How to use this system (crash course!) : LUSENET : nms Community Updates : One Thread

How to use this system

The first thing to know is that even though it may not look or seem like it, this system is a unique marvel: An exceptionally well-engineered, amazingly powerful, flexible piece of software that may turn out to be one of the more useful programs you've ever used (on or off the internet).

Although there are a laundry list of reasons that's true, one of the most important is this: While powerful enough to accommodate the talents of advanced, "web savvy" users, it's also as EASY to use as most software you've ever used (and much easier than some, no doubt). It's so easy to use that there are really only three things anyone needs to know to be able to begin using 90% of it's most basic horsepower:

  • What the "Ask a Question" link on the systems's main page is and how to use it.
  • What the "Contribute an answer" button at the bottom of each "thread" is and how to use it.
  • What an "alert" is and how to set one.

Get the basic hang of those first two things and "add an alert," and you'll be ready to start taking advantage of one of the best "collaborative" / communications systems available on the internet. Getting familiar with the basics of those two main things takes about 5 or 10 minutes, and, if you want to take care of that last item, you can do it right now.

Adding an alert: When you add an alert, you're telling the software to e-mail you copies of things added to the system by the people you're communicating or collaborating with. It's a very powerful, highly recommended feature. It enables you to stay current without having to check a web site all the time. In effect, adding an alert brings the system to you instead of you having to bring yourself to the system to find out what's happening.

As you'll see, it's simple to do. As you'll also see, you can set the frequency at which you receive those updates: Instantly (sent as soon as anyone adds anything new); daily (in a batch); or once or twice weekly. (You may want to set it to "Instant" to begin with, and, if that gets too hectic, you can change those settings, or turn off your alert all together, at any time by clicking the "add an alert" link near the bottom of the system's main page.)

If you'd like to add an alert right now, click here. (When you're done, just close the new window that will open.)

The Magic Buttons

As obvious, dumb-sounding or "Duh" as this may seem, what you're looking at right now is a web page. And while this particular page is a little more complicated (behind the scenes) than most web pages you'll find within this system, the main point here is, all pages that are part of this system were created by someone clicking either the "Ask a Question" link or the "Contribute an answer" button.

Or, put another way, one of the things that makes this system such a powerful marvel is the (unmentioned and mostly unrealized) fact that as ho-hum and commonplace as they may seem, those two links/buttons are really automatic web page generators!

Or, put one other way, those two links make it possible for anyone who can type to create web pages that are "published on the internet."

The Basics

The New Questions list

Here's a five-minute crash course that will tell you everything you need to know about the basics of this system.

As you've already seen, the main thing on the main screen is the list of "New Questions." That list is the "heart and soul" of the system. Each item on it is a link that leads to a topic, subject, question, document, web page, an "online file," that has something to do with whatever you and the people you're communicating / collaborating with are working on or discussing. Each line contains the Subject title, along with the name of the person who initiated it, and the date they did so.

Following the Thread

Each link opens what's known as a "thread." A thread is like an "online file folder" that contains an initial "posting," or main topic explanation, and any number of additions of information related to that topic that are added by those using the system. All additions to the thread are "filed" in chronological order, and the end result is (usually) a nicely organized, easy-to-follow record of (often) useful information that can be accessed at any time by anyone who needs or wants to use it.

To use the file folder analogy to illustrate, let's say you wanted to start a file of books, movies, or CDs people recommended. In the non-electronic world, you might take a manilla folder and write "Recommended books, movies, CDs" on the tab. You mail a note to your friends explaining the idea and asking for their recommendations, stick a copy of it in the folder, and, as they write back, you put their replies in the folder. The end result would be a (handy and useful) file folder you could refer to whenever you were going shopping for those things.

If you used this system to do the same thing, the title on the file folder tab is what would appear on the "New Questions" list, the letter to your friends would be the "initial posting," and the recommendations they made would make up the rest of the thread.

Threads illustration

Those Magic Buttons again

The two main things to know about them are:

The "Ask a Question" link is used to create new threads (topics, questions, "file folders," new web pages).

The "Contribute an answer" button is used to add information to a thread (add "content" to an existing web page).

Avoiding Confusion: People are sometimes confused by the title of the "Ask a Question" link. They feel it ought to say, "Create a New Topic" instead. The main thing is, it doesn't really matter what it's called; it's what it does that counts: It creates a new thread/file/web page, and whether that thread's based on a question ("What' the best way to keep potato beetles out of a garden?" or "What are the budget figures for your division?"), or a general "statement" ("Bob's views on restructuring the company," for instance, or, "The first chapter of my novel"), isn't anything you need to concern yourself with.

Just remember: If you want to create a new thread (or web page/file folder that will contain information related to something you think ought to be addressed, or will prove to be a useful reference now or in the future), use the "Ask a Question" link on the main page. When you want to add information to an existing thread, use the "Contribute an answer" button you'll find at the end of each thread.

And now you know the most basic things about using one of the best communications tools available on the internet. If you're at all confused or unsure, don't worry. As mentioned at the outset, one of the things that makes this such a powerful marvel is it's simplicity and ease of use, and after you've used it for a day or two, you'll see exactly what that means.

If you run accross anything you find confusing, or you have ideas about things that would improve this "How to use this system" page, remember that you can open this thread at any time, click the "Contribute an answer" button, and add those questions, comments, ideas to this page.

Please don't be shy about doing that. Chances are that right now you're in that "unique position" of a person who is completely new to something: You have those (valuable) "Beginner's eyes" that can see things people who've been using the same thing for years have forgotten long ago. Your questions, comments, ideas will help improve the quality of future versions of this page which will make it easier for the next "newcomer" to get the hang of things...

-- Anonymous, May 31, 2002

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