Before you even join a forum: think twice. Message Boards are fun, but don’t join unless you’re really sure about it. If unregistered people are allowed to visit that particular board, surf around and see if that place suits you. Don’t join if you don’t get the right feeling about those people. Join only if you’re interested in the subject of the forum. In other words, don’t join “just because”.
Read the rules, users agreement, FAQ… and read carefully. If they say they’ll delete your account after 3 days of inactivity, don’t join unless you’re sure you can post that frequent. If they say “no bad words”, don’t join if you really have to use word “shit” in every single post. Take your time: read some posts and feel the atmosphere of the forum. Don’t post until you’re sure you know at least something about the place.
Your first post should be an introduction. Most of the boards have a special forum for newbies and introductions, so try there. You don’t have to reveal much about yourself: just your nickname, age (if you want), and, the most important: the reason why you joined. That’s about all, really.
Don’t insult other people, even if they say something you find stupid. You have your right to disagree, but posting an insulting message will only cause a forum war, and you can be banned. Criticize, be sarcastic if you want, but do that in an intelligent way.
Ignore trolls and flaming. Trolls are people who post insulting messages just to irritate people. They want to start a forum war. It’s best to ignore a troll. I know it’s hard to stay quiet if someone’s attacking you and your interests, but trolls usually stop if nobody pays attention to them.
Don’t advertise anything (including your site) in a forum, unless admin says you may do that. Usually, you’re free to advertise your site in the signature. Speaking of signatures: don’t make long ones, and please, don’t put any images. Remember that your long signature/heavy image will repeat after all of your posts, taking a lot of screen place.
If you’re posting messages that can be interpreted in more than one way, use appropriate smilies so the people can realize your true feelings behind the posts.
Spamming and bumping
Don’t spam, flame, post trolling messages and such, just because you’re bored. Don’t post “bump” messages. You spam when you reply to a topic with pointless “hi, I’m here!”, or “I don’t know”, or anything unrelated to the subject. Also, spamming is posting a new message right after your own message, just to add a word or two. Wrong- you should edit your post instead. Bumping occurs when somebody posts in an old thread, just to make it appear at the first page and become active again, or posting short, random messages just to keep a topic alive. If you really love random and off topic posts, find a forum that tolerates that. Many forums have a specialized “off topic” or “spamming” subforums.
Oldies and newbies
Don’t be mean to newbies. Act like an older brother/sister and be so kind to help them, instead of acting like an elitist. Okay, somebody posted in a wrong topic. Don’t yell at them, everybody was a newbie once, including you.