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Forums, As Seen On TV

Jeff Atwood March 28, 2013

This brief clip from the season 7 finale of the television show 30 Rock skewers stereotypically snarky Internet forum culture. The action starts at 25 seconds in.

Any recs for the best place to buy a girl's bike [on the upper west side of New York City]? (She's 8)

Any recs for the best place to buy a girl’s bike [on the upper west side of New York City]? (She’s 8)

I'm sorry, what's a

I’m sorry, what’s a “girl’s” bike? Is that like a “girl” doctor? Go back to Saudi Arabia, Hitler!

[You are] buying a bike but not a helmet? The head is where the child's brain is! Why don't you get educated, Double Hitler!

[You are] buying a bike but not a helmet? The head is where the child’s brain is! Why don’t you get educated, Double Hitler!

I was gonna buy a helmet

I was gonna buy a helmet

Helmets inhibit brain development! [You] might as well give your [darling child] vaccines which studies show cause homosexuality!

Helmets inhibit brain development! [You] might as well give your [darling child] vaccines which studies show cause homosexuality!

So what? My [two year old] is super gay and we love him more than a [straight] child [because] HE DOESN'T RAPE!

So what? My [two year old] is super gay and we love him more than a [straight] child [because] HE DOESN’T RAPE!

(Tina Fey, aghast at responses, quickly slams laptop shut.)

(Tina Fey, aghast at responses, quickly slams laptop shut.)

As my wife correctly noted when viewing the clip, this is a parody of an actual mom forum, Urban Baby. It becomes obvious if you compare a screenshot of the site with the barely doctored version shown on the show:

Of course Urban Baby forum members noticed this parody and started topics talking about it.

Proof that Tina Fey and the writers at 30 Rock nailed forum culture? Here’s a response to one of the above topics:

Didn’t you just post this? We get it. It was funny. Ha ha ha.

Which, ironically, made me laugh.

I browsed around Urban Baby a bit, and I don’t know if it’s all that consistently snarky, at least not to the comedic extreme depicted in the 30 Rock scene. But I do suspect most forums could learn something from the perception of how outsiders see their culture.

Notable Replies

  1. jnoh says:

    forums can be scary places. happy to hear discourse is trying to shake things up.

  2. sam says:

    I heard this quote on Daily Show …

    I finally figured out where Sarah Palin came from. Someone cast a spell on a YouTube comment and it came to life.

    I think the larger forums get, the worst the culture often becomes, the pinnacle being YouTube. Once you reach the YouTube level of comments, you have found your pot of gold.

    I really hope we can change this.

  3. The chief problem with YouTube comments is just that, they’re comments. When you place emphasis on ephemera instead of lasting conversation, that’s what you get. When you present what should be lasting conversation as ephemera, that’s also what you get - and this is where a lot of forums fail. What do I care what I wrote that I can’t easily even go back and find a month from now? Or maybe I don’t care if my cheap thrill just gets voted down into the ether.

    When every reply is presented as important, and valuable - I suspect people tend to behave better. I can’t rightly say one way or another, as I have no real prior experience with discussion software that gets this right.

    So I guess we’ll see :slight_smile:

  4. sam says:

    I love this quote about YouTube comments:

    YouTube IS the room with the million monkeys and the million typewriters, but they haven’t even gotten half-way though Hamlet yet because they’re too busy pitching feces at one another.

    The chief problem with YouTube comments is that the people who implemented the commenting system simply do not care. If they did, 3 letter comments would be disallowed, there would be a spectacular system for weeding out the crap, trolls would be banned and so on … and so on.

    YouTube comments don’t really matter to YouTube cause its all about the videos and nothing else. The conversation is not even a secondary priority.

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