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That’s right, a message on the email to go and check the forum.
The idea of a forum is sound enough, especially for those living some similar kind of life, whether its musicians, scientists or, in our case, people who’ve moved or moving – by and large – from Northern Europe to come and live in Spain. The ‘expats’, ‘Europeans’, ‘Brits’ or what have you. We could start a thread on the correct nomenclature if you like.
The forums, or ‘fora’ I suppose would be more correct, offer the chance for people with generally silly nicknames to ask questions, make announcements or comments, to complain or criticize or to support or disagree with threads which, in theory at least, are something to do with Spain.
Usually, this falls down pretty fast.
The first line of defence against the ‘trolls’, people who write – at best – mischievous comments, disingenuous arguments or provocations, are the moderators. They can erase threads or comments and, one can only suppose, they must be dedicated to reading everything that comes along on their ‘watch’ before things get out of hand. The only time that I have been pressed into this particular service, things were quiet enough until some foul porn-linking Russian tosser found his way to the site – posting maybe forty or fifty rather terrible pictures every day and so on with me solemnly removing them again – before the site-owner managed to fix the problem once and for all by closing the forum to new subscribers, which didn’t do much for the whole enterprise. Moderators on larger sites (this was a small specialist one) must have quite a job. We sometimes criticize them for their actions – or lack of them – but they need to be ‘eternally vigilant’. Well done, Ahana!
Moderators also need to know their subject. One site about Spain I sometimes post on has a ‘mod’ and enthusiastic poster who is so dumb that she flies all through an argument, missing the point, adding trite remarks, brainless gushes and regular doses of solipsism as if she was more a troll than a moderator.
There are around twenty forums I’ve linked to on The Entertainer Online (a site I maintain with notes and items about Spain) and these vary in quality from ‘busy’ and ‘useful’ to vague, unvisited and clumsy. One popular site, which served Almería foreigners well enough for some time, was so thoroughly tweaked to death by its webmaster last year, the inevitable result was that visitors fell away. Currently it has little ‘snowflakes’ coursing down the screen. No one, at least among the expat population of Almería, who are probably on average in their fifties or so, likes change.
While some threads or sections seem concerned with ‘life back home’, with generally negative comments about the foreigners who are moving to England (!) or how the British ‘need to pull up their socks’ for some reason or another which the writer would be only to happy to contribute towards if only he hadn’t chosen a life – apparently – of exile, most threads are to do with living in Spain. These divide into the good and the bad and, with the issue of ‘illegal homes’ to spur us on, they may move into white-hot agitprop and (usually poorly informed) politics. One very active forum, based in the Almanzora Valley, got so heated on the subject of ‘capitulation or confrontation’ regarding these illegal homes (the Seville government, who has chosen to describe those foreign-owned homes in Eastern Almería as ‘ilegal’ puts the number arbitrarily at 11,000), that the forum eventually took a particular position of what might be sententiously described as ‘working within the system’ while those in disagreement with this policy started a new one. These two forums sum up how the Europeans think: they are locally known as the ‘blues’ and the ‘purples’.
Forums can have much to say and they offer the opportunity to say it. Some take this chance to fool about, write meaningless patter, post endless ‘smileys’ or even write in ‘fool’s English’ using misspellings and poor grammar for some peculiar reason of their own.
Most if not all threads are eventually ‘hijacked’. A thread that starts about ‘smoking in bars’ will, by the third page, probably be about the price of salt, or bullfighting, or how some ‘forum character’ was once a sea-captain.
But, it’s the numbers which work against the forums. Check out a thread and you will see the number of visitors, or readers. You can then divide that by the number of posters to give you an idea of how far some subject has actually dissolved into the expat consciousness.
Sadly perhaps, it won’t be many.