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Forum Terminology

Forum Terminology

This forum glossary is a list of forum terms and abbreviations, with the meaning of the various terms used. Popular abbreviations are explained, and admin functions clarified. We also included an explanation of some server management issues for forum owners.

The page grew to over 6,000 words, as is usual on this site, so we had to split the forum dictionary into two pages. 

Forum Terminology - page 2


Forum glossary - part 1

administrator, admin
Admins are those with access to the admin backend, the forum machinery. They also have full privileges on the forum, meaning that they can see, edit or delete all posts and so on. Admins work with Moderators to manage the forum. The staff ranks normally go (where applicable): Founder Admin (usually the site owner); Admin; Super Moderator (aka SMod or SuperMod); Moderator; Board Moderator (a Mod with restricted access to a single board or board group, and who may not be a general staff member).

Also known as.

As far as I know.

Affiliate trading is the selling of other businesses' products on commission. Affiliate adverts (sometimes called CPA ads) or links can be used by forum owners as an alternative to the standard banner and button adverts, and can be made to appear identical, in the same way that the operation of CPM and other ads is transparent to the visitor. Sales resulting from a clickthrough are tracked, and commission paid accordingly.
   Affiliate links, though, can be a problem for forum admins when inserted onto the forum by others. Sig links are especially problematic here, when the forum has a no-advertising or no-spam policy (the latter being fairly normal). These links can also be masked by routing them through an URL shortening service such as tinyurl or bit.ly.

Generally, a sticky post that lists rules and news. If there is an Announcements board, permissions will be set so that only Admins or SuperMods can post to it.

app, apps
An 'app' or application is a computer program, software. Forum software is an app that resides on a server.

Old threads need to be kept visible, for use as a resource and for search visibility, but it is not normally desirable that they be available for posting in. For this reason they are either locked, or locked and transferred to a separate site section called the archive. This is referred to as archiving.

aka 'rent-a-crowd', 'black propaganda', 'stealth marketing', is a technique used by an organisation to publish opinions, often in large quantities, that are designed to appear impartial and/or as a popular movement, but in fact are orchestrated by a hidden group and therefore false. The term derives from the phrase 'a grass-roots movement', meaning a new or commonly-felt public sentiment, whereas the 'astroturfing' propaganda is synthetic, like astroturf grass. Astroturfers are therefore shills, ie paid proponents of someone else's agenda.
   Forums are commonly attacked by astroturfers as they are a way to get their paid-for messages seen. Astroturfing is a popular 'marketing' tactic used by political parties, corporations, pressure groups and even countries - China is said to employ thousands known as 'red vests' or '50 cents' to post false forum posts and blog comments praising the government. The 50 cent refers to 50 Yuan per comment they are reputedly paid. It's another department of gold farming for some workers (where they are paid to carry out the menial tasks in MMO online games to build funds for the account owner).

"Attack the post, not the poster"
A common principle and often a rule, in forums and the way they are run. It means that if you disagree with the content of another post then you should argue that point, not insult the person who posted it. If this is not enforced, a forum can disintegrate into a war zone.

A personal icon, a graphic of some kind, used as a badge by a member. It is commonly a photo of themselves, a child, or a pet; or a cartoon. In forums where people are clearly identified, then a photo is often used. In forums where some degree of anonymity is used by most (which is most forums), then the avatar might be a graphic of some kind.
   In gaming, avatar means something else, it is the bot the gamer controls, and their representation within the game.

ban, banned user
Forums are continually under attack by bots, spammers and those with personal issues. Bots are automated programs that seek out weak points, in order to post linkspam or place malware on the site; spammers are human attackers who try to post unwanted links; and the web, forums in particular it seems, attracts those with mental issues because they can remain anonymous while being given a platform to display their assorted rants. All these attackers must be banned or the forum will degenerate into a quagmire. To ban a user, the username is prevented from logging in.

banned words
banned links
banned websites
Some words are blocked by forum admin. These might be offensive words, or banned link URLs. When such a word is included in a post, it is replaced by a series of symbols such as **** or .... or xxxx. If in a link, the link is rendered inoperative.

A simple type of code that allows for common functions that need an HTML conversion, on forums where the use of HTML is barred (which is most of them). This allows things such as links to be created, when otherwise, with no HTML, they would not be possible. BBcode is used because HTML is too vulnerable to exploits, in a forum situation.

big boards
Very large forum websites. The term is normally associated with vBulletin as there are more big boards using that software, since it is the most capable, though phpBB is a major contender. A 'big board' has many definitions - at big-boards.com it is one with 500,000 posts or more. Another (which is a 'larger' definition) is a board with a minimum average online of 1,000 or more. Such boards have millions of pages.

Short for message board, an area within the forum where topics of a similar nature are posted. A forum consists of several boards, each concerned with a different topic.

Bots are AI properties of remote computers, that visit and investigate or interact with a site. As with everything there are good ones and bad ones. qv spambot, spider

Be right back [might be used in shoutbox chat].

Been there done that.

By the way.

To bump a thread means to reply to an older thread that has moved down the page, therefore moving it back up to the top once again, as the last post with any activity is automatically (re)placed at the top. This can be an annoyance since people may have selfish reasons for doing this. Sometimes they may draw attention to their action, if deemed valid, by using a graphic indication like this: ^bump^. Also used are UP or TTT (to the top).

[completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart]
A test to determine whether a post is being made by a human or a bot. It normally has a question or questions that must be answered correctly such as the identification of obscured text in graphic form, or random questions that spambots are not usually currently programmed to answer correctly (eg "What 3-letter animal goes woof?"). A captcha test originally meant an obscured-text question, but is now widely used to mean any such test.

qv word filter

censored words
qv banned words

chatbox, shoutbox, chatroom
An instant text / realtime conversation facility that (as far as a forum is concerned) displays the text conversation in a module somewhere on the page, in a direct copy of the IM (instant messaging) format.

cloud servers
The cheapest way to run a large and busy website now is on cloudservers - that is, distributing the content across many servers, often located in different countries, to spread the load economically. The Amazon S3 network is often used (frequently via 3rd party aggregators) as they have huge resources and low bandwidth costs. However, busy forums needing to expand can't use cloud servers because the databases cannot be synchronised properly. The disks break down rapidly as each DB has to be synced with every other DB, and the increase in I/O reads and writes causes timelags and eventual disk meltdown. In effect it means that managing large forum sites is a challenging business.

CMS plugin forums
A content management system can do many jobs, and one of them, as usual enabled by plugins, is to have an integral forum. Some are notably good, some poor. They cannot be as good as the best discrete forums because that would need a large number of plugins being available for the (plugin) forum - which is unlikely to occur. Major plugins of this type do indeed have their own plugins, but not on anything like the scale of the standalone forums. In all modern webapps, the level of functionality depends on the availability of plugins, as the core app is usually designed to be a framework, not a do-everything application out of the box, as that would be an extremely inefficient way of developing major server software of this type.

An admin term, meaning an area of the page within which similar boards are grouped - aka category / section / board group.

The US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act , 1998, for the protection of children under the age of thirteen. In practice it means that some content is not allowed to be viewed by under-aged children.

Do it yourself.


The US Digital Millenium Copyright Act, covering online content copyright.

1. To post the same question or statement in two different places, which is normally prohibited as it renders the forum impossible to use or manage efficiently.
2. Can also refer to posting twice rapidly, in the same topic or possibly another.

drive-by poster
aka hit-and-run poster. One who registers, posts once, and is never seen again. This can be annoying because if users go to the trouble of answering detailed questions, and then no thanks or feedback are received, it may appear that the exercise was a waste of time. Drive-by posting is bad manners.

A dynamic website, like a forum, is one that is database-driven and can have the web pages changed. All modern webapps of extended capability use databases and are therefore dynamic.
Antonym: static, as in standalone HTML web pages.

edit a post
After saving a post, you normally have a period of grace in which to edit it and correct mistakes, or delete it. Most forums limit this time to about 10 minutes, since if it is permanently extended it can result in entire threads becoming meaningless, if the OP edits the first post.

An icon showing an emotion. qv smiley

As applied to forum posts, it is the way all threads and posts (except stickies) gradually move down the page and eventually onto page 2 and beyond, as they are replaced by later posts. All posts eventually fade away and either disappear into the distance, or are archived.

aka vulnerabilities, attack vectors. Exploits are ways that a forum is vulnerable to attack and compromise. Forums are the most vulnerable of all website applications because they allow the greatest amount of user interaction - they allow visitors to register, to write to the web pages, and thus to write to the database. Some forum apps have a poor history in this area; forum software must be chosen for its robustness as much as anything else.
   To reduce vulnerability, HTML is not normally allowed, and instead a harmless substitute called BBcode is used.

Someone who posts unrelenting praise for something and cannot see its bad points, and argues senselessly against any criticism of it. Can be an employee or affiliate of the seller, or a person with a tenuous hold on reality or a financial motive, or just somebody who bought one and can't accept the fact they might be wrong.
qv shill, sockpuppet

Frequently asked questions. A highly-popular way of presenting information on the web, it allows for the most common questions to be answered in one place.

Feeding the troll
This is responding to inflammatory posts, and prolonging a pointless argument as a result. Therefore you will sometimes see good advice: "Don't feed the troll".

For heaven's sake.

qv word filter

A plugin forum for Joomla CMS. Known as the most capable of that type, before it was succeeded by Kunena, qv.

flame, flaming
Insulting posts that attack another person - normally resulting in a penalty of some kind as otherwise it can escalate.

flood, flooding
1. Making a lot of (unwanted) posts.
2. A multiple-post attack by a bot.
3. When a server is flooded by too many HTTP requests from one IP or IP range, it can react by blocking out the offending IP/s - a flood block. This gets a 403 error or similar. It may be that a little more tolerance is needed in the number restriction as some flood blocks are initially set too tight.

(yet another) ........ new guy, noob (qv). The F is the same as in RTFM (qv). Example: "Sorry folks, I'm another FNG, help me out please".

A dynamic website, or a section of one, that uses a special type of website application plus a database and other server software, to enable an organised and categorised discussion on a number of topics, as it allows visitors to write to the web pages in a sequential discussion format.
   A forum normally contains several boards, which are smaller topic areas. Threads are the post 'trails' that are placed within a board. Therefore a forum consists of a website or site section that has topic discussions with a taxonomy of forum - board - thread - post. The forum will contain a series of discussions on various topic themes that can be subsequently searched for information. Therefore a forum can be a lightweight leisure resource with no future value, or it can be a permanent repository for useful technical support information.   
   Forums are a core component of the online community system, which allow a globally-dispersed community to discuss and solve common problems or simply chat about football.

forums, fora
The correct plural of forum in English when referring to websites is forums. The word fora is used to describe multiple locations where something may be mentioned, other than online. Examples:
"We found that several of these forums were hard to install on the server."
"The trash collection service can be discussed in your local paper's Letters to the Editor column, the community magazine, or other fora."
   There is an exact parallel with datum / data / datums which is also a Latin word: there are two distinct plurals, the Anglicised plural being equally correct since each plural has a completely different meaning.

founder admin
The original site owner, in some forum software, and with higher privileges than other admins.

For the win, = excellent. Originally meant something else (".... the world") but now means 'very good'.

For what it's worth.

An ordinary unregistered visitor. Normally, guests cannot see all the boards of a mature forum, as some will be designated as unsuitable for bots, or only for logged-in members.

hidden user
One who sets their public visibility status to invisible in their profile, so they cannot be seen as online in the list at the foot of the front page or as viewing a thread. However they can still be seen by Moderators. Mods often use it for discreet observation.

To hijack a thread is to redirect it off-topic or elsewhere, it is bad manners and may result in a penalty.

Hope this helps.

I am not a lawyer

In before the lock - a post made quickly to a thread that is likely to be locked.

I don't know.

Instant messaging. An IM app is one used exclusively for instant text communication, such as Trillian or Pidgin. It is like email in a way but much quicker and less formal. Skype has an IM channel built in.

If I recall correctly.

Chat, a realtime text conversation facility. Internet relay chat is now a core web facility, as it is found everywhere - on ordinary websites where it allows instant discussion; in team game environments; in IM apps, for instant communication; and in chatrooms, which are themed discussion areas. On a forum website, the chat facility allows instant question and answer or discussion. There are two ways to provide it: as a forum plugin or a separate linked-in facility. On small forums a plugin works well, such as MGC Chatbox Evo for vBulletin, but for large forums there is too much server load and a separate facility such as a Mibbit channel is better.
   IRC has its own devotees and its own language. Some people live on it, others just use it to get a quick answer to a question.

In my opinion.

In my humble opinion, in my honest opinion.

IP ban
Banning a user by blocking their internet IP (their address on the network) from accessing the site. This has to be done for troublesome users.

Just my opinion.

aka rep., reputation. An incremented system to show a member's (voted for) reputation or value. Like many other features, it may or may not be implemented.

The reincarnation of Fireboard for Joomla CMS, this plugin forum is recognised as the most capable of CMS integral forum solutions.

Later (see you later).

Or forum leaders - a user list in vBulletin that has Admins and Moderators at the top.

The practice of placing unwanted links on a forum in order to increase another website's PageRank, so that it gets better search results. Linkspam, trolls, obscenity and overheated arguments are among the problems faced by admins.

Laughing my butt off.

locked thread
[or, less often, a board] A thread may be locked down to prevent any additional posts. This is normally used for announcements or short ad hoc threads, when further discussion is to be directed elsewhere. A thread may be locked when discussion becomes heated or when all possible discussion on the subject has been exhausted; or when it is very old and no longer relevant.

A forum member can log in to the forum, that is, enter a username and password, and then be granted more privileges (qv). Such privileges normally consist of being able to see additional content and being able to post messages.

log out
A member can log out of the forum, that is, cancel their temporary access to additional privileges. This is done for security reasons. 

Laughing out loud. Probably the most common abbreviation used, as it both shows the poster's feelings, which can be difficult to convey in short text conversation, and removes the need for extended, repetitive typing; lol is an alternative to a smiley.

lounge, the
[aka the water cooler, the sofa] 'The Lounge' board is a freeform board where any and all off-topic posts can be made, and any subject discussed. Rules are relaxed and generally no one bothers about off-topic infringements etc.

Someone who visits a forum regularly and reads the messages but never posts. Possibly 99% of forum visitors never post, but are probably not lurkers as they do not visit regularly. A lurker is usually thought of as one who reveals some continuous connection with the forum, perhaps on another forum, but never contributes.

Staying in the background by visiting often, reading, but never posting (see above).

Miserable User
A famous vBulletin plugin which creates a new usergroup, into which minor disruptive members may be placed for a period of time. The affected user then gets a 25% (variable) chance of numerous site errors such as blank pages, meaningless redirects to the wrong page or to the front page, loss of posts etc. This adds up to a miserable experience for the user, who hopefully goes elsewhere for a while to post their rubbish. If they create an alt ID to get round it, they can be banned, which solves the problem.

[used in chat] a word that is just a text form of "hmm... yeah'. It is a combination of "hmm" and "OK" but does not really have an affirmative meaning, it's just a text diddle for "I'm here, I hear you" and doesn't even mean OK.

Moderators, Mods
The Mods maintain discipline and remove spam from the forum. Depending on their privileges they can edit or delete posts and issue penalties of varying levels. Without Mods, forums would degenerate into unreadable pages of spam and misdemeanours, because unlike the physical world the online world allows people to hide behind anonymity much of the time, and there will always be a small percentage who abuse the system.

multiple ID
A 'multiple' is a person who signs up with another username. Multiple IDs or usernames are universally against forum policy. Sometimes these are innocent but misguided persons, but usually they are banned members attempting to get back on. They are often located easily because they use the same IP and/or go straight to their favourite board and post the same material with the same idiosyncracies as before.

Mind your own business. Probably used more by posters to refer to themselves, as using it to others risks an infraction for attacking. "Maybe I should just MYOB."

nofollow links
Some links are given a 'nofollow' attribute in the code, the most common being those to dynamic pages, duplicate URLs, and low-value areas of the site. In addition, external links that may be to low-quality sites or banned sites can also be given a nofollow.
   This code direction is for search engines, essentially it says,"This is a link we don't want you to follow and index the page at the other end"; or, "We have no control over this external site and we are not recommending it, and we don't want to be associated with it". 
   This is a standard code direction to SEs and all respect it - in fact they demand it, for adverts, under penalty of sanction if the link is paid for in any way (as any advert is). Nofollowed links are therefore officially 'disconnected' from the site, and labelled as unreliable. Any or all links can be nofollowed, according to the capability of the forum software. Nofollow links are almost worthless to the linked site since no (or negligible) PageRank or AnchorTextWeight flows to the linked site. This means there is virtually no value in the link and it is a waste of time trying to get such links - which cuts down on spam. However it is totally incorrect to say the link has no value whatsoever, it most certainly does; but that value is only between 1% and 10% of a normal link. Nofollow links from powerful sites still have considerable value, no matter what SE staffers or anyone else says about it. In practice this means that small / weak sites are quite well protected by nofollowing their links, but large and powerful sites still get spammed because even a nofollow link from them is worth more than a regular link from a small site - Wikipedia is the best example of this.

A newbie, newcomer, beginner. Someone new to the topic area of the forum.

A general announcement that is set to appear at the top of the front page. Depending on the forum software, it can be set to be only seen by certain groups, dismissible (able to be set invisible by a user), and persistent (shown repeatedly unless dismissed).

[used in chat] never mind.


continued in part 2 >>>

A comprehensive forum glossary and listing of forum terminology, forum terms, forum abbreviations, forum acronyms, forum slang, meaning of forum words, definition of forum slang terms.

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