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It's been a little while since the last Newsletter and the Forum's been through quite a few changes over the last two months,including the first major changes to the Membership Agreement in over 3 years, new sections added and new Moderators oh and we've upgraded the software.
We probably couldn't have picked a worse time to add some new Moderators to the Forum considering that almost simultaneous to themjoining Randi announced some changes to the Rules (which, as it turned out, some considered to be quite controversial) and then a couple of weeks later by a new Membership Agreement. Talk about a baptism by fire!
However the new Mods took this in their stride (and remarkably did not run screaming from the Forum) and the difference they are making is already apparent in that reports are again being dealt within a timely manner.
Not all the changes to the way we Moderate the Forum are in place yet; as mentioned in the last Newsletter we are still planning toadopt the practice of Moderators being primarily responsible for specific sections of the Forum. But with the recent changes this has had to take a back seat, as did our plans to recruit a few more Moderators before the end of August. (The slight delay does mean that there is still time to volunteer to become a Moderator - see last month'sNewsletterfor more details on how to volunteer.)
Hopefully you will have read the PM I sent out on 15th August informing all Members of the new Membership Agreement and read the thread about the changes. (If not then please check out the "New Membership Agreement & Changes to the Forum" thread for full details including a Q & A section that addresses many of the common question raised when feedback was sought about the changes.)
Although all the planned major changes have been made there are likely to be a few minor tweaks made to the Membership Agreement and Forum over the next few weeks, based on the constructive feedback from Members.
And please do continue to bear with us. The Mod Team also has to adjust to the new rules and establish a new consensus and since this often involves having to involve the JREF, it can take some time to get feedback on even apparently simple questions about the new Membership Agreement. And remember during this bedding in period the Mod Team will make mistakes that we'll then have to try and correct. Feedback, as always, is appreciated.
Part of the changes included the creation of two brand new sections and one venerable section being split into two. The two new sections are JREF" and "Business Skepticism" and the section that has been split into two is the old "Politics, Current Events and Social Issues" section which is now "Politics" and "Social Issues and Current Events".
You can find a sticky thread in each of the new sections entitled "About this section" which explains what the new sections are all about. These changes are being trialled for a couple of months and at the end of that we will assess whether to make them permanent or not.
Over the last few weeks there have been some additionalfeatures added to the Forum, two of which deal with Private Messages (PMs). There is now a "Reply All" button ()and a "Quick Reply" box.
We've also confirmed a couple of bugs that we are working on fixing, one of which is stopping Members altering their Zoints profile. This appears to be a bug in the add-on software package and the developers are aware of it and hopefully will have a fix in the near future.
If you go to your user control panel (UserCP>UserControl Panel orhttp://forums.randi.org/usercp.php)you will see at the top of the page a link that allows you to invite other people to join the JREF Forum. Many of you have already used this to refer new people to the Forum, and to try to encourage more of you to do so, we are running a competition from now until theend of October.
Every Member who generates a new Member via a referral (and they have to use the referral system to count) will be entered into a draw to win a James Randi book of their choice signed by Randi.
Yes this is a blatant attempt to promote the Forum! Some suggestions of how to get your number of referrals up; if you are amember of other forums you could add the link into your signature there, if you have a blog you could add the link (and even mention it) in your blog. We've provided a variety of different sized graphics you can use for such links (See:Linkingto the JREF).
Skeptikids ProjectInthe words of Miss Anthrope (the organizer): The SkeptikidsClub is a group of secular home-schooled kids, mostly "tweens", whohave come together to learn the scientific method and how to use it toevaluate ideas and claims. Many of their home educated peers often comefrom either a very religious background or families that believe in a good deal of new age thought. This particular group of kids want toshine the light of science and reason in an environment that needs it. Members of the group come from all over Western Washington, meet twiceper month officially while communicating online and over social visitsto work on projects. Several of the students are using this thread to discuss aspects of skepticism, critical thinking and how to test claims.
Book Reviews: We've had a great response to the new Book Review section, so if you are looking for your nextbook have a look at the reviews and if you order it via the link in thereview the JREF will even make some commission. Or if you've just read a book why not add a review?
NWO Kitty Sells out:If you're not a regular of theConspiracy Theory section (which for all its ..er.. reputation containssome of the finest examples of genuine skeptical and critical thinkingon the Forum as well as all the rest) you've probably no idea who or what NWO Kitty is. Well there is a thread in the Conspiracy section entitledComicstrip a conspiracy myth and one of the regular cast ofcharacters is "NWO Kitty", brainchild of Member Horatius. Since NWO Kitty became very popular with the regular readers of that thread andthe CT section as a whole, some of Members decided to use this dastardly dashing agent for material gain. Material for JREF that is. For more information read the thread!
If you're up to something unusual, different and Forum of JREF based and you'd like me to mention it in the next Newsletter drop me a PM.
Old stuff you may not know about Part III
Members (even long-time Members) occasionally come across a feature that they were not aware of. Several Members have suggested that we remind people of some of the less obvious features we have installed on the Forum.
It can be quite a task to keep up todate on what is happening in a section of the Forum. However, there is a feature of the Forum that will send you a daily or weekly email synopsis of what has happened in a Forum section, for example:
To set up a subscription to a Forumsection, go to that section and on the right of the title bar that says "Threads in Forum: The section name" you'll see an option called "ForumOptions" - this is a dropdown menu:
From this menu select "Subscribe to ThisForum", and you will be taken to your user control panel: From the "Notification Type" menu you can chose no notification, daily or weeklyoptions.
From this month onwards the Forum Newsletter will be sent out and posted on the 1st day of each month. We're also dropping the "JREF News", with the JREF almost ready to start sending out their own Newsletter it seems rather redundant!
Look out for the "unofficial" 3,000,000 post which will probably occur sometime on Monday 1st October.