In doing press for the book, one question that I’ve been asked on multiple occasions is “I have a blog. Why do I need forums?” or some derivative like “Why would I want a forum instead of a blog?” or “How are forums different from blogs?”
This may come as a surprise, but blogs and forums are quite similar. As Jeff so eloquently pointed out, they both share a number of common elements. For example:
- Blog post titles are forum thread titles.
- The author of a post is the thread starter.
- The date the post was made is the date the thread was started.
- Blog categories are individual forums.
- The content of the blog post is the content of the first post in the thread.
- Blog comments are thread replies.
And there are others, as well.
The thing I usually say is that they share a lot in common, but the biggest difference is in the fact that, with virtually all blogs, a person or team of people controls what is posted on the blog as a new entry. In other words, to use forums/community lingo, they control what new topics are posted.
On forums, generally, anyone who registers for an account can start a new thread of their own in the appropriate area. They can bring up topics to discussion. While people go off topic in blog comments, the same as they do in forum posts, it’s not the same as creating a new topic - a new thread of discussion.
Blogs and forums can both be highly beneficial – individually and together. A blog can complement a forum and a forum can complement a blog. And, let’s not forget, most of the biggest, most widely read blogs are communities that have developed around the blog. ProBlogger is as good an example of this as any. Darren’s blog is a community. It doesn’t need forums to be one. Blogs are communities, if that’s what you want them to be.
Forums tend to allow for more free, transitive discussion. If you want to encourage community to grow and members not just to talk with the people behind the site, but for a community to develop on a member to member basis, forums are great for that. If you are looking more for a relationship where you or a team of people are sharing ideas, posting articles and, in simple terms, managing a content site where you want people to interact, blogs are great for that.
At the end of the day, it comes down to what you want in a site and what you hope to get out of it.