JREF Forum Newsletter
JREF Forum Newsletter – 12th November 2006
It’s a long time since I sent out a “Newsletter” (just over 2 years) and at that time I said we would try to make it an irregular feature – 2 years seems pretty irregular to me.
The last 2 years
The Forum has seen a lot of change in the time since the last newsletter – and experienced significant growth.
Today we have a Membership of over ten thousand with an active Membership of (as I type this) 2,278; active Members are those Members who have visited the Forum and logged-on in the last 30 days. As a comparison in 2004 our active Membership was around 500. Some of our other statistics also illustrate the growth of the Forum; for instance we regularly have over a thousand different Members visiting the Forum every day (our peak so far this year was 1,249) and in a typical day over 500 of you actually take the time to post (peak this year was 572 in one day).
One of the significant changes happened in 2005 when Jeff Wagg joined the staff of the JREF and assumed responsibility (amongst a few other things) for the Forum. It was thanks to his support and hard work that we were at long last able to update the Forum software and the server; and whilst there were a few teething problems (we are on our third “new” server since 2005) the reliability and accessibility to the Forum has dramatically improved, so much so that our only significant downtime in the last year has been for major upgrades. I should mention that much of this improvement in uptime has been down to “Terry” who volunteered to become our “Technical Moderator” and it is his experience and knowledge applied behind the scenes that has helped keep everything running so smoothly.
(Note: Another upgrade has been released for the Forum software and this will require a couple of hours of downtime – I’ll make an announcement so you’ll know when to expect it.)
A New Look
As I am sure many of you will have noticed we’ve changed the style of the Forum recently with the introduction of a unique Forum header and a completely new color scheme. (And thanks to the many Members who provided us with constructive feedback whilst we were tweaking the new style.) Currently you can choose between the “JREF” style and the “The Blues” but after the next upgrade the “The Blues” won’t be available. I’d also like to say a big thank you to Rachael King the Graphic Designer behind the new header for her work, she remained remarkably patient and professional despite many delays and often contradictory feedback!
These changes to the look and feel of the forum are part of a plan of changes that you should notice over the next month or so. The changes are aimed at meeting two goals – increase the popularity and visibility of the Forum and making the Forum a positive financial contributor to the JREF rather than as is the case at the moment a financial cost. We’ll be revealing more of our plans regarding the financial goal in the near future - however rest assured that this will not involve the Forum becoming subscription only – the JREF is still committed to ensuring Forum Membership is free and accessible to as many people as possible.
However there is one nugget I can reveal now, Forum t-shirts! Every t-shirt bought will help raise money for the JREF via the Forum and they should be ready for ordering very soon.
Our plans for increasing the popularity of the Forum largely depend on you (not you personally – the Membership!) For instance we will be adding a page that will include graphics and HTML code that Members can use on their own website to link to the Forum, we will setting up a referral system that you can use to invite friends and colleagues to join the Forum and we will be encouraging you to add more to the Forum “reference library” by which we mean the Links Directory and this new section “Articles” which will soon be live.
We’ve been Tagged!
A major new feature we’ve just installed is the new “Tag” system. We’ve installed this for several reasons, however the primary one, as always, is that we believe it has the ability to greatly enhance the usability of the Forum. Another reason is that we can use it to help promote the Forum.
If you’ve come across “tags” in other Forums or software packages such as photo albums you are probably aware how powerful and useful they can be. If you’ve never come across them before let me try to sell you on the idea.
All a “tag” is is a keyword that you can “tag” onto a thread when you create it or at any other time, the power of tags is that they can help other Members find relevant and related threads much quicker than a standard “hierarchal” search.
Imagine I’m a new Member and I want to find out something about Uri Geller on the JREF Forum – where do I start to look? It may be that someone posted something in an Entertainment category or the JREF Topics or perhaps in a forum about “Social Issues”, so I need to know quite a bit about how the Forum is structured (what topics are meant to be in which section, and so on) to be able to even look in the right section, however if Members have been tagging their posts all I need to do is look for a tag – for example “Uri Geller” and that will find me all the threads tagged with that no matter where in the Forum they are.
Of course you can use our standard search to do something very similar, however that has a few problems one of which is that it is very server intensive to do searches through all the posts. “Tag” searching is relatively quick and server light.
How we have implemented “tags” also gives Members a new way to “browse” the Forum – at the bottom of each Forum section is a list of the most popular tags in that section so you can quickly jump to threads that are of interest.
Adding tags is completely optional. However it only takes a few moments to add a tag when you create a new thread. I really do urge you all to add tags and if the discussion twists and turns add a few more tags as you participate in your thread.
One further advantage of the Tag system I’ve installed is that we can share the tags with a network of other forums, in other words members of this network of forums (called Zoints) could do a search on the tag “Uri Geller” and find themselves reading a thread on the JREF Forum without ever knowing anything about the JREF or the Forum.
So please start adding tags to your threads!
The end is near...
This ended up being rather longer then I thought it would be and I’ve not covered everything I wanted to - it won't be 2 years before another Newsletter!
And this is the end...
I’d just like to end this with a final word of thanks for two groups of people that don’t get much thanks. First to all the current and previous Moderating Team members that I’ve worked with over the last 2 and a half years - the work they put in is essential to this Forum. And second, to you (and this time I do mean you) folks, the Members of this Forum: It may be a cliché, but the Forum is only exceptional because the Members make it so.