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  1. #1
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    Default A discussion board "buyer's guide"

    I'm not sure what's more amazing: the power of the web to facilitate communication or the wide range of quality of that communication.

    Discussion boards, for instance, hold great promise as a forum for communication. Unlike most public conversation of days-gone-by, however, some Web discussion boards allow anonymity, often to the extreme detriment of the conversation. Listed below are discussion board features that people might look for as the consider where to gather.

    1. Identification
    Hiding behind anonymity brings out the worst in a conversation. Discussion boards that require people to identify themselves yield much better results. This doesn't mean that you can't browse anonymously, just that you identify yourself when you post.

    2. A central, permanent location
    Discussions that are attached to articles or letters work "in the moment," but don't facilitate an easy look at a broad range of conversations. One of my favorite discussion boards, bigsoccer.com uses a format similar to Wayland eNews that puts everything within easy reach. And not only that, no worries about posts disappearing when the original work expires.

    3. Formatting and quoting
    Being able to format a post, including the ability to excerpt from a prior poster's writing, makes the discussion much more reader-friendly. (from Kim Reichelt -->) Sometimes it is useful to make your point more easily understood if you use special formatting such as:
    • with bullets!
    • in color
    • in bold , italics, and underlined!


    4. Previewing
    Proud of that perfect notion or response? Crafting it with care? Submitting it? Only to find you've mixed "its" for "it's," or worse, left out a key "not." Why shouldn't you be able to preview your work before submitting?

    5. Editing
    Even with careful previewing, it's possible to make a mistake. Why not be able to edit it? One reason is that an edit might hide something important to the resulting conversation. Look for a system that lets you edit, but that requires a note to be made so that readers can tell when something is in its original form or has been changed.

    6. Email alerts
    Can't wait to learn what other people think of your remarks? But also don't have the time to continually check, or can't remember to check, or even where to check? Consider discussion boards that provide email alerts whenever someone has responded.

    7. Search
    Do you remember submitting or reading that perfect post, but can't find it? Insist on a robust search function.

    8. Ability to include attachments
    Need to attach a file to help make your point? The ability to include DOC, XLS, JPG, or other files is important.

    9. Handheld access
    Can't wait to get back to your computer to read or post? Make sure you choose a discussion board that can be accessed via a hand-held device.

    10. Proper functioning
    This one was so obvious I overlooked it when I first started this thread--a discussion board doesn't do much good if it won't accept posts (from Kim Reichelt--> including copied text from elsewhere) or is otherwise unavailable.

    11. Ability to include links (from Kim Reichelt)
    Like attachments, it can be useful to be able to provide clickable links to reference sites to make your case.

    Any I've missed? Feel free to add below, then I'll fold into this post so the complete list exists in a single place.
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 07-18-2008 at 04:24 PM. Reason: Added items suggested by others, for "compactness"

  2. #2
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    Default Attachments

    8. Attachments. Need to include some additional information? Include a JPG, MP3, DOC, WAV, XLS or other attachment? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to include attachments as well?

  3. #3
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    Default

    OK, so Jeff added to his original post, and obsoleted my prior post.

    So let me add a few other other obvious ones -

    11. Ability to copy and paste successfully into your posts. Sometimes the want to quote text from elsewhere, and it's nice to be able to copy it in.

    12. Ability to include links to other websites. Like attachments, it can be useful to be able to provide clickable links to reference sites to make your case.

  4. #4
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    Default

    3. Formatting. Expanding on Point 3 above, sometimes it is useful to make your point more easily understood to use special formatting such as :
    • with bullets!
    • in color
    • in bold , italics, and underlined!
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 07-06-2008 at 09:16 AM. Reason: to list as part of point 3

  5. #5
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    Interesting article in today's Boston Globe West section about a potential peril of posting anonymously. That said, it's not clear that identity would necessarily spare the alleged culprit.

    Hmmm, think there will be a big smile on my face if Southborough proceeds and prevails?

  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Interesting article in today's Boston Globe West section about a potential peril of posting anonymously. That said, it's not clear that identity would necessarily spare the alleged culprit.

    Hmmm, think there will be a big smile on my face if Southborough proceeds and prevails?
    There are so many things to say here, I don't know what to say first.

    On a supportive note, I'd say I'm all for eliminating anonymity on boards. It allows bullies and 'fraidy-cats' to throw bombs without taking responsibility for their actions.

    That said, I find it highly ironic that Jeff would be excited about the potential outcome of a lawsuit that would force the identification and release of a person's identity when he has spearheaded a multi-year, money-wasting, failed effort to block the release of comments related to a Gary Burton's evaluation by identifiable members/ex-members of the SC. Then, when that effort failed, he then proceeded to further block the release of comments by redacting dozens of lines from the documents.

    Now, I can see the response already. One thing is about comments and another is about personnel evaluations. Apples and oranges, blah, blah. IMO, you either support openness or you're against it. It appears that in Jeff's case, you support it when it suits you and look to squelch it when it doesn't.

    BTW, I'm still wondering, Jeff, what your thoughts on my replies toy uor last post here (http://www.waylandenews.com/forum/sh...uting-Settings) are.

  7. #7
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    Interesting statement in the Globe article by Boston College law professor Mary-Rose Papandrea, a board member for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union:

    There is a First Amendment right to engage in anonymous speech.

    I don't think that I'd ever thought about parsing the right to free speech into identifiable and anonymous speech. Nothing in the First Amendment suggests that one or the other might not be protected.

  8. #8
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    Default This is a dangerous situation and there should be a very high bar to do this

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Interesting article in today's Boston Globe West section about a potential peril of posting anonymously. That said, it's not clear that identity would necessarily spare the alleged culprit.

    Hmmm, think there will be a big smile on my face if Southborough proceeds and prevails?
    Jeff, thanks for pointing this out.
    If a person anonymous or not makes slanderous statements then there is a basis for pursuit and IP unmasking... freedom of speech does not protect all types of speech (ie. the fire in the movie theater example or slander) but slander is itself difficult to prove and the best defense against slander is the truth. You can say the truth and even if the truth is unflattering but true its not slander.

    It seems to me that Southboro would have to prove a likelihood of slander first or provide a solid basis for why they would deserve to get a court order to unmask the IP address or have a case against the discussion forum.

    This is what the article stated:
    Marty’s posts questioned whether certain search committee meetings held in executive session, behind closed doors, violated the state’s open meeting laws. The posts insinuated the committee had unfair partiality toward the police force’s interim chief, Jane Moran, during the search process. The longtime department veteran was hired for the permanent position in November.

    So Marty is questioning .... is he stating something is a FACT? It says he is questioning. You can question something and not state that it is a fact and it would not be slander. For example; "I am questioning whether a particular meeting was not in violation of the OML or Is is possible that the executive session was not held under permissible circumstances?

    Neither of these two statements are slander and I have a right to question.

    If I said that selectman X was in violation of the OML and I know this for a fact and he wasn't then that would be slander if it were not true.

    Just because the police or the municipality doesn't like what is written doesn't give them the right to take away privacy from a person who has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    This is why we have grand jury's.... a grand jury would decide if there was probable cause to reach the threshold to deprive the privacy of someone.

    It would be dangerous for the law to allow willy-nilly the unmasking of anonymous posters just because they didn't like the content. There should be a very high bar to be able to unmask.

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