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Not just a local passion

Popularity of message boards is growing nationally

Posted: August 4, 2009 10:25 p.m.
Updated: August 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Message boards aren’t just a local phenomenon.

Their popularity has grown nationally over the past decade, and few are more emblematic of that growth than Insidehoops.com.

Founded in 1999 by Jeff Lenchiner, the site is renowned for its message boards, where some 59,000 members post daily on topics ranging from the NBA to high school basketball.

The site has been featured in Sports Illustrated and on ESPN, and it’s also well-known for its NBA rumor page.

Lenchiner believes that the message boards are a good place to discuss such matters.

“In general, message boards are good, because you’re getting mostly honest opinions,” he says. “Being anonymous actually makes it easier to be honest. There are certain things you wouldn’t want to say connected to your real name, whereas the lack of identity makes it easier to say what you’re thinking.”

Still, Lenchiner acknowledges that internet users aren’t accountable for what they say.

He oversees a group of moderators that patrol the boards for inappropriate comments or links.

Their general principle is that if the comments aren’t safe for work, then they aren’t welcome on Insidehoops.com.

Those guidelines have helped the site grow over the years.

Lenchiner admits he didn’t intend for the boards to become so big.

They just did.

“You create a site and grow it and figure out what people want,” he says, “and if people are more interested in one aspect of it, you try to do that. The reason I mention this is because there are nine billion message boards, and it’s kind of overkill.”

Most major media outlets, such as ESPN.com, CBSSportsportsline.com, Yahoo.com and CNNSI.com, have message boards open to fans.

Other sites are catered toward amateur athletes, such as hsbaseballweb.com, which claims that more than 450,000 high school players are members of its forums.

The Ohio-based site JJHuddle.com was founded in February of 2000 as a forum for high school sports.

Those discussions included the best and worst of the fans.

“There are times when I would love to blow up all message boards,” says Paul Boggs, former contributor to JJHuddle’s high school sports coverage.

Boggs is no fan of the attacks launched by anonymous users, and the people who take what they say as gospel irritate him even more.

But the site has grown to include more than 120,000 members, and has added forums to discuss politics, professional sports and entertainment.

JJHuddle even has a forum for the sale and purchase of various items, and has sold advertising space.

“Boards can be a good pulse of the community, in addition to a good-and-bad rumor mill,” Boggs says. “When you read message boards, you’ll find that the individuals who post their real name or at least mention their real name and occupation tend to have much more credibility.”

Other localized sites are growing as well.

The domain hsfootballweb.com has sites devoted to high school football in Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana and the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

The Web site Carolinapreps.com covers athletics in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

As the internet becomes more and more accessible, message boards will only continue to grow.

It can be a good thing, Lenchiner says, if the users are responsible.

“Everyone enjoys interactivity and it’s nice to push a button, express an opinion and have people give feedback,” he says. “In real life, you can call a buddy and talk about something that just happened, but on the Insidehoops board, you instantly have people to share information with.”
jgulino@the-signal.com

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