4th November 2005 at 00:00
Don't take offence easily. Always say thank you. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Bill Hicks finds solid advice for newbies in the TES forums

Slumped here at TES Staffroom central control, mesmerised by the various dials and gauges and flashing lights, I was shocked back into full consciousness by the wailing of a klaxon.

It was our newbie alert, and it goes off whenever the list of fresh young hopefuls signing up to our online communities breaks the 1,000-a-week barrier.

In the old days, this would have been an excuse to open yet another bottle of champagne. Now, the bleary-eyed web staff are as likely to think, that's another 1,000 posters to monitor. No, sorry! Scratch that, we welcome all of you with open arms; you are our lifeblood.

This is peak season for new recruits to the forums, and it was therefore thoughtful and timely of Lalji to start a thread pulling together advice for first-timers.

Our heroine goaded senior members to form "a working party to put together a 'pack' to help NQPs (newly qualified posters) through the first harrowing hours, days, weeks, parts of entire lives etc, spent on the TES forum."

Lalji set the ball rolling: "1) Don't try to imagine what posters look like - it's an unhealthy preoccupation. Besides, they're older and fatter than you think."

The trickle of advice became a torrent.

Mouthy: "Remember that some people sling insults when they are losing an argument. Rise above it."

Violette: "Don't start off disagreeing with people until you know your way around. Most posters are great, but some have gigantic egos and aren't above hounding you months later for some supposed slight they remember forever."

Deicide: "Don't get upset if posters correct your grammar etc, they can't help themselves and don't do it to be nasty."

Cariad2: "If you want a debate then come to Opinion. If you need hugs go to Personal. If you need help go to a subject or staff forum. Primary is very friendly and helpful."

Nosandals: "If you DO ask for help, and you get a response, remember to say 'thanks'." We second that one, nosandals.

Eureka! added the untypically laconic "Give umbrage, but never take it."

And then came some of the most necessary advice of all, from someone calling themselves Bet Lynch: "I used a name which identified me a little too easily. When a certain x did a Google search on the username he could locate me on this site.

"So new users - beware of identifying yourself too easily!"

We send similar advice to every new poster in their welcome email, but it is easy to forget that the cloak of anonymity we offer can be plucked from you if you've unwittingly thrown out a trail of clues.

And then of course all those jolly funny posts about a colleague's curious taste in long-distance holiday destinations can come back to haunt you - and us.

Lesson over. Now I can get back to the thread about multiple first names in the same class: can anyone beat six Megans?

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

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