Search engines, while really useful when you're aware of an issue, often won't do much to make others aware of an issue. F'r instance, someone might be interested in DVDs and search on "DVD", but what are the chances that DeCSS is going to come up?
OTOH, it could be that someone is looking for, say the Fry's Electronics webpage (which doesn't exist, interestingly enough), but ends up at all those pages describing bad personal experiences with that retailer. So yes, they could be useful.
Forums like this one, yes, and /., don't tend to do much to alleviate that, since there is something of a "preaching to the choir" effect. Then again, even though /. is filled with a lot of useless junk, the valuable stuff is there, and they take out large ads in industry rags (and even have a nice little k5 slashbox). So there is some value to all this.
I guess the bottom line is that, while it's not perfect, small Internet sites are still a great way to publicize various issues that otherwise would be completely hidden from public view. Kinda like Heinlein's comment regarding democracy (I'm paraphrasing here): "Democracy is the worst form of government we've come up with except for all the others."
[ Parent ]