Newsletter - 1st February 2007
What, another Newsletter?
Since this is the third of the resurrected Newsletters I’ve posted, it's a good time to seek some constructive feedback on the Newsletters. With that in mind, I’ve started a discussion thread Feedback – Newsletters
for feedback. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.
There’s a lot to get through this time - so moving rapidly on...
Please ensure that the email address in your profile is up-to-date (and has been verified). Recently, a few Members have had problems that took longer than expected to resolve as we did not realize that the email address in their profile was no longer working. (A working email address in your profile is one of the requirements for an active Membership.)
Note: If you do change your email address the system will attempt to verify it is working by sending a new activation code in an email to the new address. If you don’t respond to that email (or the 3 reminders that are sent during the next 10 days), your account is automatically moved to the “Unregistered/Not logged In” usergroup. This means you’ll not be able access the Forum features.
New Menu Options & Layout Changes
As mentioned in the last Newsletter, I’ve continued to tweak the Forum menus. In fact, I’ve recently made two major changes. The first is the drop-down menu “Forum Index”. This now displays a mini-sitemap on every page. This should help you quickly move around the Forum, and cut down on the number of times you need to return to the Forum Index page.
The second change is the UserCP dropdown menu. This lets you jump directly to the section of your User Control Panel that you want to access. Combined with this is a slight change to the layout of the User Control Page. The private messages and subscriptions options have now been moved to the top of the options column, and are accessible with a single click.
That wraps up the changes to menus and the layout that I had planned. Thanks for bearing with me during the changes, and I hope you have found the slight inconvenience of having to re-learn where a few links are worthwhile.
Just before uploading this Newsletter I installed the upgrade to Members’ Profiles that I’ve been hinting about for the last couple of Newsletters. These changes require quite a bit more explanation so I’ve created an article about the changes called “Zoints Profiles
”. As I explain in that article, this is a bit of an experiment and we need
your feedback to fine tune it - or to see if we even keep the feature going forward.
Fund Raising – Part 1
I’ve some great news - our first attempt of fund-raising has been successful! So far, 45 of you have decided that you wanted to look stylish in one of the personalized Forum shirts, which has raised about $400. To put that in perspective that’s about a month of funding for the Forum.
Thanks to everyone
who has bought a shirt. (And of course, you can still buy one and help raise another month or two of funding Forum Shirt Order Form
And I have to extend a huge thank-you to tkingdoll, who has made this possible! It’s taken a lot of work to make this happen. Later on in the year we will be looking to produce a generic Forum t-shirt, and we’ll also run a competition to come up with an appropriate or perhaps even a slightly inappropriate slogan.
Fund Raising – Part 2
I’m sure some of you will have already clicked on the “Click Here To Donate
” button sitting just to the right of the login area. (Hint, hint!) As I explained back in November, a goal for this year (and into the future) is to make the Forum a positive financial contributor to the JREF rather than - as is the case at the moment - a financial cost.
The $400 from the Forum shirts is a great start, but to just cover the costs for this year we are going to need to raise an additional $5000. Since the goal is to make the Forum a positive contributor to the JREF, we want to raise more than the minimum needed to cover the costs of the Forum itself.
I’ve set up a new feature on the Forum that will allow you to make a donation towards the Forum via PayPal (you don’t need a PayPal account to make a donation). As part of this (and as really the only incentive we can offer you), if you make a donation it’s displayed in your profile information and under your avatar in any post you’ve made, you can switch this off from in your UserCP options.
We really don’t expect people to make huge donations. (but of course we won’t turn any such donations down!) For instance, to play the numbers game, we have around 2,500 active Members. So, a donation of $2 dollars per year from just the currently active Members would be enough to cover the running cost of the Forum.
I do want to stress that making a donation is completely
voluntary and everyone is still welcome to participate and enjoy the Forum whether they make a financial contribution or not.
As part of the new feature I’ve installed you can see how close we are or not to our financial goal by going to the donations page
So if you feel you gain some value from the Forum please make a donation. (See the "And finally" section for an update.)
If you read the last Newsletter, you will have noticed I said that I hoped to get guidelines ready for the “The Repository” in a week or so. I apologize for the slight delay, but apparently there was some convention in Las Vegas that some people were involved in which caused some delay.
The idea behind “The Repository” is to extend the reach of the Forum and the contribution you Members make to the “E” in the JREF name.
“The Repository” is a section of the Forum set aside for short (or not so short) “articles” that Members wish to publish. The idea of articles on a Forum is not new. Indeed, on this Forum it’s been brought up several times in the past.
I’ve waited until now to introduce such a section for a couple of reasons. One is that we now have a large active membership base, secondly, it’s taken some time to find a good software package to make the publishing and cataloging of articles easy and attractive. I’m hoping that with the size of the membership today “The Repository” section will prove to be an active and useful section rather than a section that withers away on the vine...!
What will be published?
Pretty much anything that is directly related to the JREF mission and goals and is of a reference type nature . The idea is to extend the reach of the Forum, and provide even more access to the contribution many Members make to the “Education” part of the JREF.
Articles don’t have to be entirely your own work, as long as you have clear permission from the original author to publish it here. Whilst articles aren’t required to be the “best wrote English” they do need to be clear and understandable. (Oh and please use some recognized scheme of punctuation).
You may feel you haven’t got the time to put together an elaborate article however many Members make a post or a series of posts that could (with minimal work) be turned into a more than adequate article. For example, Members in the past have provided devastating critiques on published scientific papers proposing to show evidence that homeopathy is effective. These responses are often lost in the middle of a long thread, and when the subject is again brought up (or someone wants to find the information), it’s all but impossible to do so quickly. However such critiques could easily be edited to be an independent article, added to “The Repository” and "Hey! Presto!", it becomes easy to find, access and to link to.
Another example could be a rebuttal of claims regarding an infamous “Bigfoot” film. By creating articles from your posts they will become a handy and accessible reference for anyone wanting information.
How do I submit an article?
To add an article to The Repository is as simple as creating a new thread. Simply click on “New Article”. Now to allow as much freedom in regards to lay-out, you can if you need
to use HTML to format your article however if at all possible please just use the many formatting tags built-in to the Forum.
When you first submit an article, only you and the Moderating Team will be able to see it until it is approved. Once the article is approved, other Members will be able to add comments to your article but these will also need to be approved by a Mod before they are visible to everyone.
Editor-In-Chief, Approval & Comments
To begin with I am going to assume the role of “Editor-In-Chief”, which means I will approve all articles and comments that are posted - and I have final say on what will or will not appear. I may make a few comments and even offer some feedback and suggestions for alterations before approving an article for publishing (in regards to content obviously).
Also, if factual errors are spotted, I’ll ensure that the author is notified and if necessary make changes and corrections. Hopefully “The Repository” will prove so successful that I’ll have to relinquish this role to someone who will have more time to handle it!
By all means contact me prior to starting an article if you have any concerns about what will or won’t be published.
Beyond the Article – Building a “Skeptics’ Resource Kit”
Recently H3LL brought up an idea and then sought and received Randi’s approval for it (See: Sceptical Leaflet Store/Archive Wanted
The idea is to build up a series of leaflets that focus on common claims and scams that people can read, link to and even print out and distribute. “The Repository” will allow Members to collaborate on such leaflets.
For example, a group of Members could produce a leaflet that explains why mediumship (such as performed by many major “psychic celebrities”) is bunkum, and offer support and links to genuine
resources and organizations that can help people with bereavement. This leaflet can then be published here as an article and also as a downloadable file (PDF). We will also provide ways for you to link to such leaflets and articles from other sites (a small graphic and HTML code for example) .
To kick this off, I would like to work with some volunteers to produce the first leaflet so we can agree on a standard format for the online and downloadable versions. From that we will produce a style guide for future reference. Some suggestions for pilot leaflets are Homoeopathy, Mediumship or Astrology - however, I’m open to any suggestion that would have popular appeal.
So if you wish to be involved in such a project, get together with a few other like-minded Members (if you wish to work as a group) and contact me so we can get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
That's all folks!
Well... not quite… As I was putting this to bed there was some breaking news...
I am sure many of you will be aware we've been suffering a lot of downtime recently and it's been tracked down to an intermittent hardware fault on the server.
Unfortunately we are not very satisfied with the response from the server provider so we are - again - going to move to a different server and server provider. We're also going to take this opportunity to beef-up the server specifications once more to ensure we can accommodate the continuing growth of the Forum. But of course this comes at a cost, it is going to cost the JREF even more to provide the Forum to our community. We expect costs to rise from $5000 a year to about $8500 a year (but the exact figure is not known yet as we are still negotiating). This will make fund raising even more important, and it means we need a little bit more than the $2 per active Member per year - closer to $3.50 per Member!
That really is all for now, enjoy the new features and I look forward to your feedback.