I'm going to kick off a thread here about what to watch for and what to watch *out* for when you read people's responses to your questions. I'll try to keep this short so it can be used as a framework for other people to post their suggestions too. On the crowd mentality First of all, these internet forums are just like any other crowd. At a football game if 50,000 people start cheering, you'll probably start cheering too. It might be because there's something to cheer for and it might just be because everyone is cheering. If you're like me then you've done "the wave" so you know what I'm talking about. It's like that on the internet too. At the moment there are 70,000 people on Scubaboard and we do sometimes act like a large crowd. One time you see this (certainly not the only time) is if you post a question like "I'm having trouble with my trim, can someone help me?" A question like this will inevitably evoke the cheers of "get rid of your jacket", "Buy a backplate and wing!", "You need new flippers" and things like this. It can be confusing when you ask a question about your trim and you get 50 responses telling you that you bought the wrong gear. However, amongst the 50 cheers about replacing the entire contents of your dive-bag, one or two people will respond with "what is your problem", "tell us more", "have you changed anything". Put succinctly, like this, it's clear to see who you should listen to. On some of the threads it's not clear at all.... As a general rule (there are exceptions) if you think you're having a problem with a skill and people start talking about gear, you can probably ignore them. Even if a *lot* of people start repeating what one or two people said then consider the possibility that we're (I say we because everyone gets sucked into it sometimes) we're saying it out of a crowd mentality and look for the people who are thinking along with you, even if they're in the minority. On the subject of gear. If you drive a car, then you'll know that some people love Fords and some people hate them. Both the lovers and the haters are passionate and if you ask about a Ford in a bar, you're lucky if it doesn't start a fight.... Well the same thing happens here. Many people who interact with each other online do so very *very* bluntly. Opinions given are often defended as if they are of considerable importance when in fact, the reality doesn't matter nearly as much. If you ask "which computer should I buy" then you'll see the name of every computer on the market. You'll also see crowds forming to cheer for a certain computer and crowds forming to boo it. How on earth are you supposed to see the forest for the trees through all of that jostling around for attention? Look for the one or two posts that address your question. Someone will say "what kind of diving are you doing" or they'll make a nice unbiased comparison between different computers. Those are the posts you're looking for. Moreover, on the subject of gear, people will not only advise you about what to buy. We will also (vehemently) advise you about what *NOT* to buy. (The ones who hate Fords). Consider this. If someone is saying to you, "Mares flippers suck big doo-doo", how big do you think the chance is that they actually *have* Mares flippers? Did the coin just drop? In fact, the most vocal 'haters' of just about everything out there are usually the least likely people to have much experience diving in the gear they hate. Why people do this is probably a good topic for a doctoral thesis in psychology but the fact is that we do. In large numbers.... all the time. For example, if you say "I'm thinking about buying a HUB, what do you think". Then you'll hear people who bought a bp/wing (backplate & wing) right out of the gate, say that they hate all jackets and they hate the HUB even more.... even though they may have never worn a jacket and they may have never even *seen* a HUB..... Likewise, if you say "I'm thinking about buying this or that computer" then some joker who doesn't have a computer will come on and say "computers rot your brain" (I'm going to come back to this). In fact as a general rule consider every piece of negative feedback you receive very carefully and ask the poster if they have actual experience with the bit of gear you're talking about of if they only have an opinion. Personally, I'd be more inclined to believe someone with real world experience. On the subject of religion. Getting back to the comment above that people will say "computers rot your brain". If you walk around in a big city then you'll see different groups of people. The skin-heads, the goth, the skaters, the bikers etc etc. Subcultures. Little groups within a big group who share the same ideas and values. Well we have subcultures in scuba diving too. Hogarthian, DIR, Solo divers, Tech divers... you name it. Each one of those groups have things that they hold very dear to their own philosophy and identity. For example, every single Hogarthian diver out there has a regulator with a very long hose attaching it to the tank. Ergo, if you ask a question like "I'm thinking about buying a new regulator, what do I need" *someone* will tell you that you *need* a long-hose. If you *actually* need one or not is not their concern. They believe that *everyone* *always* needs a long-hose.... It's just the nature of the subculture beast. What you can do about that to avoid getting bad advice is twofold. First ask a control question back for example, if someone says to you "you need a long-hose" ask them about their flavour. For example, you can say "do you believe I need a long-hose because of your own diving style". Some people will be upfront about it and other people will be more evasive. Keep probing. It's like that with a lot of topics. Gear is one. Training is another, but it also extends to skills, protocols and in some cases outside of the realm of diving.... fitness, mental health and so forth..... The main thing here is to try to grasp the context in which someone makes a particular comment. For example, If someone says "computers rot your brain" then you can bet a kilogram of banana's that they believe in DIR. If someone says "your buddy is a liability" then you can put your bananas on "Solo diver" and so forth. So the second thing you can do when you hear things that don't seem to make immediate sense is ask yourself "why is he/she saying that". Maybe it's because of a belief. Over time you'll get a feeling for which key concepts belong to which subcultures and you'll be able to put things in better context. In the mean while try to understand the context of a particular comment as best you can. The last thing to say about that is to weigh the comments and take what you can from it. You can't believe everything everyone says. Some subcultures have incompatible values as well (DIR and Solo divers, for example). Try to remain open and (this is my own belief) try to resist jumping on any particular horse until you have some idea of which horses are running in the race. So there we go. There's a start. I hope other people will add to this. I'm sorry it's so long but I guess if you read this far it must have been worth it. R..