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Author Topic: On maintaining the 3DNA forum  (Read 14615 times)

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On maintaining the 3DNA forum
« on: October 30, 2009, 09:42:16 pm »
This post is out of date, but contains valuable background information and thus kept here for the record.

Note: Recently, I have heard from a few users that they cannot follow the "README!" link (upper right corner in the 3DNA forum) to my blog post titled "On maintaining the 3DNA forum" because blogspot (of Google) is blocked in China (maybe in other countries/areas as well). The blog post, however, contains important message that I want to get across to the community, especially to new 3DNA users. Nevertheless, I do not want to repeat the basic rules repeatedly. Thus, I have duplicated the blog post here and re-directed the "README!" link to the 3DNA forum.

Over the past few years, maintaining the 3DNA forum (i.e., answering questions, performing administrative tasks) has taken up a significant amount of my spare time. Sometimes it could be quite demanding, especially because I need to pay great attention to details. Overall, though, it is a valuable experience, and I feel that the time is well-spent: 3DNA has been continuously refined and more widely used; my knowledge of nucleic acid structures (especially RNA) has been significantly sharpened; I have stayed aware of progress in related research fields and see more of the world; and I feel great pleasure in being of help to the community.

Some basic facts/statistics:
  • I tell everyone who sends me email to ask 3DNA-related questions to register and re-post in the 3DNA forum, but less than 50% actually do this. However, if you want to be helped, you have to follow the rules.
  • Most of the forum registrations (over 90% at times) are spam. To forestall this, I must continually update phpBB3 to its latest version.
  • Over 50% of legitimate registrations end up being deleted instead of being activated due to the users' failure to send me an email for activation, as required. Among those whose send me an email, most use a subject line of "Re: 3DNA forum registration — 'user-id'", as suggested. Only a few volunteer to share with me their real name, address, etc. (e.g., via a signature). Furthermore, some do not post back in the forum after their account is activated.
  • With very few exceptions, questions posted in the forum are normally addressed within a couple of days, or even sooner.
  • Except for one case, communicating with users has mostly been a pleasant experience. Some (though not many) users even posted back a summary and/or a thank-you note.
  • I would like to compliment esguerra, yrxin and tgaillar for sharing their tips and tricks in the section Users' contributions. Apart from me, ghzheng has contributed the most in the forum.
  • Overall, the forum is low volume (which is just fine) and spam-free (which is very important).

To make the forum policy upfront and explicit in order to avoid misunderstandings or surprises, I have been enclosing the following note in each new registration confirmation message:

Your 3DNA forum registration has been activated — welcome aboard! See

I am so pleased that you have come thus far! To make the 3DNA forum a
more pleasant virtual community for all of us to learn from and
contribute to, please be considerate and practice good netiquette
( More specifically, I would like
to reemphasize the following:

0. Do your homework; read the FAQ and browse the forum.
1. Ask your questions in the 3DNA forum instead of sending me emails.
2. Be specific with your questions; provide a minimal, reproducible
   example if possible; use attachments where appropriate.
3. Do not ask for or expect immediate responses to your questions.
   Lower your expectations and you will more likely end up feeling
4. Respond to requests for clarifications.
5. Summarize the solution to your problem(s) from a user's
   perspective by providing details, for the benefit of other users.
6+ Contribute back to 3DNA if you can:
   o Report bugs — including typos
   o Make constructive suggestions — anything to make 3DNA better
   o Answer other users' questions
   o Share your use cases in the "Users' contributions" section

In a nutshell, you are welcome to participate and should not hesitate
to ask questions, but remember to play nice and preferably share what
you've learned!

Thus, intentionally or otherwise, the forum has also acted as a filter to make my life easier. Whenever possible, though, I have tried my best to reward those who follow the simple, common sense rules. After all, nothing should be taken for granted, and no one likes to be taken advantage of. I am glad that through my contributions and user involvement, the forum has survived and 3DNA has thrived (evident from citations, numerous web links to its homepage, other services/tools — including NDB and PDB — taking advantage of its functionality, and more recently, two dedicated web-interfaces), serving as a valuable resource to the community.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2012, 01:02:27 pm by xiangjun »
Xiang-Jun Lu [Administrator of the 3DNA Forum]
3DNA Forum:
3DNA Homepage:
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Created and maintained by Dr. Xiang-Jun Lu [律祥俊] (
The Bussemaker Laboratory at the Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University.