Like you, I spend a fair amount of time on aquarium hobby forums. I like to see what everyone is up to; to get a real "pulse" on the state of the hobby. Let's face it- there is a lot of good and bad information out there, and you get a good feel for all of it by looking at aquarium hobby forums. And you can often get inspiration, confirmation about an idea you had, or maybe you just realize that you're perhaps not as hapless and clueless as "the masses..."
And over the years, I've found that the posts I see always seem to fall into a few clearly defined categories:
1) "Anyone ever try ___________ Instead of_________?" (the eternal hobbyist's quest to find a hack and save money!)
2) "My 40 gallon tank has been set up two weeks. Can I add a pair of Tiger Datnoids now?" (The typical post from a new hobbyist who has done no homework at all, looking for validation for an absurd idea)
3) "Check out my new__________." (We like to share our new purchase, particularly if it's a brand new product to the market.)
4) "__________________'s 50-gallon SA cichlid biotope tank build!" (The best posts, IMHO, because everyone likes to see cool tanks, right?)
5) "I'm ready to give up! Can't keep fish alive, and algae is covering everything!" (Someone didn't research husbandry and the process of starting a new tank. No excuse in this "everything-you-need-is-on-the-internet" or 'JFGI'- Just F------ Google It! age. Lazy.)
6) Anyone keep ________________? (Super cool, because it's fun to hear about others' experiences with a certain fish or plant. The best way to use the forums, IMHO, because you can get "real-world" information from real hobbyists!)
Now, sure, you could say I'm oversimplifying it just a bit, but if you spend a lot of time on the forums, I think my "findings" will be validated. :)
There is a lot to be said for trial and error, but with free time (even for hobbies) seemingly more limited for everyone each year, and more and more pressure on the wild habitats, it's a really nice thing for us to be able to get some great "real time" information about that "dream fish" we're thinking about keeping.
Just like having hundreds of thousands of friends to consult!
Visiting online forums gives you a real feel for the "state of the hobby", doesn't it? The interesting thing about forums is that you get a snapshot of the full "range" of hobbyists, from flat-out beginner to super advanced, and everything in between. Not only can you spot some "trends" (yikes, I hate that word, yet it's applicable), but you can identify problems that seem to affect everyone at some point or another in their "fishy career."
This makes it kind of a great study. Really good for marketers, writers, and anyone who has more than a passing interest in the hobby/industry.
And one of the things that I've noticed is that there are hobbyists who've tried seemingly almost everything at one point or another! Like, no matter how obscure or weird you idea might seem in the surface, there always seems to be at least one other hobbyist somewhere who has tried, or is thinking of trying- something similar!
And that is really cool.
We need to communicate and share and learn from the experiences of our peers. And it's never been easier to do this than now!
So get out there! You never know what you'll learn when-you go geeking about online!
Stay engaged. Stay curious. Stay excited. Stay bold...
And Stay Wet.