THE USUAL SUSPECTS
News hound, Jeremy Laird, on the pros and cons of frequent forum use and abuse, brushing up on advanced driving technique and the challenge posed by Tesla to themission E’s range and performance ambitions
Jeremy Laird has his say
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THEWAY TO THEWEB FORUM...
The idea of a public forum dates back to at least Roman times. Perhaps it isn't surprising, therefore, to find the discourse on modern web fora can be, to put it politely, gladiatorial. Bring a collection of what you might think are similarly minded people together online, let's say Porsche enthusiasts, and a clash of personalities will ensue. That's a given on any web forum.
Maybe that's why 911&PW'S very own head honcho says web forums leave him 'stone cold dead'. What, exactly, is in it for forum users? As it happens, I'm in a pretty good position to answer that question. Let's just say I'm a prolific poster on a certain web forum. Oh, alright, it's Pistonheads. I've been a member on PH for over 10 years and have notched up tens of thousands of posts in that time. I dabble lightly elsewhere. But if you want to find – or more likely, avoid! – the vast majority of my online forum posts, PH is the place.
So why do I do it? Now that's a question. As with almost anything in life, there are pros and cons. Like many forms of social media, forums are immediate, engaging and vibrant. They're often the best place to find out about stuff and to do so quickly. Ask a question. Get an answer. Provided you know the etiquette, that is. Get it wrong and the retribution can be swift. But let's stick with the positives for a little longer!
Web forums put you in direct contact with a huge wealth of knowledge and experience. Whatever problem you're having with your Porsche, somebody else has probably had it before. Web fora are particularly good at turning what initially seems like a major catastrophe into a simple solution. Very handy if, like me, you're prone to suffering from Porsche paranoia.
Similarly, web fora are super for keeping up to date with the latest news. Wondering whether the next Cayman GT4 will have a flat six or a flat four? Your best bet for something approaching an answer is on a forum. The same goes if you're wondering whether you've got a shot at an allocation for the latest Porsche special and aren't already among the well-connected Porsche Centre cognoscenti. Head online to find out.
Then there's the simple craic of connecting. Where else but a web forum can you find people to shoot the breeze about subjects as seriously esoteric as, say, brake feel on 981 versus 987 Caymans or whether the 3.0-litre engine in an SC really is sweeter than the 3.2 Carrera's lump? For me, personally, participating on PH has also created opportunities for a wealth of realworld experiences. I've been lucky enough to be offered drives in a number of fantastic Porsches by generous owners purely as a consequence of posting on PH.
For sure, experience helps when it comes to getting the most out of a forum. Old hands will often give newbies short shrift. When somebody pops along and asks the same question as the 607 previous newbies, the ensuing smack down can be brutal. Just don't take it personally, because it isn't.
There are, of course, real problems. Most of them involve the same issues that afflict all social media. Social norms that govern face-to-face interaction don't apply. It's much easier to be blunt, or worse, online than in the real world. Likewise, the finer nuances of verbal communication are often lost. The very same words spoken in a friendly tone of voice can seem unforgiving in raw text.
Perhaps the most intractable issue is the flip side of what makes online fora so useful in the first place, namely the sheer number of users. It massively multiplies the odds of causing offence. Online, almost any negative comment is at risk of being read by somebody with an emotional attachment. Declare that you don't think much of the 996's headlights and, rest assured, you'll put somebody's nose out of joint.
Of course, for the socially and politically astute there are ways of going about it all that minimise offence. Being pathologically opinionated like yours truly doesn't always win friends, that's for sure. In short, the sheer numbers involved ensure that chalk and cheese will inevitably meet and it won't always go well. In the end, then, you take the rough with the smooth and you get out pretty much what you put in.
Seek and you will find. Our man Laird has posted tens of thousands of times on Porsche forums. If you’re a ‘user’ too, then you will undoubtedly have come across him, but we’re not going to give his username away here...