I started vaping shortly before I discovered the online vaping community. It was almost an impulse purchase on that day, just over two months ago, when I decided to buy a mini e-cig starter kit for seventeen bucks at the local gas station. The box it came in had very little information, but it did have a business card to their website with a 15% coupon code. Of course visited the website, and found the prices on their site were much more expensive than I could get them at the gas station.
It was probably a good thing that there was no discount on this website. I wasn’t going to order anything online when I could get the same product cheaper down around the corner. Within the first week, by that point I had bought a second starter kit and a five-pack of cartos, I began to search around online to see if I could figure out if anyone sold cartomizers compatible with my e-cig.
Well if anyone has tried doing a cold search for general e-cig information, you may have seen there’s a whole lot of smoke clouding things up. I came across quite a few websites that seemed to be offering reviews of e-cigs, but I also noticed that most of these sites had advertisements for the same e-cigs that they were ranking as their ‘top picks’. I guess I’m pretty savvy when it comes to trusting things I see on the internet. I could see most of these sites were blogs, without any identification of the author, and without any substantial reader comments. So I my search continued.
Eventually I came to a wiki, it was hosted by the electronic cigarette forum (ECF), but it had information on the compatibility of various thread types. It was incredibly cryptic and basically useless to someone with little knowledge like myself, however on that wiki was a link to the forum that hosted it. Once I found that forum, I was quickly on my way to getting pretty good information, and within a few days I was placing my first order for much better equipment.
In my life I’ve gotten well involved in quite a few online communities, many currently use the forum format, but before there were forums there was usenet. I know many forums have an atmosphere that is a product of both the members of the community and the moderators. I’ve seen all sorts of communities, some very rigid, formal, structured and organized, and some much more causal, and some a complete disaster.
I’d say in my experience I’ve always gravitated towards a more structured and organized forum, with specialized subforums, and pages of sticky posts with general guides, references, and cross references. I consider myself often a reader, and usually like to try to read up and educate myself before I ask questions. I guess I’ve seen in some of these forums that there is often an atmosphere that discourages people from asking questions before they’ve read the basic information. I’m very likely guilty of posting some short replies to people telling them that answer has already been posted. I’ve also moderated on some of these communities and have felt the frustration that comes with organizing the information only to have it ignored by newcomers.
There is a problem with the very well structured, organized format however, and that’s when it’s not very well organized, and not kept up to date. I’ll return to the ECF as it was the first place I found. I found a great deal of good information to read as a beginner there. Many of the questions I had were answered in a couple hours of reading without having to interact with another human being. As time went on, however I began to find there were a lot of questions I had that seemed like they should have been answered but were not. Many of the topics that people pointed me towards were over fifty pages long, with pages and pages of off-topic posts. I also found a bit of an atmosphere that really didn’t encourage me to ask my questions, but to search and find the answer myself.
Sometime shortly after I discovered the ECF, and had begun learning about other parts of the vaping community, I found it odd that there were other forums which had started after the ECF had already been so popular. In my experience if online communities there was more of a desire to not have a community fragmented like this. But eventually I realized the ECF really wasn’t a place I wanted to spend much of my time. Now by no means do I want to knock the ECF, it was a great place for me to start, there are a few sub-forums I still participate in, but a great deal of the atmosphere just isn’t for me. I suspect with the popularity of many other e-cig related forums, I am not alone in wanting something else.
I eventually started looking at some of the other vape forums, the Vapers Forum, /r/ecig on Reddit, Nu-Vapor, and EcigAdvanced (ECA). Now besides ECA I won’t talk about the others much. They all have their differences, some simply haven’t had enough of my time to be given a fair evaluation, at least one just didn’t give me a great first impression, others I like, and still visit a bit, but none of them really grabbed me until I found ECA.
Remember when I was saying how I used to like the well structured forum? The place where I could read quietly like a library and not ask questions? Well the ECA is not that place. I’m not calling it unorganized, the organization is simple, and uncluttered. If you want to search old threads you will find good information. The real atmosphere of the ECA is the community and discussion among the members. No one here minds answering the same question ten times a week. No one here will make you feel like you’re asking a stupid question. We realize that people from all walks of life, and all age groups all face the same troubles as smokers looking to find help.
I have come to realize that it’s probably much better for someone looking to begin using e-cigs to ask questions rather than read up and form their own conclusions. The majority of people looking to start using e-cigarettes are also trying to quit smoking, they may be going through a tough time looking for advice, each person is unique, and it’s better to speak to some more knowledgeable people who can council them and help them out. The atmosphere at ECA is very encouraging, it’s very welcoming, and it’s very friendly. It’s really my feeling that having a very warm atmosphere is very helpful when someone comes along and is asking for help.
One thing I have found all through the e-cig community is this universal drive for those to help out total strangers. I can’t think of anything I’ve been a part of that has this quality. I can explain that I am motivated by the fact that I was able to finally quit smoking, and I want to try and help out anyone I can to do the same. I believe that essentially this motivation is shared by a great deal of us in the vaping community.
So I guess if you’re reading this, if you haven’t discovered a place in the e-cig community, or if you’ve found a place but not sure you really love it, maybe you should look around and see if you can find somewhere you fit in. I found it in the ECA, some have found it in other places. If you have a desire to learn more, to help out, or simply to discuss your vaping, try and find a community you love like I have.