Guide: Using the forums

Quick Links:
Banned IP Addresses
Getting Started
Registration Tips
Logging In
User Profile
Navigating the Forums
Making a Post
Private Messages
Other Features
General Tips
Walkthroughs

Banned IP Addresses

Although we have taken steps to prevent automated "spammers" from registering on our forums and making nuisance posts, IP addresses that appear to be spam posters are routinely collected and added to a "Ban List" that prevents that IP from even viewing the forums.

Occasionally, we might make a mistake and add an IP address to the banned list needlessly. If you find that you cannot access the forums please check the current ban list, and if you believe that you've been incorrectly added to the list you can use the Contact form to let us know.

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Getting Started

Go to the forum's Index page either by following the SJTAG Forums link in the menu or by pointing your browser to http://forums.sjtag.org/.

 The first step is to create your login by filling out the forum registration form. Click on the word "Register", found near the top right of the screen.

If you've already registered, you should click on "Log In".

New registrants will be asked to read and agree to the terms of use for the forums (which basically says you agree not to post anything illegal or offensive on the site).

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Registration Tips

Registration is quite straightforward. Your login name can include spaces, so we'd prefer you to use real names, or an abbreviated form of it that allows you to be readily identified by your colleagues on the forum.

Your password must be at least 6 characters long and use both upper and lower case. Numbers and some special characters may also be used:

 

There is a very simple question to answer which helps to prevent registration by "bots", and you must correctly enter the visual confirmation code

As the forums include a spell checking facility, you can elect to use either British English or US English, depending upon your location. No other language options are offered at present.

Note that the administrators cannot see your password, although we can reset it for you should you forget your login. Your login name can only be changed by an administrator.

You can submit your registration by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on the "Submit" button. Shortly afterwards, you will receive an e-mail confirming your registration.

After logging in to the forums for the first time, you may wish to add additional personal details or set your own preferences. This done through the User Control Panel:

 

The defaults for the Board Preferences set up with our recommended selections, so you don't need to change anything here. A point to note, though if you do decide to change anything: Keeping the "Users can contact me by e-mail:" set to "No" will help to prevent harvesting of email addresses by spammers.

Timezone should be set to suit your own locality. This will ensure that the dates and times of postings will be readily understandable without having to do any conversions. This is a "local" feature of your account and does not change anything on the forums for other users. However, please be aware that this feature will not make automatic adjustments for daylight savings time.

 

Completing the Profile Information is optional, but we'd like you to use the Location field to indicate the organisation you represent, and the country in which you are located. It helps others to be aware of timezone differences when replying to posts.

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Logging In

To log in to the forums, click on the login link that appears next to the Registration link. This takes you to a log in form that also includes a check box which, if checked, will remember your login details. You will automatically be logged in the next time you visit the forums unless you expressly log out at the end of your session.

Once you are logged in, the login link changes to show your user name with a Logout link.

If you choose to have your login details remembered, note that this will expire after 30 days, at which point you will be required to enter your login details again.

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User Profile

Most of the details you entered during the registration process can be viewed and amended from within the User Control Panel:

 

There are two main differences:

  • You cannot set your user name. If you need to do this, then you'll need to contact an administrator.
  • You have the option to select an avatar. An avatar is a small image that appears next to your posts and is often used to express something of the character of the poster. The use of avatars is by no means mandatory.

If you wish to use an avatar, there is a gallery of simple images available for you to select from. If you'd prefer to use a photograph or other personal image then you can upload a file from your own PC.

 

Be aware that the following limits apply to uploaded avatar images:

  • The image must not be larger than 80 x 80 pixels
  • The file size must be no greater that 6kB. In the case of photos, this means that 256 colour GIF or PNG images are generally preferable to JPG images

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Navigating the Forums

The main index page presents a list of the forums that are available for you to browse. You will only be able to post new topics or reply to existing threads if you are logged in. Some forums will not be available to visitors.

 

The icon to the left of each forum heading will turn red to indicate that there are new unread posts in that forum and a small padlock image will show that it has been locked. In the example above, the lower forum has sub-forums indicated by the smaller circle. Clicking on the forum heading will take you to a list of discussion threads (topics).

 

Again, the left hand icon will indicate if there are new, unread posts or that the thread has been locked (closed by a moderator or administrator). Special icons appear for "Sticky" topics (these will always appear near the top of the listing and are used for topics that don't receive many new posts, but need to readily accessible for reference) and for announcements.

The table shows the originator of each topic, the number of replies to the thread, the number of times the thread has been viewed, and the author and date/time of the last reply.

Clicking on the topic name will take you to the first page of that discussion. Clicking on the small page icon (circled in the image above) will take you to the last posting in the thread, while the New Topic button allows you to start a new discussion thread.

Throughout the forums, a "breadcrumb" trail is shown near the top of the page:

 

This a series of links that allows you to jump back to any point on your way to the current page without having to navigate back up through several pages.

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Making a Post

Eventually, you will want to add a contribution to the forums, either by starting a new topic or by replying to a current one. The process is the same in either case. If you are starting a new topic, be sure to select the most appropriate forum first (although a moderator can move topics if they accidentally end up in the wrong place). If you are replying to an existing thread you need to be viewing the thread you wish to respond to.

 

Click on either "New Topic" or "Post Reply" buttons as appropriate. Alternatively, if you want cite some or all of a previous post you can use the "Quote" button in the relevant post. Don't worry if the post you're quoting is large - you can edit out the parts you don't need when you compose your reply.

You will be taken to the composing form as shown below. If you are creating a new topic, be sure to enter a relevant subject in the top field.

 

This is a simple text editor. Formatting of your post can be applied using a markup notation, known as "BBCode". There is a link to a guide on using BBCode to the right of the editing pane, although some common features can be applied using the buttons at the top. Select a section of text and then click on button to apply that format to the selected text. Clicking a button with no text selected will insert the formatting "tags" at the present cursor position.

Some tags require additional information to be added, such as the Img (image) or URL (hyperlink) tags. For example the URL tags will appear as:

[url] [/url]

To be useful these need to be modified to include the target URL and some text for the link:

[url=http://www.myserver.com/myfile.pdf]My Document[/url]

Before submitting your post, it's usually a good idea to check the formatting by clicking the "Preview" button. This let's you see how your post will look on the forum, and allows you to make further edits, if required. Once you're happy, use the "Submit" button to commit your post.

Once your posting is on the site you may find there's something you need to add or change, in which case you will find that there is an edit button on posts that you've made. Edits are recorded and the post will show a message to show how often edits have been applied and it's probably worth adding your own comment on what you changed and why, e.g.:
Edit: Fixed broken link to White Paper

In some cases, you will be able to delete posts completely, provided no-one else has replied to it. You can only edit or delete your own posts. If you find there is something objectionable in a post, you can report the post to an administrator using the "!" button at the top right of the post.

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Private Messaging

Private Messages (PMs) are a convenient way of contacting other users without having to know email addresses, and you can pick up or send your messages from any PC that can access the forums. Unless you have turned the feature off in your profile, a dialog box will pop-up to tell you that you have new PMs waiting for you.

There are several ways to start a PM: Probably the most common reason for sending a PM is to make a comment on a posting that you don't feel needs to be public (say, quietly pointing out an error in a posting). In this case you can use the "PM" button that appears below the author's details at the right of the post. Some details of the related post are automatically inserted for you.

Another way is to browse the member list to find the the person you wish to contact, click on the name to open their public profile page then click on the "Send Private Message" link.

You can also start a PM from your User Control Panel, which is where you will manage your PMs; delete old messages, save in folders, etc.

 

Composing and sending PMs is identical to creating posts, although there is an additional facility to help you find a user name. Note that PMs can be sent to multiple user if you wish. If you add users to your "Friends" list, then their names will appear to the left of the editing window and you can then add them to the recipients of the message by simply clicking on their name.

Within the PM pages, you will see a mail folder list to the left of the editing window:

  • Inbox - Contains message that have been sent to you. Unread messages are indicated by a darker envelope image.
  • Sent messages - This holds messages that you have sent to other people.
  • Outbox - This holds messages thet you have sent but have not yet been picked up by the recipient. Once they've been read, they will move to your Sent messages folder
  • Savebox - You can move messages from your Inbox or Sentbox to here to keep those clear of old messages

Bear in mind that each of these boxes has a size limit and usage will be indicated by at the upper left of the folder page. This should be an informal means of communication, so there's probably little point in retaining messages for very long, anyway.

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Other Features

Some other useful features of the forum interface:

 

  1. Clicking in this area will leave the forum and take you to the main SJTAG website.
  2. Takes you to the forum index page.
  3. Opens your User Control Panel (profile, PMs, etc.).
  4. Go to your Private Messaging Inbox.
  5. List posts you have made.
  6. Links to recent or popular posts.
  7. Allows you to perform a keyword search of the forum posts.
  8. Links to the other sections of the SJTAG website.
  9. Change text size - cycles through small, medium and large fonts.
  10. Opens the Frequently Asked Questions page. This answers many of the common question relating to this type of forum.
  11. Logs you out from the forums. You will need to re-enter your username and password if you return to the forums.
  12. Clears the "new post" indications against all forums, threads and topics.

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General Tips

Some useful tips to help you:

  • When creating a new topic, make sure the Subject line tells people what the thread is about: "Novel method for storing diagnostics" is much more informative than "I've had a brilliant idea"
  • Avoid typing posts entirely in capitals - this is considered "shouting". Bold and italic styles are available for emphasis when composing posts.
  • If you are creating a link to file stored in the SJTAG File Manager, you can copy and paste most of the path from the File Manager user interface. You then just need to add the filename:

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Walkthroughs

Here are some more detailed guides on particular features you might want to use:

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