Welcome to the Cyburbia Forums!
Most planners (at least in the United States) subscribe to one or more mailing lists (listservs), and are more familiar with them than Web-based message boards. It's important to know that the dynamics of a message board are a bit different than a listserv.
Push versus pull; e-mail versus surfing
You have to click on a few links to find and read messages; they won't get "pushed your way in e-mail (unless you subscribe to a thread or subforum; see below). The advantage, though, is that and your e-mail box won't be filled with irrelevant messages.
Reading a message board, you can skip over topics and threads you're not interested in. You can more easily search through a message board than mailing list archives -- if they even exist.
Forum e-mail subscriptions and digests
Many users don't realize that you can "subscribe" to a single thread or an entire subforum, and have new messages or responses e-mailed to you after they are posted, in a daily digest, or in a weekly digest. To start an e-mail subscription to a forum, click on the forum, then "Forum tools," select "Subscribe to forum", and select subscription options; no e-mail notification, instant notification, daily digests, or weekly digests. To start an e-mail subscription to a single thread, click on the thread, then "Thread tools," select "Subscribe to thread," and then select subscription options.
Unfortunately, you can't e-mail replies back to the Forums; you have to visit the site to post a response.
The forum can't function without user participation
Unlike a mailing list, where the group's collective knowledge is hidden until someone subscribes -- if they're even deemed worthy for membership on some lists -- information posted in the Forums is available to anyone. We believe that the free information made available by alturistic planners (and others) is what makes the site so special.
Please treat the message board with the same level of respect that you would treat a planning-related listserv. You don't have to post every day, and you're under no obligation to post at all; lurking is fine. However, please understand this board can't function if everybody acts as a leech or "one post wonder" that leaves right after their question is answered.
While it may be fine on a listserv, It's considered poor netequette on Cyburbia to post a message and ask that all responses be e-mailed to you. It defeats the purpose of a discussion board; to share knowledge with others. Members will usually e-mail documents that are too large to be posted on the board.
Give something back to other planners, and help keep this resource viable, by contributing some knowledge of your own or answering someone else's question. Why not help answer somone's question, or participate in a discussion, before you post a question yourself? The Cyburbia Fourms is a useful planning resource thanks to the participation of our selfless regular users -- and hopefully you.
Off-topic discussion and its role in a virtual community
The sense and level of "community" in the Cyburbia Forums is unmatched by any planning-related mailing list. Cyburbians often travel hours for "Alefests" where they meet other Cyburbia users; one planner even travelled from New Zealand to meet other Forums users in North America. Users participate in secret Santa exchanges, swap baby pictures, and console each other during rough spots of their life. The Cyburbia Forums has fostered real-life friendships and romances.
Off-topic discussion, about less-than-serious topics that typically don't relate to planning, can be found in the Cyburbia Community subforums. As on many Web-based message boards, the off-topic subforums -- especially the Friday Afternoon Club (FAC) subforum in the case of Cyburbia -- act as the glue that holds the community together. Dscussion in the FAC is casual and often unrelated to urban planning. Some may talk about sensitive personal issues. Discussion related to politics can often be heated. If you prefer discussion with a higher signal-to-noise ratio and far less "chaff," don't visit the FAC or the other off-topic boards; concentrate your participation on the Planning and the Built Environment subforums.
Before you dismiss off-topic discussion as "chaff" or "noise," also consider its role in networking and career development.
Unlike a listserv, many Cyburbia Forums users use anonymous handles instead of their real names. Users can (and do) vent about problems at work or discuss personal issues using a handle to protect their privacy. They're not hidden behind masks, though; getting to know members of the Forums comes with a little bit of time. Don't assume that information you'll glean from the Forums is less valid because the poster is semi-anonymous; write to a user for clarification if you need a cite or positive identity.
Cliques in a virtual commuity
Message boards are far more prone to cliques than listservs; again, it's because there is more of a sense of community. The Cyburbia Forums are no exception, but you'll find that the users here are far more welcoming and inclusive than on most other message boards. If you feel like you're on the ouside looking in at first, give it a little bit of time. If you still feel out-of-place, send us an e-mail, or send a private message to a moderator.
Spam: you will NOT get more by posting
Your e-mail address CANNOT be seen by other Cyburbia Forums users or spambots that may crawl the site. Other users can send you e-mail by completing a form, which does NOT include your e-mail address. You will NOT get additional spam, virii, phishing attempts, or other forms of malevolent e-mail by posting a message. In fact, your e-mail address is much better hidden in a forum than on a mailing list.
If you must include your e-mail address in a post or signature, alter it so it is still readable by humans, but not bots; for example, "cyburbia (at) cyburbia (d0t) org".
Give it time
Let's admit it ... we planners can be technophobes. Forums are different than the mailing lists we're so attached to. Forum use is different -- not harder, but different. Before you give up, give it a little bit of time. Hundreds of others are glad they did.
Again, if you have any questions, issues or concerns, please send us an e-mail. Thanks for registering, and we look forward to your participation!
Dan Tasman AICP