In economics, there’s a concept know as Gresham’s law. In shorthand form, it says “the bad money drives out the good.” In this case, bad money is defined as money whose perceived value is less than its face value. If there’s a lot of that kind of money around, it will circulate, and people will keep the good money in their pockets or under their mattresses.
There’s something like Gresham’s law that takes place on photography — and presumable other — forums. Argumentative, repetitive, insulting, nasty, unhelpful, and ignorant posters (call them, for purposes of this discussion, the bad posters) drive away polite, knowledgeable, helpful, and pleasant ones (let’s call these the good ones). Especially in forums without threaded view, it seems that the volume of disagreeable, recurring, truth-challenged posts makes it difficult for someone actually looking for useful information to succeed. In addition, some posters are prone to attack the helpful ones personally, demeaning them as they challenge their largely correct ideas. After a while, the helpful posters often stand down or completely cease participation.
I’ve watched this dynamic play out for years. Moderation is supposed to fix this. It can help, but it can only go so far, and volunteer moderators need detailed, crisp guidelines, or else different forums have different rules depending on the sensibilities — and sometimes the whims — of the moderators. The news of the impending demise of Digital Photography Review — which never came to pass, as Amazon sold them rather than shut them down — caused the creation of several new photography forums. One of them initially attracted a large following. It has moderation so light that it is seemingly nonexistent. It also has no threaded view and no limit to the number of posts per thread, which makes it extremely difficult for a reader to sort the heat from the chaff.
There is some fascination with these endless argumentative threads that attracts readership in sort of the same way that a crash on the freeway turns drivers into gawkers. But people’s patience tends to wear thin. It remains to be seen whether extremely light moderation is an alternative for photography forums that will wear well with a large audience.
Full disclosure. I am a moderator on DPR’s medium format forum.