Navigating Discussions

By Jim Lynch  |  Posted 2005-02-15 Print this article Print

One extremely important feature found in the left frame is the minus link that appears to the right of the sections title. By clicking on the "-"link, a forum member can choose to ignore an entire section of the forum. It will become minimized at the bottom of the thread list until the member decides to click the "+" link to open it up again. For high-traffic forums, this is a huge help since all members can customize sections they see so that the left frame isnt flooded with messages from sections that members arent interested in reading. You can also click the small dot to the left of a threads title to pull up the Thread Options screen in the message frame. This lets you move messages, change the title, etc. More on that in the admin options section below.
The top frame contains navigation links to the forums Start page (where you usually begin when coming into the forum), a link to easily reload or access Messages, the forums Links page, your Private Messaging Inbox, a link to the My Controls page, a link to the My Forums page, and a login/logout link. You can also easily reload the forum by clicking on the graphic in the top frame as well (assuming that the forum admin has set it up that way and most do).
The right frame is where you actually view messages. One of the great things about Beehive is that messages are linked (or threaded) to one another. So if you dont know why someone is saying something to somebody else, you can click the message number in the right hand corner and hop back to the original message. Unlike Beehive, quite a lot of forum software packages (such as InstantASP Forum, Invision Powerboard, phpBB, etc.) lack real threading and its a shame. It makes it very difficult to know who is saying what to whom without a bunch of quote backs cluttering up peoples messages. In each message youll see a reply link as well as an email icon, printer icon, unread icon, and a relationship icon. The relationship icon puts the power of customizing who you interact with in your hands. Just click it to manage your relationship with another forum member. If you dont like someone you can choose to ignore them and/or ignore their signature. You can also mark them with a friend icon or globally ignore all signatures in the forum. You can also read a persons profile by clicking on their name in a message. Administrators have the power to customize the fields available in members profiles. Also included on the profile page are links to send email or private messages to that member, as well as a link to ignore that member. The total number of posts by a member is displayed on the members profile as well as their birthday (if they opt to make it public), and their last visit. This release has some changes in it, such as a "Reply to All" button, as well as a "Thread" options button. Well take more about both of those in the problems section of the review. Suffice to say that they need some tweaking before they live up to their full potential. Also appearing at the bottom of the message frame is the Forum Stats area. This little section is fun (just click the "+" sign to get it to appear if its not on by default) to check out as you browse around. It shows the number of guests, members, and anonymous members currently in the forum. It also shows the total number of threads and posts in the forum, as well as the largest thread. And it lets you see the total number of members, who the newest member is, and how many posts have been made in the last hour or so. Continued...

Jim manages the PC Magazine and ExtremeTech forums, and is responsible for building community in the forums on both sites. He started managing PC Mag's forum on ZiffNet on CompuServe many years ago. He then transferred the staff and expertise to the Web. He left ZDNet when it moved to San Francisco and came back to Ziff after the split from ZDNet, right before ExtremeTech launched. You can get more background at his personal site:

His favorite movies include Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Three Musketeers (1973 version), Dune (Sci Fi Channel version), and gobs of others. He can't live without his iPAQ Pocket PC—,he uses it at the gym and everywhere else—,and his DVD collection features more than 200 films. His favorite game is Tribes (PC), which is more than three years old but he still plays it all the time.

Jim likes interacting with the folks in the forum and the content. 'I Love both of 'em,' says Lynch. 'It's what makes the job fun and interesting.'

You're welcome to visit Jim's site for more information about him.


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