The Leica Forum: Committed and Constructive

Andreas Jürgensen is the founder and moderator of the planet’s largest Internet platform concerned with the world of Leica and everything in it: The Leica Forum.

Q: Mr. Jürgensen, when did the Leica Forum first appear, and what was the idea behind it?

A: The initial version of the Leica Forum first appeared on the Leica website. In the run-up to Photokina 2000, I was working as an external provider on a content management system for the Leica website into which we also integrated a forum feature. In 2002 we changed forum software, meaning that anonymous posting was no longer permitted. A lot of Leica users gathered in the forum at the time, and many of them are still active members today. In 2005 we changed the software again, and in 2006 I began to run the Leica Forum on my own.

Q: How many members take part in discussions on the Leica Forum compared with other Internet forums?

A: The Leica Forum is by far the largest global forum for discussing Leica products and Leica photography. Over the last ten years, the number of officially registered members has grown to more than 60,000, and around 8,000 members contribute regularly to discussion threads. On top of this, we also have numerous users who visit the forum online without registering.

Q: What is the strongest feature of the Leica Forum?

A: That’s easy: we have the world’s largest community of Leica customers, and with it a lot of Leica expertise. And it still fascinates me to this day. Nowhere else in the world can you find so many Leica users in one place who discuss technical issues, share their photography and – for me the most important factor – find new and old friends on the forum.

Q: How influential is the Leica Forum?

A: First and foremost, the Leica Forum is a platform that offers Leica customers an opportunity to have their say. That is predominantly a positive thing. Forum members of course discuss their personal experiences with Leica equipment, but they also share their fascination for Leica products and the work of well-known Leica photographers. In addition to this, we also stage regular user meetings, where members of the Leica staff can answer users’ questions. These meetings are also an excellent opportunity for Leica to keep in touch with what their customers think and want.

Q: A comparison between the German- and English-language versions of the forum shows some significant differences in the tone of the members’ posts. Let’s put it this way: the English-language Leica Forum appears to be rather more polite. Is there a particular reason for this?

A: I’ve often asked myself the same question. German users seem to be a rather more critical group as a whole, and tend to express their often justified criticism with – let’s say – a slight lack of diplomacy. One topic that frequently leads to heated discussion is an appropriate form of criticising other people’s photography. I’m always very much in favour of constructive criticism – we are actually currently working on a sort of etiquette guideline to promote a rather more polite approach to discussing pictures.

Q: A good sign of the community spirit on the one hand, and the personal commitment of the Leica Forum members on the other, is the ‘Leica User Forum Charity Book 2010’ project, the proceeds of which are being donated to the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR). How did this project begin?

A: The ball was set rolling by several British and American members, Steve Unsworth, Bill Palmer and Andy Barton. Their original idea was simply to publish a book showing some of the wonderful photography shown on the forum. And then, because the forum also has cancer sufferers amongst its active members, we decided to make the book a charity project. We are also particularly pleased to see that Leica has contributed to the project in their own special way, for instance with the ‘Twitter Run’.

Q: Is anything special planned for the Leica Forum in the future?

A: You could probably answer that better, coming from the product side of things. As regards content, we are planning on expanding the ‘Leica Wiki’ to make it the key source for Leica-related information. As mentioned earlier, we are pressing ahead with initiatives to get some parts of the community on to a more sociable footing. The Leica Forum has now been on Twitter for quite a while, and we recently set up a Facebook page and a blog as well. One of the things I would like to see most is the organisation of more user meetings – if possible, staging them at a local level, too.

Andreas Jürgensen, many thanks for the interview.

- Leica Internet Team

This post is part of the special ‘Leica for AICR’ series. To purchase the ‘Leica User Forum Book’, please click here. Proceeds benefit the UK-based Association for International Cancer Research (AICR). Based on Leica’s Twitter initiative, Leica is donating €3,000 to AICR – thank you for making this possible!