message board.
Chat rooms provide a way for visitors to your site to engage in live, real-time communication. Like message boards, chat rooms enable lots of users to leave messages on the same topic, but these messages don’t appear in topic related threads. Instead the messages appear as they’re sent, and the various conversation threads run together in the same area. You may think that this sounds a bit chaotic, and some people may agree with you. Chat room discussions are totally unstructured, and the more people that are in a chat room, the more confusing it is to try to follow a conversation.
But chat rooms are fun and popular and even chat novices quickly get used to picking out the specific conversation they’re a part of. Having a conversation in a chat room is kind of like talking to one or two people in the middle of a large party. This isn’t your problem as a Webmaster, though you may want to recommend these rooms mainly for smaller gatherings. People who regularly hang out in chat rooms understand and accept their peculiarities, and if your visitors really want chat rooms, providing them is easy enough. Several sources on the Web offer their services to help you add a chat room to your site.