Grab Bag

Are garden blogs replacing garden forums?

Gardenweb was my first introduction to the online gardening community. I happened upon it in early 2000, and immediately dove right into the rose, perennial, and bulb forums. Then I found that there were even more informative—and way more provocative—discussions going on in some of the other forums. Many of you may remember an actual proposal of marriage being exchanged between two avid composters on the soil, compost, and mulch forum. Others might recall the hilarious “all-ugly ” thread, in which southern gardeners described a series of rural front yards hideous enough to make Dogpatch seem tasteful. On the landscaping forum, there was always tension between the professionals and homeowners seeking free advice—but plenty of ideas flying back and forth as well. I think it was gardenweb alone that kept my determination to successfully grow roses alive—their avid rosarians and images of beautiful rose beds made that goal seem just barely within reach.

Gardenweb still exists, of course, and its forums are just as lively as they ever were. I just checked in and found anxiety about forgotten, unplanted bulbs; anger about the cancellation of A Gardener’s Diary; matter-of-fact comments about magazines: ” I’m not really looking for ideas, just porn”; and the usual demands to “enable me!” from the rose freaks. The other popular user-driven garden website is Dave’s Garden, which I check mainly for its excellent ratings of mail order vendors. The DG forums, unfortunately, have a small users’ fee, so I’ve never read them—I’m not sure I need to belong to another online service.

As for Gardenweb, it now claims ownership of all the messages and images posted thereon. Actually, I really question whether this would ever stand up legally, but don’t much care. They can have my questions about gardenia pests and welcome.

So the popular forums aren’t perfect. But can blogs take their place? I honestly don’t think so. You can post a search term on a forum and get ten pages of possible solutions to your gardening problem. You can exchange opinions with other gardeners on an equal footing—no hierarchy of poster and commenter. (And as a blogger, I always feel kind of silly posting comments on my own blog.) The blog is in many ways an extension of the blogger’s ego—more individual expression than public meeting ground. (With some exceptions, of course.)

I would be sorry to see the garden forums decline; they provide all the specific, idiosyncratic information books can’t give you and blogs only sporadically supply. But the news that Dave’s Garden has been sold is somewhat disturbing, though Dave explains how the site will continue here. Gardenweb seems healthy enough, with the caveat of the copyright thing. (I wouldn’t post essays or images there, anyway.) As many of you know, they have a blog feed/listing feature, Garden Voices, that is quite popular. But is this ominous? Is this a sign that they see forums succumbing to blogs anytime soon?

I hope not. Blogs and forums each provide essential services to gardners—long may they both live and vive la difference!

Posted by on January 29, 2007 at 5:07 am, in the category Grab Bag.
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14 Responses to “Are garden blogs replacing garden forums?”

  1. bev says:

    All I have to say to Dave is, remember what happened to Heronswood and watch out! I agree with you about the respective roles of forums and blogs.

    bev

  2. Another vote here for both garden blogs and for the forums like GardenWeb, because they address different needs, and more is not a bad thing. The forums sort the topics into categories, while we garden bloggers write on anything we please, and that sorting may be more useful for newer gardeners. [Back in the early nineties, bulletin boards like Prodigy connected gardeners, and were similar to a slow GardenWeb without photos.]

    What I found surprising in your post was this sentence, “(And as a blogger, I always feel kind of silly posting comments on my own blog.)”
    To me that would be like sitting at your own kitchen table drinking coffee with friends, while refusing to speak to them! People who read RSS feeds without going to the actual blog and reading the comments are missing out on some wonderful conversations.
    And Elizabeth, if the blog writer is no longer part of the discussion, or never answers any questions posed in the comments, after awhile I find myself visiting less and less.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  3. Colleen says:

    I want to agree with what Annie said above about the blog owner responding to comments. I find that one of the best things about having a blog is reading and responding to comments on my entries. I love the give-and-take. It starts to feel more like friends chatting it up over the fence and less like e-mail. And, I second Annie too, in that if a blogger doesn’t seem to bother responding to comments, I visit less. Why should someone take the time to post a comment if they’re not even sure the blogger reads them? I get super one-on-one with mine, addressing each commenter individually, but even a general “hey, thanks for all the comments” at least shows that the blogger pays attention to the comments. I know, I know, I’m getting off-topic. I have a talent for that….

  4. eliz. says:

    Well, here I am answering. I do know bloggers with very popular blogs who keep out of the discussions unless directly addressed. I guess they feel they’ve had their say in the post.

    But all blogging communities are different. Here, I notice, the other ranters often join in, so I am following their example. And with gardening, you do get a lot of direct requests for specific info, where with a post on politics, you might not.

    But unless I have a question to answer, posting on my own blog sometimes seems like I’m talking to myself. (Though I do more and more of that, as the years go by. Especially in the garden!)

  5. A belabored comment on this subject with the time generated by gale force winds and sporadic downpours.

    Having lived through the double sale of the GardenWeb, then being permanently banned from the site for my dissent over the “Copyright Thing” and sparring with one of their undercover moderators, Trudi_d7 Long Island, the announcement of the sale of Dave’s Garden to an internet media company was disturbing to say the least.

    Dave is an actual person and he has reassured people that things will be ok. I asked him specifically about copyright and he said it would stay as is. Dave’s Garden has copyright as needed for that site only. Time will tell.

    Gardening forums and blogs may live in the virtual world but they are actual communities of real people. As mentioned in the comments above it is like talking over coffee at the kitchen table. Any media corporation seeing a targeted demographic to buy up and extract profit from that does not recognize the community nature and free exchange of ideas in these forums can drive people away in their single minded devotion to profit. It can be a delicate balancing act.

    Forums, because of their larger in size and subject matter are better buy out targets than blogs. It also means they will draw a larger audience than an individual’s blog. GardenRant is a bit of a mini-hybrid possibly with its four authors.

    I don’t think blogs can replace forums. There will probably always be both. The ease of creation the technology allows now will ensure that as long as a few corporations are not allowed to buy up that access too. It will just be a constant shifting of the audience from place to place in the battle between corporate profit and a community’s desire to chat freely in peace.

  6. Kim says:

    I must agree with Annie and Colleen on the issue of people who don’t answer questions on their blogs. If you don’t want discourse, keep a private journal on your computer instead.

    I’m not sure how I feel about garden (or any other) forums, really… but bloggers who don’t answer their posts are not about to become a threat to the give-and-take of forums, that’s for sure. :)

    Christopher C… after reading about your sparring, I must admit that I grinned. And I like you a little better for it–not that I didn’t like you before.

  7. Kim, did you just read about my sparring here or elsewhere under a different name?

    I like you too!

  8. Kim says:

    I may have picked up on the sparring while it was actually going on, now that you mention it. (I don’t think that I actively weighed in on it at that time, though. I was too new to the forum to feel comfortable venturing an opinion.)

    On a somewhat related note, I despise the very idea of undercover moderators. Either be a moderator and be frank about it or be a regular forum user. In almost every forum that I’ve posted in where undercover mods have been used (or where various regular users have been given special status or consideration) it has not been good. Often the undercover mod develops a holier-than-thou attitude that rankles the regular users, bad feelings develop, etc. I generally stop posting when a forum changes from being “everyone’s forum” to “so-and-so’s forum.”

  9. eliz. says:

    Interestingly, I was browsing on Gardenweb, and I found one poster suggesting that Gardenweb have a forum for bloggers to talk to each other. I guess it makes sense, because talk on blogs usually has to stay on topic, and this would be more free-form.

    The forum could go under the Gardenweb Community heading. (Though I guess Chris C. would not be joining in. I remember some of the Gardenweb “sparring.” It could get pretty ugly. And still does, I’m sure. I always try to stay out of that stuff.)

    I don’t know if Dave has such a forum.

  10. Graham Rice says:

    There’s also another different type of community, the Mailing List or Group. Many are hosted by Yahoo Groups or, like the excellent Perennials List and other specialist lists, at http://www.hort.net/lists. I find these invaluable. Some of these mailing lists are also available as RSS feeds.

    As to bloggers posting comments on their own blog, it seems to me that the conversation is a large part of the point of blogging. I respond to many comments at Transatlantic Plantsman.

  11. eliz. says:

    Well, yes, again to clarify: many blogs I frequent start conversations on various topics that seem to take on their own momentum–and it seems the input of the original blogger is not required.

    Often, blogging requires more participation. I think it’s now apparent that I can and do comment on my own posts!

    Thanks for the heads-up on listservs. I belong to a few of those on other topics–and they are very cool.

  12. Carolyn Gail says:

    Newbie to blogging, having just set up mine a few days ago. Found yours fascinating as well as inspiring.

  13. GW says:

    I just found your blog today. This discussion is really interesting. I’ve been a member of Dave’s Garden since early 2001 and love it. I’ve dabbled on Gardenweb, but never found it as friendly.

    I read blogs primarily to see peoples’ thoughts and get a glimpse into their lives and gardens. If I want a question answered, I am far more likely to do a search on my own, then head to the forums at DG. In active forums like those, there is almost always a good response from different users.

  14. GW says:

    I mean to say there are responses posted quickly, and from multiple users.

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