DC to Shut Down Message Boards

Wow, that’s a predictable-on-second-thought-yet-surprising-at-first announcement. DC Comics will be redesigning its website next month, and as part of the change, they’ll be eliminating their message boards.

DC logo

They won’t be much missed, since they had a horrible reputation, as most superhero-focused website forums do. It doesn’t take many bad apples to spoil the barrel, though; just a couple of malcontents determined to be mean and hateful can poison an entire section. Back in the 90s, I left DC right around the time that they were moving from AOL forums to web-based boards. I was supposed to help moderate them under the new boss, but we had a disagreement over organization. They wanted one for every single title, while I thought conversation would be better with fewer sub-divisions. Greater participation might allow for positive peer pressure and make it harder for one or two troublemakers to drive out others, or so I thought. Never got a chance to put it into action, though.

Anyway, from the announcement:

The new site will be the home to all things DC Entertainment and will incorporate many different community elements, including opportunities for fans to comment throughout the site and integrated social media features. As part of its online makeover, DC Entertainment will be shutting down the current message boards in early March. Active message board users are encouraged to save their favorite conversations leading up to the closure. Special thanks to the many fans who participated in the messages boards over the years.

New options will include Facebook comments (so those of us who refuse to use the site are completely shut out, not that I went to DC’s boards anyway) and integrated Twitter feeds. We’ll find out how long that lasts — DC removed comments from its blog posts a while ago after they got out of hand.

Facebook allows much more demographic tracking, while message boards are going the way of the dodo. Newsarama hasn’t had them for years, so the only major ones I’m still aware of are those at Comic Book Resources. They build traffic, but they’re a huge pain to moderate. They don’t have much upside, either — fans who participate run the risk of being deluded into thinking that their opinions should be taken into consideration by the company, and when they’re not, they turn bitter at the company “ignoring” them. There’s no real benefit to a company running fan forums, and a lot of complications.

One fan site has already set up a board clone for refugees.

15 Responses to “DC to Shut Down Message Boards”

  1. Anthony Says:

    So with no forums and no letter columns, that leaves Facebook/Twitter comments (if that lasts) or comic conventions for receiving input from fans?

    Guess different from Marvel, which still has (or brought back) letter columns (at least in the Spider-Man book I’m reading)?

  2. Anthony Says:

    Forgot to add: far as message boards are concerned, there’s Toonzone (www.toonzone.net), which (besides animation) also has a forum covering comics…

  3. Dwight Williams Says:

    Still sorry to “hear” this. The potential for good things being dispensed with, after all, even though it wasn’t as fulfilled as it might have been.

  4. Johnny Bacardi Says:

    Even though I stopped frequenting the DC Boards at about the same time I started blogging (2002, can’t remember the last time I went there), this is still a little sad…while there were puh-len-ty of trolls and knuckleheads there, there were decent conversations to be found, at least back when I was a regular.

  5. James Schee Says:

    I hasn’t visited the boards in years, so with this news I peeked in just to see. Didn’t see anyone I knew posting and the traffic seemed very light.

    I guess mbs are going sort of the same way chat rooms have gone. In a way it is a shame as without the DC chats & mbs on AOL way back when. I’d never have gotten exposed to the online Comics community.

    Having been someone who hadnt had a lot of comic retading friends, those were a wonderful thing to discover way back when These days you of have to work harder to find that.

  6. Johanna Says:

    I wish there were more open, general subject fan discussion sites, but there’s no incentive to set one up. Large publishers, for reasons I’ve mentioned above, see them as a headache with no benefit. Creator- or book-specific boards are too focused for what I’m thinking of. There used to be sites like Newsarama and CBR, but they’ve given up or don’t moderate firmly enough for my taste. It’s an effort that takes a lot of time and attention with little reward, since ad sales aren’t what they used to be, and how else do you monetize it?

  7. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    This will be an interesting experiment, actually. We’ll soon see if people using their real names to post comments will help self-moderate. That’s the true power of Facebook-powered posting.

    On the other hand, integrated Twitter feeds provide the exact opposite — anonymous flame baiting.

  8. Jer Says:

    So with no forums and no letter columns, that leaves Facebook/Twitter comments (if that lasts) or comic conventions for receiving input from fans?

    Letter columns aren’t about receiving input from fans. Letter columns are about building an illusion of community among the fans. When the editors of the books are fans as well, they’re part of the fan community (as happened with some of the “best” letter columns starting roughly in the 1970s), but they definitely are NOT about the corporation receiving input directly from fans.

    If it were about receiving feedback from customers, they wouldn’t be public. You don’t see McDonald’s posting all of their correspondence from their customers on the web. You can still send a letter to DC comics, and it will receive the same consideration any other letter they have ever gotten will receive. They just are no longer holding a public forum for their readers and fans to talk to each other.

  9. Johnny B Says:

    Well, aren’t we Mr. Reality Check today!

    Augie, didn’t the Comics Journal message boards try that real-name posting thing?

  10. Thad Says:

    The comments section at ComicsAlliance took a permanent nosedive after the site started talking about sexism. In any article with more than a dozen comments, you can reliably find some idiot ranting about the chip on Laura Hudson’s shoulder and her bias against DC, regardless of what the article is actually about.

    Bleedingcool still runs forums. I expect they fall under your “insufficiently moderated” category.

    @Augie: Realname enforcement is one of those ideas that sounds good on paper but is completely worthless in real life. It just means that anonymous trolls call themselves John Smith instead of dcrules87, while creating headaches for people who actually have a good reason to post pseudonymously. I use my real name, but I’m a straight, middle-class American white boy; about the only way I could be a bigger poster-child for privilege would be if I were Christian and just a little more middle-of-the-road politically. (The most serious repercussions I’ve ever had for posting things on the Internet under my real name: somebody once asked me in a job interview about a post I made about DRM on the FTC website, and a few years ago I picked up an Internet stalker who, after I banned him from my messageboard, checked whois for my address and posted Google Earth photos of it. Luckily I registered my website under my hosting company’s address, but it was still pretty creepy.)

    A few good posts on the Nymwars:

    http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2011/08/04/real-names.html , “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power, by danah boyd (no relation)

    http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/ , Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names, by Patrick McKenzie

    http://gewalker.blogspot.com/2011/08/firsthand-examination-of-google-profile.html — A Firsthand Examination of the Google+ Profile Reporting Process, by Gary Walker — this one REALLY takes a wrecking ball to the idea that realname policies have any teeth; among other things, he “proves his identity” to Google+’s admins by Photoshopping a picture of Tucson shooter Jared Loughner onto the McLovin ID from Superbad.

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2011/08/why-im-not-on-google-plus.html — Why I’m not on Google Plus, by Charlie Stross. References the above links pretty extensively but still worth reading for his additional comments.

    In short: yes, forcing people to post under their real names might, hypothetically, make them behave better. But it’s a moot point since you can’t actually DO that. The best you can do is force people to post under things that sound, to some random wage-slave in a cubicle somewhere, like they are real names. Which is a lot less of a deterrant to a troll than to, well, here’s one more link:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/04/AR2009030404159.html — Offbeat Name? Then Facebook’s No Friend, by Monica Hesse.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, Augie, reputation-based participation is stronger, but how easy is it to create a fake Facebook? And yes, JB, the Comics Journal did go to that policy before shutting their boards down. It caused a lot of griping but not sure how much help it was.

    Jer, you’re right. Letter columns are a sales venue for issues and titles. They’re curated to create a particular perception. They were never an open venue.

  12. Anthony Says:

    So, question: how does one meet like-minded fans/fans with similar tastes online (or offline) then, if bulletin board forums are now considered “dying”/”passe”? Comments on blogs (like this one)? Starting one’s own blog (which I already have, but I don’t get much in the way of comments)?

    I do use Facebook, but have very few “friends” on there… almost none of them big comic book fans in general.

  13. Hal Shipman Says:

    While I despised the DC Boards, this article makes me sad for the Usenet rac* groups. Nothing I’ve seen since it died has come close to the community or reading experience. The speed, the range of comments and discussions and the killfile (so you could self-moderate) made it such a great experience…

  14. Johanna Says:

    Anthony, it’s a tough question. Probably the best outlet these days is Twitter or title- or creator-specific sites (bases on the similar tastes you mention).

    Hal, yeah, every time I talk about things like this, I think back to how much fun that time was.

  15. NYJ Says:

    DC is shutting the boards down just as sales begin to level out…hmmmmm




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