Recently, I offered a question on the Maine-BirdList: Who would be interested in a Maine birders discussion board? I would be the one to set up and maintain such a board if the responses favored such an endeavor. The overwhelming response was for such a discussion forum.
I am happy to report that on Sunday October 26th, 2008, the Maine Birders Network will be open to all Maine birders and others who wish to participate. I am testing and setting up the discussion board software and may give a sneak peak a few days before the launch date.
This type of forum for birders in Maine has been tried before in the years past and has failed due to the lack of participation. I am willing to take the risk of failure on the board that I will create. From the responses that I received from the mail list, I think we can make this work as long as birders participate in the discussions.
What is a discussion board?
A discussion board is a virtual tool that allows groups with the same interests to communicate online. A person can either reply to existing messages or post new messages. This is web-based, not an email enviroment. Discussions on a wide range of topics are possible. Members can even post images.
Anything related to birding and wild birds is appropriate on the forum. Topics that are particularly about Maine birds and birding are probably more appropriate on the mailing list (www.mainebirdlist.net/), but you can also post them on the discussion board if you like.
Why must I sign up for a membership?
There are people out there who like to ruin things. If an open forum without membership were to be found by any of these characters, all sorts of foul play would befall the board. Posting of spam, pornography and other illegal activity would make it an unpleasant place to be.
With a membership that requires logging in, we have control over such activity. Any instigators can be banned from ever participating again, they will not have access to the site.
When you register, you will be prompted for a user-name, password and email address. Please know that your email will never be given or sold to anyone. This information will be safely encrypted in the board database, retrievable only by the member who it belongs to.
Other benefits include the ability to post pictures, private messaging and emails, receive board notices and newsletters and to have your own photo gallery.
What can I do to help?
Moderators will be needed to help with activities on the discussion board. Now is the time to let me know if you’d like to volunteer to be a forum moderator. Here are the details.
What does moderation involve?
Basically you check the forums daily or every other day and use the built-in moderation functions to handle any problems that come up. You’ll automatically receive an email whenever a forum member reports a problem, so in many cases you’ll be alerted to problems before you even visit the site.
Your privileges will include the ability to delete, close/re-open, and move threads and posts. You’ll also be able to send private messages to members. The forums will require registration with an image-based verification process for all members, so you shouldn’t have to worry about automated spam attacks. Before the forums officially go live, I’ll personally work with the moderators to hammer out a list of forum etiquette rules, so basically your job will be to ensure that the community members follow those rules. Most of this will be pretty obvious — no spam, no sexual content, no harassing people, and so on. But written rules will ensure that all moderators are on the same page and the community has a fairly consistent moderation style throughout.
Depending on how many qualified people apply to be moderators and how popular the forums become, we could have multiple moderators per forum or multiple forums per moderator. I’ll aim to maintain a good ratio that keeps the moderation duties fairly light. On most days moderators shouldn’t have any problems to address at all. If you decide you no longer wish to moderate, you can quit at any time.
Why become a moderator?
Anyone who’s moderated a forum already knows how rewarding it can be. If your goal is to fill an ego-based need like status or popularity, you probably won’t make a good moderator. A good reason to become a moderator is that you love helping people and are looking for an outlet to contribute. Great moderators are active in their forums, and they love seeing their communities blossom. An active moderator has tremendous influence over the type of community that evolves. If there’s anything you’ll get out of being a moderator, it’s that you’ll build stronger communication and leadership skills.
How to apply
If you’re interested in becoming a moderator, please E-mail me.
I’ve no idea how many people will apply, so I don’t know how selective I’ll have to be, but once all the moderators have been selected, I’ll train them in using the boards moderation features as needed (it’s fairly straightforward and easy to learn). And whenever everyone is ready, we will open the board and begin the discussions.
I expect these forums will become very successful, not because of the particular topics but because of the people they’ll attract – people who are committed to learning about birds and birding. I’ve gotten to know many of you from the mail list, those who commented on this site and out in the field, and now I’m delighted that you’ll finally have the chance to meet new people and share the passion of Maine birding.
Any other questions about the discussion board may be submitted by commenting on this article.