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A 'Landing strip' for beginners?


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Here's one for the suggestion box:

Through my work, I regularly give the Stargazerslounge address to beginners.  One or two have commented that this forum seems a bit too ‘experienced’ for them … the ‘Spud scenario’. 

Moderators, how about starting some beginner-friendly threads?  Perhaps even have a new ‘Beginners start here’ section for the threads with links to other discussions considered useful to beginners … a ‘landing strip’. 

Topics could be something like: ‘So you’ve got the scope … whats next?’ or ‘Six of the best’ where members can offer tips, advice and recommendations to beginners who have bought their first scope.  Something like:

1. Buy a red-light torch (or use red nail-varnish to paint over the lens of a standard torch).

2. Don’t under estimate the value and quality of a good set of Plossls eyepieces such as those offered by Meade or TeleVue.

3. Search out campsites at dark-sky locations and other astronomers in your area for mini star-meets.

4. Consider buying one of the StarryNight, or similar, range of planetarium software (SN Backyard is currently offered free on this months Sky at Night magazines cover-disk)

5. invest in some thermal underwear, thick socks, fingerless gloves and a hat – some of the best viewing will be done mid-winter. 

6. Tell us about your progress and don’t be afraid to ask questions … we like that. 

I’m sure we all have at least one nugget of wisdom worth passing on. 

Steve :)

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TBH I'm not sure whether a couple of starter threads will do any more than have people read them, only to then disappear again.

We did have a 'Beginners lounge' here on the previous board (which I believe got renamed 'The Learning Zone'). On this I've posted a 'sticky' thread (i.e. one that remains at the top of the list) with a link to a site giving very good advice for people thinking of buying their first scope. I did it this way because it would probably have breached copyright to copy & paste the actual webpage to this forum.

It may be an idea to rename the Learning Zone again - or emphasise more in the description that it is for any elementary questions on astronomy, rather than emphasise topics like astro physics & gamma ray bursts (which many newcomers may, indeed, find daunting). I think that by having a forum that newcomers can relate to, they may feel less inhibited about posting their 'starter' questions to this site.

...........Just my 2c......................... :) Very relevant idea, Steve.

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TBH I'm not sure whether a couple of starter threads will do any more than have people read them, only to then disappear again...

It may be an idea to rename the Learning Zone again ....

...I think that by having a forum that newcomers can relate to, they may feel less inhibited about posting their 'starter' questions to this site.

Thanks for your comments Andy. 

Those two threads were merely suggestions; I'm sure that after consideration you and the other moderaters can come up with something altogether better.  It might be a simple list of topics and subcategorys - scopes, eyepieces, finders, mounts and so-on that members can contribute too. 

Steve  :)

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As a relative newbie, I think the idea of a beginners section would be quite appealing, something that takes both of your suggestions - a complete section for beginners, with topics for things like eyepieces, different optics and tube designs, mounts, etc. Perhaps each topic could have a sticky with common terminology relevant to that section (took me ages to figure out what OTA stood for!!).

I know some people don't like to ask questions because they think they are imposing / will appear un-knowing / etc, but I imagine once the they get the first one or two questions out they will start to open up - so plenty of encouragement from the Mods may help to get people involved a bit more. I know some of us newbies jump in and ask questions, make daft comments, and then ask more questions (ahem), so I definitley think we should do our bit as well.

For instance, just done a quick count and over 50% of members have not made a single post - why is this? Do they join with the view to reading up BEFORE asking the questions but never get round to it, or do they join up, read the posts and then think 'maybe not!' ???

Darren

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For instance, just done a quick count and over 50% of members have not made a single post - why is this? Do they join with the view to reading up BEFORE asking the questions but never get round to it, or do they join up, read the posts and then think 'maybe not!' ???

Darren

Thats a good point, does anyone know (maybe Grant? or Big Dipper) if this is a cause for concern or is it 'normal' for a community of this size?

I know for myself when I got back into astonomy a (ahem!) few years back there was only Usenet and looking back I did ask some 'silly questions' on SAA (as it is now), but bar the odd snide remark, most people were pretty gentle with me!! But then again, I've never been afraid to ask questions or to admit I don't know something, you needed a thick skin for the Internet back then!!!

I think the amount of replies that each 'welcome' message gets shows this is a very friendly board, but as Daz is saying maybe more could be done to encourage beginners (I hate the word newbies!!!) to post?

Gaz

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Gaz, from my experience I don't think that this figure is too unusual. Why people should join up & not post is another question. Perhaps they do feel a bit intimidated & perhaps a specifically marked Beginners Forum would help.

I'm a bit surprised that none of the admins have added to this thread. :? As a Moderator, I'm not able to create such a new forum.

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Andy,

I guess another issue with a community this size is how many forums can you afford to have before you are spreading the posts too thin? You could make a case for combining the three 'equipment' forums into one (one has only had 3 topics started since the board began!) and maybe just having two observation/photo forums, lunar, planetary, solar all clumped together and a seperate deep sky/everything else forum.

From what Daz has said there are 18 forums supporting less than 30 active members, it might serve to concentrate the 'chat ' a bit more....just my 2 cents as they say! :)

Gaz

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I guess another issue with a community this size is how many forums can you afford to have before you are spreading the posts too thin? You could make a case for combining the three 'equipment' forums into one (one has only had 3 topics started since the board began!) and maybe just having two photo forums, lunar, planetary, solar all clumped together and a seperate deep sky/everything else forum.

From what Daz has said there are 18 forums supporting less than 30 active members, it might serve to concentrate the 'chat ' a bit more....just my 2 cents as they say! :)

Gaz

Good point Gaz  It probably is better to reduce the number of forums and increase them when the membership grows and the need arises. 

Steve :)

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I know that we will never get 100% of members posting, but I have to say I thought it would be more than current levels - that's not to disagree with you, Andy, just my own feelings.

Perhaps we could make the changes (beginners section, forum consolidation, etc), monitor for a couple of months and see what the results look like then. Do the admins have access to members email addresses? If so, perhaps they could do a mailshot "Visit our revamped forum" type thing, and see if we can attract more posters. If not, simply restore the structure the way it was and go back to the drawing board.

I suppose the other thing to bear in mind is that the forum is still very young and it will take a little time for word to get out - even with our efforts on promoting it.

Come on admins - let's have your thoughts.....

Darren

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Hi Darren,

Unfortunately this is the nature of forums and groups. Even non-internet based Astronomy Groups have the same problem. I belonged to a forum that had over 1000 members. 130 odd of those visit each day. But at best only 30 actually post.

My local astronomy club has 70 members but only 12(ish) turn up each month unless there's some fantastic speaker. Then it's packed.

So in short we are probably doing as well as any other forum. 58 members, 14 checking in each day and 8-9 posting.

But you are right Steve, we need to do something to interest beginners.

Russ

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I read this some days ago now. I've not replied as I'm thinking through some ideas currently. Will be along the lines of 'Primers' , this would be to cover terminology etc,etc. I will need to discuss with other Admin & are chief Mod Andy.

Keep watching for possible results.

Rob

Admin

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I've suggested a revamp in the admin section - that i quite like. I've sort of tried to take on board what everyone has said... hopefully it'll go down well with all...

When's James back? Don't really want to make too many changes without his imput!

Ant

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An area dedicated to beginners is a great idea IMO.

Somewhere where things are explained and you can read about the absolute basics like what things mean etc would be a great helkp for joinging in more advanced conversations.

Al

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russ

I think your figures are actually quite reflective of forum's in general - been doing some asking around and they seem typical - which is quite interesting really. I spoke to someone who is a member on an unrelated forum, and the admins ran an anonymous poll to try and find out why people did not post.

Top answer was not wanting to look stupid. Interesting, don't you think?

Darren

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Hi Guys,

Well i am back now sorry if it caused any problems me being away for the past few weeks, i will catch up with the forum and offer my input soon. As a quickie i think it's a great idea and one that many people would benefit from so expect some changes in the near future :)..

Kindest Regards

James :sunny:

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