>At last, our on-line forum system is ready to go. As you may recall, when
>the Western Region listserv was inaugurated last September, we had a very
>high volume of traffic that clogged people's "in" boxes, causing some to
>unsubscribe from the list.
>The forum system will free up the westSR listserv to do what it does best -
>local event announcements, scholarly queries, etc. It will preserve the
>highly-interactive discussion that we saw before, by transferring it to the
>on-line forum. The announcement by Adrian Wyard of the Counterbalance
>Foundation is appended below, giving you instructions on how to gain access
>to the forum and its various archived messages.
>Best wishes to you all,
>The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) and Counterbalance
>are pleased to announce the immediate availability of online discussion
>Accessible from www.ctns.org and www.counterbalance.org, the forum system
>will allow people interested in science-and-theology issues to collaborate
>more effectively and conveniently.
>"We have high hopes that interactive technologies such as online forums
>will be a great asset to the science and religion world, both for the
>research community and the general public," said Adrian Wyard, President of
>Counterbalance Foundation. "We are particularly pleased to be working with
>CTNS to provide this technology to its staff and members."
>As well as an open public 'General Discussion Room' the forum system
>includes a 'Research Room' specifically for the research/educational
>community, and private Conference Rooms for smaller teams. CTNS membership
>will now include an id which allows access to the Research Room. (login-IDs
>and passwords will be distributed to current members by email shortly.)
>"We are looking forward to some great discussion," said Adrian. "We're also
>excited about putting together some grant programs and other incentives to
>encourage online collaboration. Details of these programs will be announced
>in the forums."
>"We at CTNS are pleased and excited to participate in a project that
>provides this wonderful service to our worldwide membership. Now, CTNS
>members will be able to exchange ideas on individual research topics with
>other members around the world. We hope our members will take advantage of
>this interactive vehicle, available 24 hours a day, which in turn will
>expand the greater science and religion dialogue," added Bonnie F.
>Johnston, CTNS Membership Relations & Web Site designer.
>A more detailed description of forum technology is appended to the end of
>Richard O. Randolph
>The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
>The Counterbalance Foundation is a non-profit educational organization
>working to promote 'new views on complex issues.'
>The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences promotes the creative
>mutual interaction between science and religion through teaching, research,
>public forums and publications.
>Online 'forum' technology provides a shared, remote store of email-like
>messages which are accessed via a world-wide-web server. Anyone may create
>('post') messages in the forum - such as a request for information - and
>anyone can subsequently view and respond to that message. The main
>distinction between forum technology and email is the messages remain on
>the server rather being sent to email in-boxes. Since forum discussions
>don't create email traffic, extensive interaction can be encouraged.
>Additionally, the forum software maintains separate 'threads' or topics of
>discussion, so related messages are always stored with each other, and are
>therefore more easy to browse.
>The system developed by Counterbalance currently has two forums: The main
>Science and Religion Forum, and the Meta Forum. The Meta Forum is
>automatically fed with messages sent to the Meta listserv. (see later.)
>Each forum is divided into rooms; 'General Discussion' room(s) and a
>'Research' room. Everyone can view discussions in each of these rooms, and
>can post messages in a general discussion room, but posting to the research
>rooms is by password only and intended for research-level collaboration. We
>expect that discussions will most often begin the General room, but if it
>becomes appropriate, will move 'into the Research Room.' The system also
>has completely private Conference Rooms that are assigned on an as needed
>basis for workgroup projects. (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to
>reserve a conference room.)
>The forum system has been designed to be seamlessly incorporated into
>existing web sites. For example www.ctns.org includes the Science and
>Religion forum feature by simply linking to www.counterbalance.org/srforum.
>The Meta forum is also available from www.templeton.org/meta which links to
>www.counterbalance.org/metaforum. Contact email@example.com if
>you are interested in including a forum at your site.
>Forums work very well when set up in conjunction with 'listserv' email
>distribution lists - the email messages that are sent to the listserv can
>be automatically posted to a forum for archival and/or discussion purposes.
>This has been done with the 'Meta' listserv - incoming messages are
>archived in the 'Meta Listserv Archive & Forum.'
>Listserv/Forum combinations have the following advantages:
>+ Large distribution lists do not easily accommodate discussion, and may
>need to be moderated to keep the traffic to a manageable level (as in the
>Meta Listserv). If however, the Listserv is linked to a forum, follow-up
>and discussion can take place in that associated forum.
>+ Forums can accommodate a high volume of discussion without needing an
>+ Anyone can initiate a discussion without going through the moderator.
>+ Subscribers to the listserv-group don't need to save all incoming email
>messages since they are available in the forum.
>+ People joining groups have immediate access to past email messages since
>they were archived in the forum.
>+ It's convenient to unsubscribe from the listserv component during busy
>times and resubscribe later on. Any intervening discussion is captured in
>+ Email received by subscribers to the listserv is perceived as a
>'reminder' rather than an 'email that must be read.' It's therefore
>reasonable to immediately delete all incoming listserv messages, or leave
>those few messages that are very relevant for later review. The
>listserv/forum combination is more convenient for people who receive a
>large amount of email.
>These features meet the needs of a wide variety of people, and ultimately
>allow for a larger number of people to benefit from online collaboration,
>whether via the listserv, or the forum, or both.
>Related web sites:
>CTNS: The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences: www.ctns.org
>John Templeton Foundation: www.templeton.org
>Meta Listserv: www.templeton.org/meta
>Counterbalance Foundation: www.counterbalance.org
Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506