A Guide to using
the Fforde Fforum

I am indebted to PSD for the following guide on how to use the forum. As he says, it is high time we had a few guidelines and handy tips..

(Last updated: 9th November 2006)

++NEWS STOP PRESS++ If you are here because you can't register to post, that's because I was getting at least six spam posts a day urging the fforumites to go see a Russian porn site or buy cheap phamaceuticals and fake Gucci handbags. Now, it's possible some of the forumites might indeed like to indulge in these activities but they can do it in their own time.

So, as a result of lovely spam postings getting access to the Fforde Fforum is now a little more complex - Go through the registration process as usual and fill everything in. Once that is done just send me an email stating your username, email etc and I shall make your registration active. Email address is jasper (at) jasperfforde.com.

...and on with Ben's excellent guide:

A handy guide to the fforum has been needed for a while now, but while we're waiting this should answer most of your queries. If you still have questions then ask the fforum in general to help in a new thread, or email one of us on the quiet. We're never too busy to help.

My Profile

Once you've logged in and got an ID, there's a link at the top of the fforum index marked 'My Profile'. You can also reach this via a link at the bottom of each sub-division (eg Nextian Chat). Your profile is what other people get to see when they click on your name . Profiles always show the person's ID and the number of posts, but any other information requires you to add information.

If you want to change your profile (or edit it for the first time) then click on My Profile to see your profile, and then click on Edit Profile. Here you can change your password or allow people to see your email address and various accounts for ICQ, Messenger etc. You can also add details of a homepage and your real name. If you want an image to go alongside your details, then place the url in the box provided for it (ie write http://www.awebpage.com/apicture.jpg). Note that the categories that you don't enter details for remain hidden. If you don't add anything to the profile, then all that shows is your number of posts and your ID.

The box you're most likely to want to put something in is the signature. This is a small message (the length is limited) that gets added to every post you make by default (although you can choose not to - see below). This sig isn't automatically divided from the main body of text, so it's best to add a row of dashes or something to mark it off. I use a row of ======. When you change a sig it changes on all your posts that you've already made. Unfortunately, coding doesn't work in your sig. Quote marks (" ") seem not to work properly either.

Once everything is sorted just click on update profile to save the changes.

Reading Threads

I know - it should be pretty obvious... A couple of hints, however. There's a maximum number of thread titles displayed at a time, if you want an older one then click on 'Older Messages' at the top right of each individual fforum, and it'll take you down to the older messages. It has been known for thread titles to disappear off the top after less than a day, so be aware of this, especially if you can't find a thread you wanted to reply to.

Search is useful if you can't remember which thread something was in - this is quite common due to the number of threads that quickly drift off topic and also the volume of posts. The search page explains itself, really. Finally, at the bottom of each list of threads is an option to 'View Threads'. This opens out all the post titles in each thread. To get it back to just titles, click on 'Collapse Threads'. The idea of the expanded view is so you can follow arguments and headings, but this falls down as people always tend to reply by typing in the box at the bottom of a thread rather than clicking on 'reply to this message'. People rarely bother changing the title of a post, either. This isn't a criticism, the fforum rarely stays on topic long enough to make it worthwhile.

Go To Top is useful to check for new threads if you haven't been there for a while, or if you want the newest messages after going back through the archives. Go To Topic appears at the top of each individual thread, and goes back to the index but only showing the threads that are older than the one you're currently reading. This is useful if you're delving in the archive.

Mark All Read should get rid of the red 'new' tags, but they sometimes reappear - especially if you go off somewhere else and then come back to the fforum in the same session. They also reappear after your first post during a session. We have no idea why - or why they sometimes come and go of their own accord. It's a bug, or as certain companies would claim - a feature.

Posting This is pretty obvious too... Either start a New Thread at the top of the 'topics' list for whichever fforum you're in, or add to an old one by typing in the box at the bottom. So far, so obvious.

There are things you can do to jazz it up however, including some formatting. If you know how to use HTML you'll adapt quickly, if you're not it's even easier as you have less to unlearn. The fforum uses BBcode tags, which are like a restricted version of HTML. The reason it is restricted is partly to avoid boojumming, but also so that browsers for specialised users (eg the blind, WAP etc) can access information properly. Several pieces of HTML that have been retired will work with most browsers, but can boojum others. Specifying a font size can stop people with vision difficulties from expanding the text, for example.

Before explaining the BBcode, a word upon formatting. Try not to show off too much. Lots of formatting just looks naff, and can get irritating. Formatting should be used for emphasis and to aid clarity. Lots of pictures can seriously slow loading times for each thread (coincidentally the reason we try to keep the number of posts in a thread below 100 - see Etiquette below).

BBcode works in a similar to HTML. A tag before the text basically says 'format everything after me', and a tag afterwards shouts 'ok, stop now'.

The simplest tags are those for bold, underline and italic text. To write in italics, simply put [ i ] before and [ /i ] after - but without any spaces between the square brackets and the tag (I can't write them properly or they'll turn invisible!) Bold uses exactly the same format, but with a b instead of an i; underline uses 'u'.

If you want a picture then place the url of the image inside [ img ] [ /img ] tags ie [ img ]http://www.anywhere/anyoldpicture.jpg[ /img ]. Try to keep pics to a minimum though as they eat bandwidth like nobody's business, slowing down loading times for those of us poor souls on steam-powered modems. If in doubt try and use a thumbnail and add a link below it.

Links to other pages can be done in one of two ways. The first is to put the address for it between [ url ] [ /url] tags. The result will be like this: http://www.jasperfforde.com. If you want a true hyperlink like this then the first tag is [ url=http://www.wherever_it_is.here ], the second tag is [ /url ] as normal, with the text you want to appear as the link inbetween.

Finally email addresses go between [ email ] [/ email ] tags.

The last thing to say is if you want to leave your sig off a post (eg if somebody has announced bad news and you don't want a bright and bouncy sig to spoil your condolences) then there's a check box at the bottom of the box you type your reply in. There's also an option to get replies emailed to you - you can't turn this off afterwards - so we don't recommend it!

If you use any formatting, it's a good idea to hit 'preview' to check it first!


If you want to edit a post you must be signed in as the same user you were to write it in the first place. Then click on edit my post at the bottom of the post in question. One thing to mention here is that the fforum will now automatically add your sig even if it was turned off before. Weird, huh?

One thing to try to bear in mind - if you're editing a post, try not to make any replies to it completely insensible! Even if you're removing something stupid, leave a note to say 'stupid post deleted' - it makes the rest of the thread much easier to make sense of!


So far the fforum has remained free of most of the problems that plague message boards. The basic rules of conversation anywhere apply, with the added caveat that whatever you say may be reread and reinterpreted - so try to be careful! Joking tones of voice may also be hard to convey - I'm probably the worst for that kind of thing - so may cause offence by accident. You don't get to see how everyone else is reacting, so it's a bit easy to misjudge a comment.

The worst thing that happens to any message board is 'flaming' and 'trolling'. Trolling is posting comments to piss people off, basically. Flaming is posting personal attacks. Both are pretty unsavoury, and we want to avoid them. Flaming can start when somebody misreads a comment, and replies angrily. The object of this then gets annoyed and a slanging match ensues.

If you have a problem with somebody's post, try not to snap out immediately - this can lead to a flame war starting. Try to work out if the message was really meant in another tone of voice - how would you read it if you weren't feeling annoyed already, for example. If you're still annoyed it might be best to ask the poster first via an email before snapping back on the fforum. To snap back openly risks inflaming the situation and forcing others to take sides, and can really annoy people when it spreads to other threads.

One favourite tactic of trolls is to attack somebody's politics or religion - for this reason we tend to try to avoid those subjects. Common sense prevails - nobody would get offended if you said you were off to church next Sunday so wouldn't be posting (or off to hustle in an election, I suppose), but they might if you wrote that religion 'x' is stupid. It has happened before that we got onto it, and pretty quickly most of us realised we came here to avoid it!

The fforum has a fair amount of teasing, which happens wherever you get a group of people who like fast wordplay and testing their wits. If you're feeling low and don't want teasing on a particular day (or indeed ever) then say - nobody wants to hurt anybody. So far there has only been one post removed for offensiveness, and that was a pretty crass song parody I idiotically posted a while back.

Swearing is an interesting issue. Occasionally you may feel the need for a good cuss, especially when annoyed. In general we tend to Bowdlerise a little bit - in tabloid style we'll use asterisks. Bear in mind that the fforum is read by minors too, and so we don't want it full of cussing. Moderation is the key, really.

Another issue that needs to be raised is that occasionally someone will calculate the posting figures - working out who's saying most. This is just our way of seeing who happens to have been busiest, and isn't a competition. Lots of meaningless posts to get your total up just look silly, and also clog up Mr Ff's inbox. People are more impressed by someone who says interesting things occasionally than someone who says lots of boring things frequently.

The only other thing to say is to try and be considerate. As mentioned before large pictures tend to slow download times, and really annoy after a while. so do large threads, so we tend to close them after 100 or so posts. If a thread is still going and reaches 100 posts, we start a new thread with a similar title (eg 'Thursday's diary part 2'). Fortunately Phorum seems to be more robust than the old code, which collapsed under the volume of posts going in, so this is merely a courtesy for those with slower internet providers. One last considerate move is not to TYPE IN CAPS unless you want to shout. CAPS is shouting, and appears rude if you do it all the time. If you need to let off steam, though, it's quite useful.

Finally, any other problems or questions can be referred to the fforum in general in a new thread, or emailed to me (psd - email available here ).


(Written by PSD, with help, suggestions and BBcode tutorials from AAC, Ptolemy, Dave, Kaz, ChelseaGirl and many others from the fforum. Thank you for everyone who took time to improve this and to point out things I hadn't realised)


And now, to the forum!