Today begins the first in what I hope to be a semi-regular series of “guest blogs.”  I asked several higher profile and/or personal favorites of the Helium community if they wouldn’t mind contributing.  The contributor is none other than Piper Wilson.  Piper is one of our more… quirky helpers in the community and, from what I’ve seen, very well liked as a result by the community as a whole.  If you like her contribution, you should check out her articles on Helium.

And now, for the main event:

Many of you know me from the Helium Discussion Boards here at Helium.  I am a volunteer moderator for them, and I also run the Writer’s Critique Forum.  I answer questions, provide suggestions and help folks find the answers they need.  What that really means is that I spend an inordinate amount of time running around the Helium Discussion Boards sticking my nose in here and there.

We interrupt this blog to bring you the following announcement.

Come one, come all to the Featured Daily Peer Critique forum and post urls to the Feature My Article for Critique thread! And now a word from the Writing Critiques Forum:

I invite you to come over to the Featured Daily Peer Critiques in the Writing Critiques Forum.  You can submit the url of any article for suggestions to help you improve your articles.  Specifically, I need folks willing to submit to the Featured Daily Peer Critiques if you’d be willing to do that.  If you don’t feel comfortable submitting any of your articles, please come by anyway and throw your two cents in to help out other members.

We now return you to your blog already in progress.

So sorry for that rude interruption, folks!  Where was I?  Oh, yes.

This afternoon, I received the following email from a new member.

“I am new here.  I see your name often in the community.  I know I am supposed to know this, but what exactly does a post mean?”

I remember what it was like when I couldn’t figure my way around the boards.  It feels remarkably similar to what I feel like when I go to Betaville, but that is a topic for another blog entry.

I came up with a visual analogy to illustrate my answer to her.  I became enamored of the analogy, and asked Eric to let me blog it.  First, I’ll explain the overall “geography” of the Helium Discussion Boards with my analogy.  In a later blog, I’ll describe the tools that I use to navigate around them.

Geography – The Helium Discussion Board has the following “places” in it.

  • Index
  • Sections
    • All Things Helium
    • All Things Not Helium
    • Channel Forums
    • Helium Archives
    • Helium Discussion Board Info Center
  • Boards
  • Child Boards
  • Walls
    • Sticky Threads
    • Threads
      • Posts

Now the analogy.

Imagine that the Helium Discussion Forum is a building.  When you walk inside, the first thing you see is the Index; directions that tells you how to get where you want to go. This is like the foyer or entryway.  There are five hallways leading away from the foyer/Index.  These are the sections.  As you proceed down each hallway, you find smaller corridors branching out from the hallway.  These are the Boards.  Some of the corridors have sets of stairs you can follow. These are the Child Boards.  Lining the corridors (Boards) or the stairs (Child Boards) are walls that have threads hanging from them.  The threads closest to the top are more prominent than the threads a bit farther along.  The prominent threads are “Sticky” and the rest are regular threads.

This is where the posts that our new member asked me about come in.  Posts are the messages that appear in threads.

Imagine that someone hangs a piece of thread on the Wall, and posts a piece of paper with whatever they want to say on it.  Then someone else comes along, reads the original post and wants to answer the first.  They post a piece of paper with their statement on it under the original post.   When you click on the thread, it will open and you will see the posts that people have made.

Review

The foyer (Index) looks like this.

foyer_index

The first hallway (Section) looks like this.

first-hallway

The first corridor (Board) and sets of stairs (Child Boards) look like this.

corridor-and-stairs

The first Wall (Sticky threads and regular threads) look like this.

walls

TO BE CONTINUED…                 (no, that’s not a threat)

Helium is a tight knit community in many ways.  As a result, many people are tied in emotionally the community.  We offer our forums as a way for users to interact, grow, build relationships and foster community interaction.

As with any forum, there are times where emotions can run high, things can be said that shouldn’t, and feelings are hurt.  No one can change the past, but we can make an effort to learn from our past indiscretions and provide an environment not of flame wars and insults but of civil discourse and debate.

We are all guilty of “losing our cool” at some point or the other.  If you feel headed that way, take a second and consider doing the following:

  1. Take a deep breath and count to ten.  Relax and try and think objectively.
  2. Re-read the last few responses.  Text cannot imply emotion effectively.  Make sure you understand what they are really trying to say.
  3. If you really feel they are acting inappropriately, contact them directly.  Express your viewpoint and what you think they are trying to say.  They may not realize it’s coming across that way.
  4. If they don’t have their contact writer on or they continue to do the same thing, contact a senior steward or Helium employee.

Again – this is not singling out any one user or group of users.  We are all guilty of it at one time or another.  If it happens, the best solution is to take responsibility, apologize, and learn from our mistakes.