Request for A Beginnner's Board

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:46 pm

Why not add a section to the existing Bonsai Questions section something like Bonsai Questions and Beginner's Forum.

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  coh on Wed Apr 04, 2012 11:27 pm

I'll take a stab at this. Apologies in advance if this becomes a lengthy post.

1) I'm not sure what new forums might be added...still thinking about that. But something like a "beginners forum" might be a good way to start. That would give us 3 levels of forum - (a) "bonsai" for showing and discussing trees that have undergone a significant amount of training, (b) "bonsai questions" for dealing with technical questions and how to develop material, and (c) "beginners" for questions and discussion of concerns specific to beginners. I don't think many forums should be added. But:

2) More emphasis should be placed on moving threads to appropriate forums. Right now there are a number of threads on the "bonsai" forum pertaining to newly collected material or recently purchased nursery stock...these trees have not undergone any bonsai training (except collection and potting). So maybe an additional "potensai" forum would be good for these types of threads. Note there would still be ambiguity and one could sometimes argue about which forum would be most appropriate...that will never completely go away.

3) Searching and finding information...I think we could make the most gains here. For one thing, how about developing and maintaining a "hall of fame" of particularly informative posts/threads? This could be contained in the FAQ or in a specific "hall of fame" forum...maybe organized in topics (soils, fertilizers, repotting, etc).

4) Related to the above...the search function on this site is relatively weak compared to other forums. If you type a word into the search bar, it only returns threads with that word in the title. One can search within posts using the "advanced search" feature, but this isn't documented/described anywhere that I can find. I'm sure many new users become frustrated by this...I know I was. So how about writing up a short "searching FAQ/how-to" and making it available to users?

5) Also related to searching...since the basic search only works on titles, perhaps some effort could be made to make titles more useful for searching. Threads sometimes take on a life of their own...recall the " Help with beech leaves" thread that evolved into a very interesting/informative discussion on fertilizers, soil pH, etc. The title could be amended to include some of those terms, i.e. "Help with beech leaves (fertilizer, water quality, pH)" where additional terms being discussed are added...this would enable the basic search to find relevant information more often.

6) Gallery...still think it would be nice to create this functionality. A "gallery" forum where each user could maintain one thread showing their trees (finished, in progress, whatever) would seem to be able to serve this purpose without the additional cost of the real gallery option.

Sorry for the length, hope some of this is helpful.

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  fiona on Wed Apr 04, 2012 11:41 pm

All very helpful, Chris, and fairly much in line with my own thoughts to date.

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  drgonzo on Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:15 am

coh wrote:The title could be amended to include some of those terms, i.e. "Help with beech leaves (fertilizer, water quality, pH)"

Done
-Jay

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  Mitch Thomas on Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:38 am

This thread has the potential to blow up in our faces. Leaving bad feelings and not accomplishing anything constructive. IMHO

For me, I'll just sit this one out !

Mitch

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  John Quinn on Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:02 am

I also appreciate everyone's comments. We did, in fact, have a forum named "Potensai" in a previous version of the IBC. Sort of worked, sort of didn't... proper selection of topics to be moved from one forum to another can be tricky and cause hard feelings.

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  drgonzo on Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:24 am

What if you had a thread entitled "Finished Bonsai" for Trees to be shown off and another simply called "Unfinished Bonsai" for trees in lesser developmental stages? Maybe that wouldn't be as offensive to someone who got moved from one to another and the broader categorization would allow for less work for the Mods to try and sort out what goes where.
-Jay

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  marcus watts on Thu Apr 05, 2012 7:33 am

Hi Mitch,
there isnt much danger of this thread causing offense or problems as it is the first decent thread to document all the feelings of several of the regular users and the ways they see the forum could be improved - everyone is trying to be constructive or just saying it as it is (at the moment)

There have been several other threads in the past suggesting just about every point made here and absolutely nothing 'real' gets done......a few pm's fly around, a few moderators are for, a few are probably against, and some probably cant be bothered with the extra workload. Then life moves on and the thread disappears for a while.

I feel that if the new sections (personal gallery, work in progress, showable trees etc) were going to happen at all we would have them already, and as we dont it means the forum is already in the form the designers want it....this may have been a deciding factor in previous experienced bonsai artists giving up on it - the two dangers are frustration and lack of equals when it comes to keeping up interest. Adding new sections and software takes very little time too, and this forum is so well behaved and well spoken it very rarely needs extreme moderation - just scroll back and see how few locked topics there are - so lack of time is not a viable excuse for lack of progress - at the end of the day a forum is no different to a bonsai club - you either like it, or dont, but you aren't allowed to change it.

I certainly wouldnt worry that an individual may be upset if their post is moved from showable to work in progress - it would be plain for all to see if a tree was not good enough yet so is actually doing the owner a favour communicating the fact they have more work to do.

It will be very interesting to remember this thread in 1 month, 2 and 3 and see if the forum areas are better defined in line with what seems like obvious choices.

cheers Marcus

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:06 am

marcus watts wrote:Hi Mitch,
there isnt much danger of this thread causing offense or problems as it is the first decent thread to document all the feelings of several of the regular users and the ways they see the forum could be improved - everyone is trying to be constructive or just saying it as it is (at the moment)

There have been several other threads in the past suggesting just about every point made here and absolutely nothing 'real' gets done......a few pm's fly around, a few moderators are for, a few are probably against, and some probably cant be bothered with the extra workload. Then life moves on and the thread disappears for a while.

I feel that if the new sections (personal gallery, work in progress, showable trees etc) were going to happen at all we would have them already, and as we dont it means the forum is already in the form the designers want it....this may have been a deciding factor in previous experienced bonsai artists giving up on it - the two dangers are frustration and lack of equals when it comes to keeping up interest. Adding new sections and software takes very little time too, and this forum is so well behaved and well spoken it very rarely needs extreme moderation - just scroll back and see how few locked topics there are - so lack of time is not a viable excuse for lack of progress - at the end of the day a forum is no different to a bonsai club - you either like it, or dont, but you aren't allowed to change it.

I certainly wouldnt worry that an individual may be upset if their post is moved from showable to work in progress - it would be plain for all to see if a tree was not good enough yet so is actually doing the owner a favour communicating the fact they have more work to do.

It will be very interesting to remember this thread in 1 month, 2 and 3 and see if the forum areas are better defined in line with what seems like obvious choices.

cheers Marcus

I must confess that on first reading I was just a little disillusioned by those words - partly because there is an element of truth about them but mostly because it seemed you were condemning me before I have had a chance to do anything. But heyho, that's democracy for you and all contributions are gratefully accepted - warts and all - because that we we get the true feelings of the membership. And possibly some actual action. Wink

What I am going to do to progress the discussion in a positive direction is publish openly my initial thinking on a possible future structure, but first may I pick up on a couple of the points raised?

You mention the "designers" of the forum. As far as I am concerned that is the members not the moderators and that is why I am keen to ensure a positive outcome happens as a result of it. I see myself merely as the person charged with doing the collations and joined-up writing of your thoughts - which includes aspects such as how we could fit the Gallery idea in. Those previous discussions are far from dead in the water.

Second, can we just pause for a moment to reflect on the good points of this forum? Marcus has mentioned a key one already - this forum does retain a high degree of civility in comparison to others. We have few if any incidents of extremist opinion, unlike other fora where racism, sexism and homophobia to name but a few raise their heads -apparently unchallenged by the administration - on too many occasions. There are plentiful other good points but let's get down now to the matter in hand which I will put in a new post.

As I said previously, if you don't feel comfortable writing on the open forum but wish a suggestion to be taken into account, please use the PM process.



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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  landerloos on Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:13 am

If i remeber correctly the potensai part on the old forum wanst very active, lots of trees posted with nearly no reactions.
But give a shot again, move my trees there if you want, I wont mind.

Peter

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Thinking out loud on your suggestions to date - not a final proposal

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:36 am

My thinking to date, partly from some previous discussions and partly from points raised in the current scenario. The structural changes really involve splitting some of the existing forum boards into sub-forums still under the same headings.

Bonsai Pests and Diseases; Pots, Display, General Discussion: I don't really see a need for any change as these seem to work perfectly well as they are.
Suiseki etc. I do not use this forum board so if any of the regular users think it needs anything, they will have to let me know. I will collate your responses but I will leave any future direction of it to Chris Cochrane.


Boards I would see as needing minor (by that I really mean uncontentious) structural changes are:

Announcements: I am thinking along the lines of two sub-fora - one for general announcements and one for events. This is really because it will make it easier for Moderators to remove old event announcements if they are all in the one place.

Bonsai Questions: I am thinking of sub-fora for discreet topics which should make things a lot easier to locate given that our Search facility on the forum is not the best. Topics to date are (the list is not exhaustive - this is where your suggestions and comments will help)

1. Bonsai Soils
2. Tree Identification
3. Specialist questions (including growing under lights, growing from seed)
4. General styling questions (requests for advice with future direction of trees at early stages of development)

To an extent the last mentioned sub-forum is the equivalent of the old Potensai board. I haven't made any attempt to split that into beginner and advanced as I feel that is unnecessarily elitist. As Marcus and some others have said, members can choose which threads they wish to comment on or not comment on as the case may be.


Thus endeth the easier aspects. Onwards.




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Thinking out loud - Part Two

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:45 am

A suggestion for a new board altogether:

Personal Space

A forum board with two sub-fora as follows:

1. Introductions: a sub-forum where new members can introduce themselves. It would include aspects such as where they live, how long they've been doing bonsai (on the basis that a new member isn't always inexperienced), what sort of trees they have currently, preferred species etc.

This allows us to gauge ability level which members can then bear in mind when responding to posts.

2. Gallery: members can elect to have an individual thread in which they post pics of their trees or give a link to another location where such a gallery is held - Flickr etc. Members should also note that the forum's own system Servimg is exactly the same as Flickr and a gallery of trees can easily be set up using it. The forum's own Gallery function (found in the drop-down menus) is far too restricted to be of any use and any upgrade of it would invariably involve members having to pay to hold pics on it. The idea (suggested by a couple of members) of using routine forum space is probably the best to go with.






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Thinking out loud - Part Three

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:52 am

Some sundries before I move on to the really contentious area:

1. Some of you have suggested an info bank of articles and this is certainly something the moderators are keen to effect. This could include those excellent posts that members put up. I also see a big case for having more "stickies" giving basic information to counter the number of "repeat questions" - which if we're being honest we would have to say is one of the two main gripes about the forum currently. These don't have to be articles per se - they could equally be links to existing articles such as on bonsai4me or gardenworks. Why reinvent the wheel after all?

Maybe bundling these together in a section containing FAQs is in order.

That makes sense to me BUT is the part of any restructuring process that is labour-intensive on the moderators part. Please do bear that in mind folks. And please also bear in mind that it is very clear that precious few people actually read the stickies in the first place.

2. And that last statement leads me to how do new members know where to put things? This needs to be looked at by us to see if the registering process can trigger some sort of generic welcome email that directs attention to what goes where.

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Thinking out loud - Part Four

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:18 am

And now for the more contentious (or at least potentially so) issue: what to do with the Bonsai forum board. Can I redirect your attention to the title of my posts before continuing - this is very much thinking out loud and is meant to get your thoughts. It is not a final answer by any manner or means.

Again, I see potential within Bonsai for sub-fora, and this would include:

1. Advanced Techniques sub-forum - where members could post threads on tree development using techniques such as grafting (thread, root etc.). air layering, ground layering and so on.


As for the other possible sub-fora, let's consider first what is normally posted in Bonsai and then those gripes and grumbles. Some members have suggested individual sub-fora for different types of tree (tropicals, evergreen, coniferous etc). My own opinion is that that would lead to far too many boards and would end up being unwieldy and unmanageable. By and large what is posted is progression sequences - sometimes taking the tree right through to completion but mostly partials (although often, the poster comes back some time later to finish off the progression). My initial thoughts were towards having sub-for on Progression sequences.

And now for some real thinking out loud/devil's advocate:

The second biggest gripe on the forum after the constantly repeated newbie questions if we are to be honest here, is the "twigs in tubs" syndrome and I am very aware that many members are hacked off with what seems to be an increase in posting of what is clearly poorer quality material.

The first question arising from that is simply do we need a "solution" to that or do we simply accept that a forum is a mini-democracy and people should be entitled to post their trees irrespective of quality or perceived quality? If the answer is the latter, then responding members just need to decide if they're going to comment or not.

If a solution is needed then there are options: one is to have two separate sub-forums - for talking's sake let's call them Progressions Sequences - Advanced and Prog Seqs - Novice. Herein lies the area where people's noses are most likely to be put out of joint: who is an "advanced" poster and who is not? There is a very real danger in assuming that all new members will be posting twigs in tubs and all experienced members will be posting superior material. This is not always the case as we know. Will B put up a very good post on another thread regarding elitism and I personally found a lot of what he said striking a chord.


I think this is now needing some further input from you guys, as quite apart from anything else my brain is now beginning to hurt.

I'd welcome comments on first the less contentious aspects as contained in Part 1-3 of my (very lengthy) posts.

And then give me your thoughts on Part 4.

Phew!

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:22 am

I am sorry I started all this, it is giving me a headache.

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an idea to consider

Post  jgeanangel on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:24 am

I really appreciate all the conversation and thinking that this thread has generated! As I have been mulling this over, I realize that there appears to be two major purposes for posting on this forum... Learning and teaching. Learning is all about questions...the point/purpose of the post, regardless of the level, is asking a question. The teaching board could be for posts with the intent of teaching something...including progressions, techniques, etc.. I think posts with the sole intent of sharing, say pics from an event, could easily fit into the teaching board or sharing could be a separate or sub board to the teaching board. I recognize that this bears a lot of similarity with the existing bonsai and bonsai questions board but I think the changes in the titles would help clarify where things should be posted.

In my mind I see this as an easy for the mods as well...its pretty clear whether a thread is asking questions or trying to share or teach...thus hopefully making their job a little easier.

Classifying the boards this way also makes no distinction between beginners and more advanced users/hobbyist...thus eliminating the elitist perception... and avoids the presence of 72 different boards where no one has any idea where to post anything.

I think the other existing boards could either become sub-fora or continue to stand on their own depending on their topic...

What do you think?
John

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:26 am

The difference between learning and teaching is a good point, John. Thanks. I can probably factor in which forum/sub-forum falls into which category.

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  jgeanangel on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:30 am

fiona wrote:A suggestion for a new board altogether:

Personal Space

A forum board with two sub-fora as follows:

1. Introductions: a sub-forum where new members can introduce themselves. It would include aspects such as where they live, how long they've been doing bonsai (on the basis that a new member isn't always inexperienced), what sort of trees they have currently, preferred species etc.

This allows us to gauge ability level which members can then bear in mind when responding to posts.

2. Gallery: members can elect to have an individual thread in which they post pics of their trees or give a link to another location where such a gallery is held - Flickr etc. Members should also note that the forum's own system Servimg is exactly the same as Flickr and a gallery of trees can easily be set up using it. The forum's own Gallery function (found in the drop-down menus) is far too restricted to be of any use and any upgrade of it would invariably involve members having to pay to hold pics on it. The idea (suggested by a couple of members) of using routine forum space is probably the best to go with.





I think this is an excellent idea Fiona! I think the trick will be to get participation on these boards...I guess a lack of a presence on one these boards speaks as loudly as a presence.

Thank you Ms. Fiona!
John

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:46 am

Just on a security issue on that suggestion, if we went ahead with it I think it would be essential to make that board a members' only one (just as General Discussion is currently) so that the criminally minded internet prowlers can't get on to see who has good trees and where they live.


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How it might look?

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:52 am

From what I've said already, the boards might look like this (remember, still only thinking out loud):

ῼ Testing and FAQs

ῼ Personal Space

- Who am I? (introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience)
- Galleries (members are invited to post a single thread showcasing their trees)

ῼ Bonsai
- Show reports
- Advanced Techniques (where members show trees they have worked on using techniques such as grafting, layering)
- Progression Sequences (where members can show the progress they have made on their trees)

ῼ Bonsai Questions
where members can ask for assistance or advice on bonsai issues. Members are advised to read the appropriate FAQs and/or to search through previous entries to see if their own question has already been answered.
- Bonsai Soils
- Tree Identification
- Specialist Questions (e.g. growing under lights, growing from seed)
- General styling (requests for advice with future direction of trees in an early stage of development)

ῼ Pests and Diseases
Where members can ask the Doctor about any pest or disease problems with their trees

ῼ Pots

ῼ Suiseki, Viewing Stones and Scholar Rocks

ῼ Display – Tables, Kusamono, Accent Plantings, Scrolls

ῼ Announcements
- Events
(advanced notice of shows, exhibitions. After event reports should go in the appropriate section in Bonsai)
- General Announcements

ῼ General Discussion & Off Topic Banter

- General bonsai issues (things to do with bonsai that aren't covered elsewhere e.g. the weather dance threads)
- Banter (as its name suggests, non-bonsai topics that are put on to amuse etc)


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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:01 pm

There's a classic example of how the revised Bonsai forum could work. In Bonsai right now Joey McCoy has put up a very informative thread (definitely a Teaching thread) on bending a boxwood branch. Currently this is running the risk of getting lost in the over-populated Bonsai board. Under the example I have shown, it would go in Bonsai s/f Advanced Techniques. This, and other good threads can also be pinned by individual members in their Favorites (I suspect many members are unaware they can pin things as favorite threads) and could be taken forward by consent as one of the articles.

If, let's say, subsequently, a newer member comes in with a question (in Bonsai Questions) on bending branches, then the first action of responding members could be to direct the new member to that particular post.

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  Poink88 on Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:29 pm

Fiona,

You have excellent ideas and I believe the direction you are going will improve the forum. More power to you! cheers

(There Marcus, I did not quote all her posts LOL Razz )

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:36 pm

Poink88 wrote: (There Marcus, I did not quote all her posts LOL Razz )
Thank the forum deities for that!!! Mad

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A beginner's point of view

Post  my nellie on Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:07 pm

This is a conversation among members of the administrative and moderating board of the IBC, but perhaps you will excuse a beginner to post her point of view as it might contribute a tiny something…
That said, at first I would like to thank everybody in the moderating team of IBC for their efforts and valuable time here on the forum. Because I believe that all members of IBC no matter what we are (beginners, experienced, masters and so on) we are firstly guests to this “place”.
Secondly, to thank the above mentioned for their interest regarding the need for valid information/knowledge/guidance of all beginners (like me) and their efforts to meet those needs, too.
So now I will try not to be too long…

marcus watts wrote: ... ... as people progress in a hobby their need for more challenging and in depth discussion increases in the same way their desire for more challenging material grows. For any forum to not see this need and cater for it will result in the experienced individuals chatting to each other privately. This is a loss to every member as lots can be learnt from just reading a good thread or topic while digesting it quietly... ...
Yes, indeed!

landerloos wrote:If i remeber correctly the potensai part on the old forum wanst very active, lots of trees posted with nearly no reactions… …
This is an issue that should be addressed. I mean that my questions as a beginner may sound naïf, nevertheless I need to get a response that enables me to go further. And every member is able to perceive who is kindly offering and who is high-hat.

fiona wrote: ... ... 2. And that last statement leads me to how do new members know where to put things? This needs to be looked at by us to see if the registering process can trigger some sort of generic welcome email that directs attention to what goes where.
Indeed, I could never imagine that I would not search at first which fora and the subsequent subfora are existing in order to post to the appropriate section…. But, I guess you know what you are saying because you are the one who put your hands on new members’ posts for separation...

Thank you for reading my thoughts.

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

Post  JimLewis on Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:58 pm

Rule 1 of Human Nature: At least at first, a newcomer will ALWAYS post in the first forum he or she finds.

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Re: Request for A Beginnner's Board

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