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Issues Forums frequently asked questions

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Revision as of 18:59, 15 March 2011 by Admin (Talk | contribs)

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Back to About Issues Forums

We are drafting up to 4 sets of FAQs.

NOW:

  • Issues Forum Participant Support Questions
  • Questions About Issues Forum (in general)
    • Why do we use real names statement/rationale

LATER:

  • Questions About E-Democracy.org
  • Questions About How to Start an Issues Forum
  • Questions About "e-democracy" the Concept


Issues Forum Participant Support Questions - Frequently Asked Questions

This will integrate text from our Support page and Help FAQ

Questions we need to add:

  • Unexpected errors
  • Searching options/finding old messages
  • Adding a photo
  • More - Note the drafting of print How to tip sheets under "Resources"


Current text from Support page:

  • Posting Blocked/Moderated - Most Issues Forums limit people to two posts in 24 hours. Forums are set to a "home" timezone which may not be your own. Most new members will find their initial posts moderated as a spam protection measure until such time that we manually set you to unmoderated.
  • Password - If you do not remember your password, please reset your password and then login. You now use your registered e-mail address to login.
  • E-mail and Other Account Settings - Once you have logged in you can update your e-mail setting by clicking your profile link at the top right corner. From the menu options on the left, you may add/delete e-mail addresses, change email delivery type (one per posting [default], daily digest, web-based, or unsubscribe), change your posting image, change your profile, and change your password without a verification email.

Current text from Help FAQ.

  • I can't log in. How do I get a new password?
    • Visit the Reset Password page and follow the instructions there to set a new password.
  • When I try to confirm my new password, the page freezes.
    • Clear the cache of your internet browser and then reset your password again. Microsoft has instructions for clearing the cache of Internet Explorer 6.
  • How do I change my email address?
    • Log in and go to your Change Email Settings page. On this page you can add or remove email addresses. To add an email address, type your email address into the 'Add Address' field and click the 'Add' button. To remove an email address, choose 'Remove Address' from the drop-down list under 'Change' next to that email address.
  • When I try to send a file to my online group via the web, the page freezes.
    • If you wish to share a link to a webpage with your group, simply paste the URL of the webpage into the Message section of the page, along with the rest of your post. You should only use the File section of the page to select and upload a file that is saved to your local computer.
  • How do I delete a post? How do I delete a file?
    • Because messages and files in E-Democracy.org groups are sent out via email as well as being displayed on the web, we cannot alter or delete any post or file once it has been added to the group. (If we did that, then the email version would be different from the web version, which would be very strange.) Instead, we encourage you to post another message correcting your previous one.
  • When I send an email to my Online Group, I receive an email telling me I am not a member of the group even though I am.
    • Your email account might be configured such that your outgoing messages are sent from an email address slightly different from the one at which you receive messages. If so, the system will not recognize your sent emails. If the rejected address mentioned in the email is not listed on your Change Email Settings page, add it.
  • I sent an email to my Online Group. Why hasn't it appeared in the Topics section of my Online Group?
    • First, check that the message was sent to the Online Group. If it was, you will have received a copy of your own message. It will have a shortened version of the Online Group name in the subject line (e.g. [groupname]). If you got the message and it is not in the Topics section of the Online Group on this website, please contact us. If you did not receive the message, check to make sure the email address you sent it to was correct. Also check that the email address you sent the message from is registered to your profile. You can do this by going to your Change Email Settings page. You can change your email address(es) there if neccessary.
  • On my 'Change Email Settings' page, what does 'Default' mean?
    • If you select 'Make default' under 'Change' next to your email address, you will receive posts from all your Online Groups at that address unless you specify otherwise.
  • I'm still stuck. How can I get help?
    • If your question is still unanswered, you can address it to support@e-democracy.org.

About Issues Forum in General - Frequently Asked Questions

The base text below is from the Issues Forum Guide.


Do you moderate posts?

As a general policy, E-Democracy.Org does not moderate posts of individual participants. By this we mean, that participants are able to post directly to the forum without review by the forum manager or anyone else. However, forum managers are authorized to "moderate" posts as a temporary means of dealing with various issues that come up in the forum. We view "moderation" as a temporary solution.

What do you mean - a facilitated forum?

Our forum managers play an active role in our forums, often acting as discussion facilitators, with the goal of encouraging new voices to participate in the forum, encouraging civility, and encouraging participants to move off their normal positions and look at questions from a different perspective.

Why are the rules different from forum to forum?"

For the most part, we try to keep our rules consistent from forum to forum. However, we also believe it very important to give each local steering committee flexibility in how they manage their local forums. This has resulted in local committee's creating variations on our standard rules. For example, the Brighton & Hove Issues Forum has increased our standard limit of 2 posts per 24 hours to 4 posts per 24 hours.


In St. Paul, the Issues Forum experienced a series of "suspicious" participants who did not appear to be using their real names, as required by the E-Democracy.Org rules. After a series of apparently fake posters joined the forum and posted personal attacks, the local Steering Committee passed a policy designed to increase enforcement of this rule. The policy basically makes it possible to join and read the forum without any additional barriers, however it requires that anyone interested in POSTING to the forum provide forum management with a phone number and street address, which can be used to help verify the identity of the poster IF NECESSARY.


Why Don't You Use a Web Based "Bulletin Board" System for the Forums

While we agree that web based discussion platforms have lots of features that would be very nice for our online forums, we also believe that E-Mail is the most "democratic" of the online tools that we can use. Just about anyone who has managed to get themselves online knows how to use email. Too many people are skill wary of web-based tools and our goal is to make participation as easy as possible.


We also believe, that its much easier to get and keep community leaders and elected officials involved in our forums, if the forum comes to them each day and they don't have to go to the forum.


While our forums used to be run exclusively off "listserve" technology, which pretty much forced people to participate via email, we are currently trying to offer both options to users. We sometimes say, that about 50% of people HATE participating via email, while the other 50% hate participating via the web. We're trying to accommodate them all.


The software that we use, Groupserver, is one of the best opensource tools that we have found that does both email and web based participation as the same time. It is now possible, for users to "turn off" email in our forums and participate fully through the web interface.


How does the 2-posts per 24 hour system work?

Basically, if the limit in your forum is two posts per 24 hours, then whenever you want to post a message our system will look back 24 hours and count the number of times you have posted in the previous 24 hours. If the answer is 0-1 posts, they you will be allowed to post again. However, if you have already posted twice in the last 24 hours, then the system will reject your post.

Example:

Post #1 = Monday at 10:00 AM

Post #2 = Monday at 1:00 PM

Next eligible post will be Tuesday at 10:01 AM

Next eligible post will be Tuesday at 1:01 PM


Does it cost anything to participate?

No participation in E-Democracy.Org forums is FREE.


Is a digest or summary version available?

Yes! Here are instructions

Login to the site

Try (Reset Password) if you have lost or forgotten your password.

Follow the "Change Email Settings" link, near the bottom of the page

Find the group which you wish to receive via "digest" and select CHANGE "message notification setting"

Then select "Daily Digest of Topics"


Do journalists participate?

We work hard to encourage journalists to participate in our forums. We believe that media attention of our forums extends dramatically the impact of discussions in our forums.

It is relatively common for discussions in our forums to "spill over" into local newspapers or other media.


Will I get a lot of Email?

You can choose how much email you get. You can get one email for every post, or a maximum of one email per day.


Do I have to join the forum to participate?

You have to join to receive email deliveries of posts, and to make posts yourself. You can read posts on the Web

http://[forum_url]

or via a web feed,

http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/[forum_id]/messages/posts.atom

without joining.


How do I leave the Forum?

To leave the forum, log in and then click "leave" on the forum home page,

http://[forum_url]

or send an email with the subject line "unsubscribe" to the following address.

[forum_id]@forums.e-democracy.org


What should I do when I join the forum?

When you join the forum, read some of the discussion that has already taken place, and then introduce yourself by making a post to the "Introductions" topic.

http://[url_of_Introductions_topic]


What is the "proper" way to make a post to the forum?

When you are posting to the forum, think about whether you are starting a topic, or adding to a topic.


How is this different from Letters to the Editor?

The primary difference between the two is the purpose. The purpose of the Issues Forum is to increase the opportunity for citizens to participate in the local democratic process. It has no commercial motivation. With the issues forum, there is no editor. As long as people keep to broad guidelines, their posts are simply emailed to the group members, and kept forever in the online archive.


How can I participate if I don't have a computer?

Use a friend's or a public access computer (eg at a Library). Get someone to help you. You will need to get your own email address (eg gmail).


Will the forum change anything or will it be all talk?

The aim of the forum is to allow diverse voices to be heard. It probably won't have any direct impact on decision-making but some decision-makers will pay close attention to the conversations in the forum, and may be influenced by them. Many of the participants will be voters or otherwise involved in political activities. Voting, in contrast has an effect but the voter has restricted options to choose from. In the public issues forum, participants can put forward any idea or point of view, as long as they keep within the forum rules.


What will I get out of participating?

Simply by keeping track of the conversations in an online public issues forum, you will be more informed about what is going on in your area and discover diverse points of view on relevant issues. You also have the opportunity to add your voice to the discussions.


Won't the forum just deteriorate into a nasty fight?

No. The forum has clear guidelines that encourage constructive debate, and prohibit personal attacks. There is a forum manager, who makes sure people comply with the guidelines, and takes appropriate action if they don't. Each person can only make two posts in any 24-hour period. This encourages people to think carefully before they post.


Who runs this? Why should I trust you?

The forum is run by an independent steering committee, whose job is to ensure that the forum increases the opportunity for citizens to participate in the local democratic process. The forum manager is accountable to the steering committee. The forum is following the well-established approach developed by E-Democracy.Org http://e-democracy.org.


Why do I have to provide my real name?

Participants are required to provide their real name, as this encourages people to participate in a thoughtful and constructive way.


Can anyone get my email address (can it be harvested for spam)?

When you make a post, your email address will appear in the email that is sent to all members of the forum, who have configured their email settings to receive all posts. Your email address will not be visible on the website.

 

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