and Guides: Networking
Electronic Forum Handbook,
Circles in Cyberspace
Organizing an Electronic Discussion
Moderator Guidelines for
an Electronic Discussion Group
Participant Guidelines for an Electronic
a. Dialogue versus Debate
d. Moderator Technology Checklist
e. Ground Rules
f. Evaluating the Experience
Appendix A: A Comparison
of Dialogue and Debate
comparison of dialogue and debate is reprinted with permission
from The Study Circle Handbook: A Manual for Study Circle Discussion
Leaders, Organizers and Participants. 1993. A Publication of the
Study Circles Resource Center, sponsored by Topsfield Foundation,
Dialogue is collaborative:
two or more sides work together toward common understanding.
Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt
to prove each other wrong.
In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.
In debate, winning is the goal.
In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand,
find meaning, and find agreement.
In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws
and to counter its arguments.
Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participant's point of
Debate affirms a participant's own point of view.
Dialogue reveals assumptions for reevaluation.
Debate defends assumptions as truth.
Dialogue causes introspection on one's own position.
Debate causes critique of the other position.
Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than
any of the original solutions.
Debate defends one's own positions as the best solution and excludes
Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being
wrong and an openness to change.
Debate creates a closed-minded attitude, a determination to be
In dialogue, one submits one's best thinking, knowing that other
peoples' reflections will help improve it rather than destroy
In debate, one submit's one's best thinking and defends it against
challenge to show that it is right.
Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one's beliefs.
Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one's beliefs.
In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements.
In debate, one searches for glaring differences.
In dialogue, one searches for strengths in the other positions.
In debate, one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other
Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks
to not alienate or offend.
Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing
on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates
the other person.
Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and
that together they can put them into a workable solution.
Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has
Dialogue remains open-ended.
Debate implies a conclusion.
The Study Circles Resource Center's version of "A Comparison of
Dialogue and Debate"was adapted from a paper prepared by Shelley
Berman, which was based on discussions of the Dialogue Group of
the Boston Chapter of Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR).
Other members included Lucile Burt, Dick Mayo-Smith, Lally Stowell,
and Gene Thompson. For more information on ESR's programs and
resources using dialogue as a tool for dealing with controversial
issues, call the national ESR office at (617) 492-1764.
Guide for the Perplexed
prepared by Brad
Georgia Center for Continuing Education
frontier societies, the Internet is a wild and wooly place where
few formal rules or sanctions exist. However, there is a "code
of the Net" to which considerate users try to adhere. Knowing
and conforming to these guidelines will allow you to take advantage
of the Internet in a civilized manner that does not impose on
other users. These guidelines are also designed to spare you painful
learning experiences which Net neophytes often endure.
of netiquette center around a few simple realizations about the
Resources are Limited
may seem to conflict with the image of the Internet as a sprawling
global network that ties together almost unimaginable amounts
of computing power. Keep in mind, however, that use of the Internet
is growing at a rate of 15 to 20 percent every month. Bandwidth,
the capacity of the network to carry information, is a precious
resource that should be used efficiently.
e-mail messages short and to the point.
sending "me, too" messages. A "me, too" quotes a previous
message in its entirety and adds a comment such as "Me, too,"
"I agree," or "Good point" at the bottom. Quoting may add
needed background for discussion participants, but don't reply
to a posting unless you have something new to contribute.
e-mail to follow up on a posting if your questions or comments
are not likely to interest the other participants. Remember
that your postings end up on computer disks all over the world;
disk space, like bandwidth, is a precious commodity.
using telenet or ftp, be aware of local system time and try
to avoid logging in during work hours. For example, if you
connect to a system in California at 6 PM Georgia time, it's
still afternoon in Palo Alto, and your connection may slow
the system for its regular users.
Information Can End Up Anywhere
is not like postal mail; you should not assume that it provides
the same degree of privacy. The ease with which e-mail can be
forwarded and answered (and stolen) means you should be cautious
about what you write.
before you reply! The tendency when we read a message or posting
that makes our blood boil is to fire off an angry response.
This reaction is so common it has a name: "flaming."
you will often see "flame wars" in mailing lists and news
groups, they are considered both rude and asininesomewhat
akin to having a loud private argument in front of a large,
bored audience. Take time to reflect before you mail an emotional
response. If feelings are particularly hot, wait overnight
before you mailyou'll be glad you did.
writer's permission before forwarding a personal e-mail message
to a mailing list, news group, or third party.
assume that others will remember to ask your permission! Write
nothing in your e-mail that you would not want to see on the
front page of tomorrow's newspaper. Be particularly cautious
about comments about other people, which may find their way
to the persons in question.
tools responsibly. If you need to post a message anonymously,
you can do so through special anonymous mail servers. If you
need to send a private message that must be secure from other
readers, you can encrypt it with a tool such as PCP before
mailing. Neither of these options should be used lightly or
in any way that might harm other people or computer systems.
Cyberspace, No One Can See You Smile
through an all-text medium like e-mail requires special care.
Social cues like tone of voice, expression, and body language
that help convey meaning in normal conversation are unavailable
making it especially important to write clearly and carefully.
descriptive subject line for your messages. Many programs
for reading mail and news display only the subject line of
incoming messages, so provide a clear headline to signal what
you're going to say. It's nice to use a question mark if you
are asking for rather than providing information, e.g.
Internet access in Utah?
bodies of your messages, use normal capitalization and lower-case.
TYPING IN ALL CAPS = SHOUTING. You can use _underscore_ or
*asterisks* to emphasize words you would normally underline
sarcastic and humorous comments with a "smiley" symbol. Consider
the difference between the following:
you know you're supposed to read the manual?
Don't you know you are supposed to read the manual? ;)
paragraphs (no indentation on the first line) and separate
paragraphs with a blank line.
are following up on an early message or discussion, quote
or restate judiciously to establish a context for your reader.
end of your message, include your name and e-mail address.
Don't assume that readers will see this information in the
header of your message, which may be stripped off by their
mail or news software.
(See below) can be used to add nuance and humor to your text
can be used on the internet to add a human element to the conversations
you have. We offer some starters which are only limited by your
smiley used to suggest a sarcastic or joking statement was just
smiley used to make a flirtatious or cynical remark; it serves
as sort of a "don't hit me for what I just wrote" smiley
conveys user's dislike of last statement or finds it sad, upsetting
smiley conveys surprise or shock
:-Y a quiet
handed user's smile
on head; user is laidback!
lips are sealed; secret is safe
has been staring at computer screen too long
D: Moderator's Technical Checklist
Have a conversation
early in your planning with the technical support staff about
information management functions that can be added to the set
up of the listserv and those that will vary according to participants'
computer systems, if different. Depending upon your needs and
the electronic mail system in use, various functions can be customized
to improve the user friendliness of the listserv. While this section
is not intended to be a primer on e-mail, there are some functions
that will determine the success of your electronic discussion.
Please consider this a check-list which can be adapted to specific
systems. You will want to determine how the system can handle
various functions and communicate this information to participants.
In many cases, the listserv can be set to automatically inform
participants about how to use the functions to communicate effectively
and manage information. [Please note: If participants are on the
same system and share the same technical support staff, the coordination
is simplified. However, this is most often not the case.]
1. What is
the listserv e-mail address?
are the instructions to participants for subscribing to listserv?
How will these instructions be distributed?
messages, if any, are automatically sent to subscribers?
messages, if any, related to technical considerations should be
sent to participants in addition to those they receive automatically?
Who will send the messages and when?
special functions can be arranged?
d. message set-up
5. How do
technical support staff want to handle technical questions?
technical support is available for participants?
E: Ground Rules
a few ground rules for communication during an on-line discussion.
They are an abbreviated form of netiquette. These ground rules
can provide a general framework for communications.
messages short and to the point. (One screen, one message.)
key facts about choices, with strengths and weaknesses. Consider
consequences of the options within each choice.
3. Be informed.
to the question at hand.
with respect, and respond with conviction.
flaming (Flaming is reacting impulsively without reflecting on
how your message might come across to those who will read it.
Think before you send the message to avoid flaming. )
7. Use descriptive
subject lines. This alerts readers to the topic in general and
your point specifically.
8. Use personal
e-mail messages to follow up on a posting if you think it should
be addressed to an individual rather than the whole group.
free to send the moderator(s) private e-mails if you have have
problems or concerns.
F: Evaluating the Experience
electronic forums and study circles can help us improve them while
they are being conducted and for the future. Other than our initial
forum research there is little more than anecdotal information
on the impact of electronic fourm experience. We have only preliminary
information on how effective they are and whether or not they
contribute to understanding and learning about selected topics
and issues. We propose four types of evaluation: formative, intermittent,
summative and impact. Also, we acknowledge both on-line and off-line
evaluations have merit. Some forums may best be evaluated on-line,
others off-line, and still others a mixture of on- and off-line.
Formative evaluations could involve a representation of key stakeholders
in the forum process - planners, potential participants, researchers,
and moderators, for example.
or midway evaluations are especially useful. Since for many this
may be the first or among the earliest experiences with either
the technology or deliberative discussion group processes, intermittent
feedback will increase the likelihood of a successful experience.
Formative and intermittent evaluations allow for corrective measures
and give technicians and moderators a chance to adjust programs
toward more effective outcomes in midstream.
evaluations on-line should be implemented, especially if it is
likely that contact with participants may dissipate at the end
of the time frame for the cyberspace forum. In some situations
planners may have ways and means to continue interaction with
forum participants, but in other situations, this opportunity
may not be the case. As people "unsubscribe" to the listserv,
moderators might send a summative evaluation to be completed on-line.
followup evaluations are highly desirable, since they give planners
and evaluators a chance to assess whether the forums have any
lasting influence on participants. The rationale for who is involved
and the format of all evaluations is similar for traditional and
electronic forums. But in the case of electronic forums, the directions
for participation in the evaluation, confidentiality and anonymity,
and how evaluation findings will be used need to be carefully
and coherently delivered on-line before the forum begins.
once planners determine their capacity to evaluate [money, time,
personnel], then they must decide how often they will measure
or survey participants, and whether it will work best to do this
on or off-line.
request specific on-line and off-line evaluation questions from
Dr. Margaret Holt on e-mail: email@example.com or write:
Adult Education Department
University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia, 30602
Organizing an Electronic Discussion
Moderator Guidelines for
an Electronic Discussion Group
Participant Guidelines for an Electronic