Well, I think it would be nice to have forums public. I don't know if the Phase forum started out that way from the very beginning. Yair makes a good point that they're just getting started with this, so let's give them some time to sort it out, and see where they end up.
I think it's also important to be aware that while a user forum is a good place to get information, it also tends to be a place where people go for help or with complaints. It can be used as a gauge to see how the company responds, but it can also be a platform for very public agendas.
And after reading a company-based, product-based forum, you may have the idea that the product is nothing but trouble. This is rarely the case. Users have a tendency to not dial into forums and rave about how wonderful their digital back is.
It's more often...
HELP! Green light won't come on! Middle of shoot! Any suggestions!?
It can lead one to the conclusion - gosh, these guys sure do have lots of problems. Which isn't the case. The vast majority of digital back users - regardless of brand - are quite happy with their choice.
I have mixed feelings about all of these forums, public or private.
One one side, some photographer that doesn't do his homework makes a user error then starts screaming the product is crap is somewhat unfair.
On the flip slde all of these companies, Canon, Nikon included have released product that is not really ready for use and it almost seems they use thier customer base as beta testers.
When those posts become public, in my view the manufacturer's deserve the reviews.
The one thing I've noticed that pertains to the use of digital backs is everyone that has not tried one for an extended period of time believes they are almost impossible to work.
Time and again I receive e-mails from someone that says, "wow I just tried the _______back mounted on a _______ and how easy it is to shoot. I thought from reading on the forums it would be much more difficult".
Some of this can be put on the makers of the backs because they do make it difficult to get information. The PDF's can be confusing and certain topics that like Moire, or CA seem to be bypassed in any forum disucssion.
Some of this can also be put on the reviewer's because like that recent article about the mamiya ZD, there is no mention of buffer speed, lcd clairty/color correctness, write times, and very little infomation about post production.
It seems all any reviewer wants to do is just shoot each back side by side at different iso's and post the results. I know in my own personal testing these cameras can be so scene specific what is really needed is a broad based review that starts with setup, file naming, tethering, portable, lcd clairty, shoot speed, right times, high to low iso, noise reduction, software options, post production times, jpeg creations all the way to final file delivery.
Do the work well with tungsten, mixed, or daylight and how accurate are the standard white balances?
Personally I think the digital backs are a good investment as they are the closest thing to a medium format, even large format film look, that is available in the digital world and regardless of the constant pixel peeping comparisions between brands and formats, the lenses and aspect ratios do make a great deal of difference in crafting a certain look.
I chose the Leaf for a few very important reasons and none of them were ever mentioned by the manufacturer, or in any test I saw online or in print.
Lately everyone seems to be waiting for announcements from Photokina to decide if they will stick with their dslrs or move to medium format. I find this interesting because even if a dslr was introduced tomorrow at 40 mega pixels it would not change the lens options, file depth and the aspect ratio.
To me those are much more important values than detail.