I am a fan of forums. I love going on and reading individuals comments on various subjects. However, the downfall of the forums is that they are very informal. Usually the discussions don't develop as deeply as I would like and graze the surface of most subjects that I am researching. But the main reason why I like forums is because it is a way to connect. I don't expect an in-depth discussion of James Joyce or Charles Dickens. The most I really expect to get is, "I really like this story" or "I was confused when. . .". Then someone will respond to those posts and the conversation goes on. What is appealing is the fact that it is a conversation. It is a way to casually bounce around your ideas and get your ideas out of your head. I find that as I post on forums that I can better formulate my thinking for more formal settings.
Sometimes I am surprised to find a pearl of knowledge. Someone's comment will have sparked an idea in my head or helped clarify an idea that was already forming. Searching through forums for these little 'pearls of knowledge' can be tedious but it is worth it, to me at least.