How to get the best from Mumsnet
This article by Isabel Berwick appeared in the Financial Times, 7 February 2009
Mumsnet.com, the UK's biggest parenting website, is a gossipy virtual town full of opinionated people (not just mothers), who can advise, support and gripe about pretty much anything. If you have a problem or query, chances are that someone on Mumsnet can solve it for you.
This week the phenomenon spills over into RL (Real Life - Mumsnet, or MN, features many abbreviations and acronyms) with the publication of the first of a series of very practical parenting guides, offering "a million mums' trade secrets".
With hundreds of thousands of users, Mumsnet can be intimidating for newcomers ("newbies"). So here are five steps to help you get the most from an extraordinary resource.
1. Learn the acronyms
Your offspring are known as DCs, for "dear children" (they can be also be DDs or DSs). So if you have three sons, they will be known as DS1, DS2 and DS3 on Mumsnet. DH is a dear husband, DW (wife) or DP (partner).
Everyone's favourite Mumsnet acronym is AIBU ("Am I being unreasonable?"), which was used by so many members wanting opinions from others that it spawned its own forum. And now AIBU is the most-viewed part of the site - latest figures show 253,548 views a month. (Sample thread title: "AIBU to want a bit of time to get over the fact he left me for someone else?")
New parents of PFBs - precious first borns - beware. Asking for support for your complaint that your sugar-and- saltfree toddler was given crisps and chocolate at a party is likely to get the answer YABU - you are being unreasonable.
2. Enjoy the debates
Vintage Mumsnet moments are all about sex, love, revenge - and private v state schools. Other promising topics for a ding-dong of a thread include anything with MMR jab, Steiner school or the childcare guru Gina Ford in the title line. Log on, sit back with a glass of wine and watch the sparks fly.
3. Use the advice
If you have a problem or query, check the excellent archives. Chances are someone's already asked this very question. Looking for opinions about a yurt campsite in Cornwall? Someone on MN has been there in RL (real life), got the overpriced midge bites and recommends a nicer, cheaper place down the road.
4. Get posting...
First choose a suitable, witty nickname (if in doubt, go literary). Co-founder Justine Roberts offers some pointers for new Mumsnetters: "Do look about, introduce yourself, and make yourself at home. And use punctuation and paragraphs in your posts or you will lose 90 per cent of your readers." Txtspk has no place on Mumsnet. She also advises caution with your choice of topics: "Don't ask if people like the name Callista for your bump - unless you are prepared for them to say it is dreadful."
5. ...or just lurk
Lurking is the word for hanging about, using the site (there are some good member discounts) and observing what's going on. I have been lurking for years. It's free, fun and informative. I have picked up some great parenting tips, stonking celebrity gossip and learnt some of the silliest children's names in Britain. (My favourites: Algernon, Nimrod, and siblings Dolly and Teddy).