How the discussion groups work

Master 3 things and you've pretty much got it.
Feel free to skip over the rest of the documentation.

  • Reading a topic.
  • Creating a topic.
  • Replying to a topic.

More details.
You don't need to read any documentation to use the forums. They are very straightforward. But here are a few basics.

  • No registration, sign up, logons, passwords, or costs.
  • The forum is gently moderated.
  • No pictures, no attachments, no avatars, no emoticons.
  • All discussion topics are on one page and remain in the same order: Latest on top.
  • All replies to a single topic are on a single page: Latest on the bottom.
  • If new responses are added to a topic, the topic link turns blue (unvisited) again, To see what's new, click on the blue links.
  • Posted links are hidden from search crawlers to discourage forum SPAMMERS.
  • Your e-mail address is hidden from everybody but you can send messages to other posters.
  • You can post your e-mail and URL "in the clear" in the body of a topic or reply if you'd like to show the community.
  • No e-mail alerts. But you use your RSS reader  to find news postings.
  • There is no "preview" of your post. Best try to get it right before you press "OK."
  • The search encompasses all current and archived postings.

Stay in touch with RSS.
As a substitute for e-mail alerts common to online forums, these use RSS: "RDF Site Summary (RSS) is a lightweight multipurpose extensible metadata description and syndication format." Or, if you prefer RSS is "Real Simple Syndication."

Sound horrible? Essentially it's a program that monitors changes to web sites that interest you. Folks often use RSS readers to track news sites, blogs, and forums. It can be a big time saver.

Here is what you can do:

  • Get yourself an RSS Reader/Aggregator program, usually free. Here are some popular ones.
  • In the forum right-click on the orange RSS button in the corner of the forum page and select "Copy shortcut."
  • Enter the shortcut into your RSS Aggregator.
  • Tell your RSS Aggregator how often to check the page.
    Visit  your aggregator page when you want to see if there is anything new.

I'll add new, more specialized forums if we need them.
Forums will start as a grab bag. If a particular topic needs to break out on it's own, I'll add new forums and make sure you can easily get from one forum to another. For example, if the original forum is about movie monsters, we may eventually need to split it into general mayhem, slimy reptile, space alien, vampire, and giant insect forums. Who knows where it will lead but it's easy to start a new one.

If you have an ideas, comments, or suggestions, please let me know.

Terry Kearns

P.S. A bit of forum philosophy

"What is required to make a large, long-lived online group successful?" and I think I can now answer with some confidence: "It depends." I'm hoping to flesh that answer out a little bit in the next ten years. Clay Shirky's Writings About the Internet

When people finally understand people, we'll know how to do an online forum. In the meantime, "It takes all kinds of animals to make a farm." In this case the animals are varieties of discussion forums. Three popular forums are Yahoo,  phpBB forums, and SlashDot type branching forums. They are all quite remarkable in features and functions. Each has unique strengths but all of them can support an online community. I doubt that a single method can meet all of a groups needs, interests, and preferences.

My forums use "FogBugz" software. Fogbugz forums purposely avoid being full featured. Instead it concentrates on getting out of the way so that members can quickly get to the meat of the discussions and to find the topics that interest them. It also attempts to discourage forum SPAM as best it can. If you are interested in the principals behind these forums read "Building Communities with Software" by Joel Spolsky, author of FogBugz.

 Read or join a discussion group?

 Can I help you?

Terry Kearns' Web Service Center and Discussion Forums