I noticed in the last round of 2013 predictions that this would be the year there will be no more "guessing". Have a question, look it up. Speculation is unnecessary; you have the capability to find any answer at your fingertips (unless you're on wifi, like me).
Throw Google a juicy question and many search results will turn out to be forums: other people worrying about the same thing I am. Advice, like anything on the web, is ubiquitous - and you have to be vigilante about whose to take. Posting on forums is a good practice, but like any conversation in which you try to engage strangers (or know-it-alls), prepare to be trashed or ignored.
Apple's forums are a good example. The unspoken rule is never to ask anything without laying out the exact specifications of your computer or device, its OS, its RAM, maybe even its color. It saves a lot of time and stupid quips; however, more often than not, most of my questions on Apple's forums go mysteriously unanswered. Understandably, the database is huge, possibly hundreds of questions are posted every hour and the chances that mine will snag an expert's attention can be dim. Still, it's an epic fail if I'm in dire need of some virtual I.T.
It's also prudent to be wary of multi-paged discussions. Usually these are filled with folks raking back and forth over the same territory, throwing in their $.03, contradicting each other. I spent an entire evening this week reading through an Apple forum about why Netflix doesn't stream well with AppleTV. Hours later, I still had no good answer, and streaming Netflix over my AppleTV still sucks.
Perhaps the only thing more satisfying than posing personal needy questions online is to incite fervent opinion. I use one of LinkedIn's graphic design forums to get other professionals' takes on current working conditions. This is one of the best functions of a social network like LinkedIn - introducing yourself to your community by delving into current issues, and in the course, revealing bits of yourself as well. Opinions seem to flow easier than answers in the virtual world.
iPod resetting instructions, how best to clean my saltwater aquarium, what's the latest rumor coming out of Walt Disney World, how to treat shoulder bursitis naturally, how many times has T'Pau shown up on Star Trek…my google search inquiries are all being filed somewhere in order to directly market to me. A blessing? A curse? Privacy invasion? It's still a flawed system. A few months ago I searched for natural answers to sciatica relief. Now every banner ad on mostly every website is about, yes, sciatica relief. Good thing I didn't search for reasons why genital parasites are on the verge of extinction because of all this excessive manscaping.