Online discussion forums allow people to communicate information and opinions in an organized manner. The forums are organized in three layers:
- A post is a single piece of information from a Web site user. It may either be a new post, or a reply to an existing post.
- A topic is a collection of posts, organized in chronological order. Topics are generally conversations about a single idea. The first post of a topic sets the course of the discussion. All other posts in the topic are replies to the first post or to other replies.
- A forum contains topics about a particular subject, such as "Marketing" or "Funding."
Navigation through the forums is tied to the organization outlined above. The Forum List displays a list of all forums, with information about activity in that forum. By clicking on the name of a forum, the Topic List for that forum will be displayed. Topics are listed in chronological order, with the most recently updated topic at the top. (There are some exceptions, see Announcements and Sticky Topics below.)
If you click on a topic, the View Topic page will be displayed. This will show all posts in that topic, with the oldest post first and the remainder listed in chronological order.
You will need to register for a Web site account in order to post to our forums. Click on the "Register" link at the top of any page to begin registration.
Your chosen "user alias" will be displayed next to posts you make. No other identifying information will be dispalayed unless you provide it in the body of your post or in your signature that is displayed at the bottom of your posts.
There are three ways to create a post within a forum. First, you may click the New Topic button when viewing the Topic List page. This will create a new topic after you complete the posting form. Second, you may click on the "Add Comment" button when viewing a topic. This will add your post to the bottom of the topic page after you complete the posting form. Third, you may click the "Reply" button next to any post in a topic. This will reply to a specific post, and "quote" the text of that post in your new message.
When you create a new post, you will see the posting form, where you will enter your message.
- This is a short title for your post, that will be displayed at the top of the message. If you are creating a new topic, then you are required to enter a subject, which will become the name of the topic. If you are adding your comments to an existing topic, then you may leave the subject blank.
- Message Body
- This is the body of your post. Some text formatting may be allowed.
- Some forums allow you to attach files to your post. Click on the "Browse" button to choose a file from your computer, then click the "Add File" button to send that file to the Web site. Keep in mind that persons who read your post will be able to download and view your file attachments. If attaching documents, try to provide them in a non-proprietary format such as Adobe PDF. Not all Web site visitors have the same software.
- You may optionally add your signature to your post. To do this, check the box next to "Attach my signature to this post." You may specify the content of your signature by accessing the My Account section of the Web site.
- You may optionally choose to be notified via e-mail of someone creates a new post in this topic. Check the box next to "Notify me when a reply is posted" to do this. See Watching Topics for more information.
- You may also subscribe to the forum in which you are posting. See Subscribing to Forums for more information.
- Some forums may allow topics to be posted as Sticky Topics or Announcements. See below for more information.
Announcements are a special type of topic that may be created in certain forums, or by certain Web site users. Announcements will appear above all other topics on the Topic List page. They also appear at the top of every successive Topic List page if there are more that one page of topics for that forum.
Sticky topics are another special type of topic available in certain forums. Sticky topics will appear above all other topics except for Announcements, but only on the first page of the Topic List.
It is often useful to quote another's message when replying to a topic, in order to give context to your response. Quoting a message will include part of the other user's post in your own.
This is easily done when replying by clicking the "Reply" button next to the post to which you want to reply. The entire text of that user's post will be copied into your new post.
Quoting may be done manually - see the Formatting section below.
In some forums you may be allowed to go back and edit your existing posts, to fix errors or modify information you are providing. Posts that may be edited will have an "Edit" button in the top right corner of the post. You will be taken to the posting form, where you may modify and re-submit your post.
In some cases you will be allowed to delete your posts. If this is allowed, and there are no replies to your post, then you will see a "Delete" button in the top right corder of the post. Click this button to remove your post from the forum.
Minimal text formatting tools are available for use in your posts by using the following codes:
||National Scenic Byways|
You may "watch" a topic for new replies. When someone creates a new post in a topic you are watching, you will receive an e-mail to notify you of the new post. The e-mail will contain a link for viewing the new post. You will receive only one e-mail for each topic you are watching, until the next time you view that topic on the Web site.
Adding a Watch
To watch a topic, click the "Watch" button at the top or bottom of the View Topic page. You may also check the "Notify me when a reply is posted" option when posting to a topic.
Removing a Watch
To stop watching a topic, click the "Unwatch" button at the top or bottom of the View Topic page.
Subscribing to Forums
You may subscribe to one or more forums to receive e-mail updates of new topics and posts in the subscribed forum. You will receive a periodic, usually daily, e-mail that lists the additions to each forum for which you are subscribed. You will not receive an e-mail if there are no new posts in those forums.
The easiest way to manage your forum subscriptions is to click the Forum Preferences link in the My Account section. You may also check/uncheck the subscription box when creating a new post.