I hung out in various astrology forums on the net for well over fifteen years; also, there are now various groups on the social networks such as Facebook as well as a couple on Google+. I've always liked the idea of having places online where you can meet up with like-minded individuals to share knowledge, but as with all things in life, they have a not-so-good side. The complaints I have are by no means confined to the realms of the astrologically inclined and what is said here will apply to many different areas of alternative interests...and I'm sure the mainstream ones are not all that different either. Groups, like people, can be problematic.
When you first arrive in a forum it's pretty much like walking into a room full of strangers; there's no knowing who is who. On closer inspection you find the usual stereotypes; the attention hoggers, the quiet ones who sit in the corner (the lurkers), there will be the bitchy clique, the know-it-alls, the know-nothing-at-alls and before too long, you'll spot the ascended masters.
A huge amount of wrong information is passed around forums, and for every twenty posts, you read there will only be one or two that contain accurate insights. This presents an enormous problem for those who are serious about their study, and I can't stress this enough; do not rely on forums as your sole base of knowledge. It should be common sense, but from what I've seen this doesn't appear to be the case. It's the self-proclaimed experts that piss me off more than anyone else because I know they can cause damage. I've often found the most useless information will be given by those who get looked upon as an absolute authority and yet they somehow manage to retain their status. The emotionally deranged are among the most prolific contributors and are another breed of poster that can create unnecessary diversions. You have to buy books; there's no way around it. You are only ever going to get a limited amount of free information that is accurate. I've lost count of the blogs and websites I've visited that are full of really bad astrology.
There's no reason why internet writers can't adopt a more traditional approach and quote the sources of their research. The poorest examples of teachers that I've seen will only ever cite religious text, or their own work, or other questionable authorities. If someone is making claims that they're a professional, you need to check them out properly. Look at their work and look at the beliefs behind the work. Do they get mad when their ideas are challenged? How do they defend their teachings? Do they remain professional at all times? Are they authoritative, or are they condescending? Remember that this is the internet, they could be anybody but are most probably nobody. Don't ever be fooled by qualifications; we've enough examples of crap professionals out there on planet reality and astrology is not immune from those types of people. The only thing we know for sure from a qualification is that they know how to conform and they can learn by rote.
I question if astrology is particularly vulnerable to misinterpretation because of the mindset of the people it attracts. I've seen many that like to profess it's up to the individual to work out what it all means to them personally, but this is bullshit. Intuition has absolutely no place in basic delineation. The basics come from studying the work that has already been done by those who have many years experience in the field (some long time dead ones can be useful too). You can't just make it up as you go along. Intuition can be useful in overall chart synthesis, and it certainly helps when you're dealing with a person on a one to one level, but astrology is a structured subject. The meanings of the planets, signs and aspects are fixed. We can't change what they mean. How it all manifests back on planet reality is a completely different issue, and this is where intuition can be used.
The message here is, question anyone's and everyone's authority. If they know what they're talking about, they will be able to give a rational response. If you get a heap of woo or a derogatory comment instead of an explanation, you're probably safe to assume they're full of shit and can be avoided if you're pushed for time. Otherwise, you can argue back and whilst it's unlikely to get you anywhere, over 90% of a forum's members will be lurkers and never post - you can be a sport and give them a more balanced argument to read.