The PMS Forum is a novel feature of the PMS web site, which allows you to create and contribute to 'conversations' in a user-friendly and structured environment.
Read on some more information about the PMS Forum for those of a less spontaneous nature.
What the PMS Forum is and what it's not
The PMS Forum is a moderated web-based discussion and conferencing system based on the Discus software developed by the Chemistry Department at Hope College, Michigan, USA.
The PMS Forum is not a realtime so-called 'chat' system, instead you can add ('post') messages to the Forum and others can read, and optionally respond, to them at any time. In a sense it's more like a structured electronic notice board.
The PMS Forum is not like an email list either in that all the messges are stored on our server and are not downloaded to you - you can read the messages any time you like and they'll still be there next time you visit. You read messages and add messages by visiting the PMS Forum web pages, rather than by using an email program. The only exception is if you register as a user and choose to have email notification of new messages, then you will receive copies of new messages added to the Forum via email. This can be a good way to keep track of what's happening in the forum with minimal effort of your part. But to add ('post') messages you have to visit the Forum web pages.
The PMS Forum is a 'linear' discussion system that presents a tree-like structure for organising topics and sub-topics, and 'conversations' comprising related messages in a linear list sorted by the date and time they were added. This is rather different from the more common 'threaded' presentation used by many other systems - for example UseNet Newsgroups and many web-based 'bulletin boards'.
The term 'moderated' means that we actively monitor the discussion topics and messages and take a lead in adding new topics, starting new conversations and contributing to conversations in the Forum. We don't however 'vet' messages before they appear on the forum, although we can (and will) if needs be edit or delete offensive messages.
Why we selected Discus software for our Forum
We selected Discus because research - and our own experience - suggests than 'linear' systems are easier for most people to understand and have a more 'natural' and 'conversational' feel to them. Conversely, 'threaded' systems may offer advantages in a simple one-to-one Q & A type of interaction such as a technical support forum.
Discus was developed by a College in the USA and has been 'stress tested' in many educational and commercial environments. It's proven to a reliable and very adaptable system that we feel will meet our needs and our users' needs very well. Oh yes, the software is relatively inexpensive too!
Why become a registered user on our Forum?
At present anyone can read the messages in our Forum - although we may add completely private topics later which only certain registered users will be able to read. For the most part you are able to add new messages without being a registered user, and you can also post 'anonymously' if you wish.
However not everyone can add new messages ('post') to all the topics and conversations in the Forum.
Topics are assigned to various categories set up by the System Administrator. In some categories of topics anyone is allowed to add messages ('post') to conversations, other categories of topics restrict the ability to add messages to registered users.
There are advantages to being a registered user over and above having the ability to add messages to the (few) controlled conversations - such as the ability to check for messages added since you - personally - last visited the forum. If registered you may also choose to receive notification of new messages via email, which is an excellent way of keeping in touch with what's happening in the Forum without having to visit the web site to find out.
Want a Discus-based Forum on your web site?
We believe that a Discus-based forum offers an excellent means of creating and sustaining a 'community' based around common intersts on a web site. The system is very adapatable and customisable and can be altered to reflect the look, 'feel' and 'personality' of your site and organisation. If you would like to explore the possibilities of adding a Discus-based forum to your web site then please call David Thelwall on 017656-602514 or send an email.