The Phorum, Side Story: Inside Jokes

I’ve been posting some tales about the online message board I helped run called the Phorum. This is more of a side story in the whole Phorum saga. Any community of friends that lasts for so many years will develop its own inside jokes and references.

Everything is Ph

After I coined the word “phorum” to refer to the Proboard forums (to indicate that they were cooler than the previous EZBoard incarnation), it became a fun thing to refer to anything starting with the letter f using a ph instead. So the members of the Phorum would be the Phorum pholk (for ‘folk’), faith might be written as phaith, etc.

It’s a silly little word game, and not very interesting, but one notable trend did emerge from it: I could tell that a newer member had really started to absorb the Phorum culture and buy into the community when they started making their own ‘ph’ puns.

sthingy

The Proboards forums had a specific feature that started to wreak havoc almost immediately: a profanity filter.

Given that it was a messageboard founded by a bunch of Christian school kids, there was not a lot of foul language on the site. And though the moderators were generally quite light-handed, we would send out reprimands and reminders that using language you wouldn’t use around kids was discouraged. So we didn’t find out about the profanity filter because it was doing its job as intended.

We found out about the profanity filter because it was…overzealous.

Josh was posting one of his usual diatribes about listeners who don’t like more challenging songs but instead prefer both their faith and their art spoon-fed to them. However, the word ‘spoon’ contains in it a word which is occasionally used as a vulgar anatomical reference, so the filter duly changed the word to ‘sthingy.’

We shared a good laugh at the crazy profanity filter and moved on, but it kept on triggering. And usually on the word ‘spoon’ (or on Reese Witherspoon, which became Reese Withersthingy).

Eventually it became annoying enough that I figured out how to disable it.

But when we moved to new messageboard software, I realized that now we had the ability to choose which words were censored and what they were converted to. So I set up just one rule: change the word ‘spoon’ to ‘sthingy.’

Every so often someone would get caught by the filter, and it always brought me a chuckle.

Predestination

In the early days of the Phorum, every few years or so we’d get into a big theological debate on the topic of predestination.

Among people with any sort of interest in Biblical doctrine or systematic theology, most people have very strong opinions on the topic of predestination. It’s one of those topics where adherents of one side often have difficulty even fully understanding how a rational person could believe in the opposing viewpoint.

Our debating skills were rudimentary and our knowledge of theology not much better, so the debates (which went on for literal pages over the course of many days) were probably an embarrassment to both sides.

After about three rounds of this over the course of several years, we had a sort of gentleman-and-lady’s agreement to no longer discuss the topic. Each side recognized that those on the other were not going to be moved, and both sides recognized that most members did not care.

The topic was still sometimes obliquely referenced; if someone exploded on someone else or seemed to react out of proportion to the offense, someone might say “man, you’d think I’d started debating predestination or something!” Or if a discussion started getting lengthy and was being split into its own thread, the mod might say “I split off the discussion you two were having into its own thread so you can fight about predestination to your hearts’ content.”

Conclusion

There really isn’t one, except that I didn’t expect this discussion about the shibboleths of an old Internet message board to sprawl into nearly 700 words. I guess that’s par for the course on this blog, though!

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