In early November, ABA launched new and improved forum software on the BookWeb.org Idea Exchange, providing all ABA bookstore members a unique opportunity to exchange ideas and share thoughts with fellow booksellers or with the ABA Board and staff. And although the new software seems to be a hit, as evidenced by a lively and long exchange on the Ask ABA forum, some found the design, which featured links to all of the forums off to the left side of the page and most recent posts in the center, a little confusing.
Users coming to the forums today will find a new, more straightforward design, with links to the four forums -- General Forum, Ask ABA, Ask BookSense.com, and Inventory Control -- clearly in the center of the Idea Exchange homepage: www.bookweb.org/ideaexchange/.
The new configuration still offers many special features lacking in the earlier Idea Exchange. Here's a look at some of the key enhancements. Some are automatic and noticeable; others require that booksellers opt in.
- Booksellers can choose their own preferences for sorting the threads in each forum. A box at the top of each forum page allows the user to sort by last post date, first post date, author, replies, and views, and then to choose to do this in ascending or descending order.
- The menu bar at the top of the Idea Exchange allows booksellers to quickly view all threads in all forums by last post date with one click on "Recent Threads."
- In addition, through "My Profile", users can set up personal information such as whether their e-mail address or IM name is visible. They can also create a signature, including information such as their name, store name, title, etc., which will appear automatically at the end of each of their postings.
- "My Profile" also allows users to put "Watches" on favorite threads and particular forums. (Click "My Profile," then "My Watches," then "Add Watch," and you will be presented with a number of options including category or thread watches. Once a Watch is set, the user will be notified by e-mail within a 24-hour period if there has been activity on that thread or in that particular forum.
- The "Search" feature in the top menu bar also allows users to search by keyword and by member name through each forum individually or all forums together.
- Forum users can also easily add to postings live links to Web sites (through the "Http://" button above the dialog box) and e-mail addresses (through the "Email" button). Bold, italic, color, and special characters can also be added for emphasis.
- For booksellers with questions, the "Help" section, accessed through the top menu bar, offers some explanation, however, questions can also be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Users can also preview their postings before making them "live" by hitting the "Preview" button just below the dialog box. (This is especially useful, if the user is copying a document from another program. Certain special characters such as quotation marks and ellipses may not carry over, and sometimes translate into question marks.) A read through in "Preview" allows the user to make a final edit and to see exactly how the post will appear on the Idea Exchange. Once corrections are made, a click on "Reply to Post" makes it live.
All ABA member booksellers who do not currently participate in the forums are invited to join in. A user name and password are all that is needed and can be created here or through the "Register" icon on the BookWeb.org homepage. (You will need your ABA ID number to create an account.)
Booksellers with suggestions for ways to improve the usability of the forums should send an e-mail to email@example.com, or better yet, start a thread on Ask ABA so that other booksellers and ABA staff can join in.