A forum is a space on the Web where messages can be posted and other messages can then be posted as replies to them.
The Cardbox forum system handles three main kinds of forum:
- Announcement-only forums
- An announcement-only forum contains only messages that have been posted by the owner of the forum: for example, Cardbox News. You can visit the forum from time to time to find out what's new, or you can subscribe to email alerts for the forum, in which case you'll receive emails containing any new messages that appear.
- Announcement-and-comment forums
- These forums work more like a traditional blog: whenever the owner of the forum posts a new message it effectively starts a new topic of conversation, and registered users of the forum can then add replies to that topic. If you want, you can subscribe to email alerts that tell you about new topics only, or about all new messages.
- Discussion forums
- In these forums, any registered user can start a new topic or reply to an existing one: for example, Cardbox Talk. Again, you can subscribe to email alerts if you want.
Almost all forums are public and anyone can see them (and Google can index them). Private forums are possible, but you won't even know they exist unless someone invites you to one and makes you a member.
A topic is a thread of conversation within a forum, with an initial message and a stream of replies or comments. In an announcement-only forum there is effectively only one message per topic, but in other kinds of forum the topics can get quite large. For any given forum you can view the list of topics and then click on the ones you want to look at in more detail.
You can make quite a lot of use of the forum system without ever registering yourself as a user (except for private forums, of course). Registering yourself makes the management of email alerts a bit more convenient, but the most important thing about registration is that you need to be a registered user before you can post messages to a forum. Registration is very simple and unbureaucratic and the system doesn't demand any intrusive personal details.