As an internet user, I do participate in a fair number of forums. I find them immensely beneficial especially if there are a lot of experts in them. I find their insight extremely beneficial. Many people who would loathe to write an article, would not consider it as painful to write a couple of paragraphs in answer to a question which they may consider interesting.
This accumulated knowledge has made a lot of threads in different forums immensely beneficial. How do I choose the best application framework in Java? Goto a forum and post that question. There would be a ton of experts giving you different ways of dissecting the question and coming up with a sensible answer. The back and forth exchanges with alternate points of view make the entire exercise extremely interesting.
The most annoying problem I have with the forums however, is that it is easy to lose the gist by all the flame wars that emanate in them. The second most annoying thing is the use of forums as another form of “google search”. There is a surplus of users who use the forums to ask trivial questions for which the answer is readily available. How do I use PHP to connect to a MYSQL database? The standard rejoinder previously was to quietly advise the questioner to RTFM.
Politically correct pundits have replaced the intended expletive in RTFM with the word “fine” to take some of the edge away.
With the advent of Social Networking, there is a certain fusion of our online personalities. It is hard to maintain distinct identities in different forums. Hence it is that much harder to get away with rude or politically incorrect answers without risking an erosion of our internet image. Hence I observe a trend wherein folks are getting a lot more polite in these forums.