Exciting news tonight, I think. I've been working on this enhancement for a long time, and it's finally ready for everybody to see. This is an addition that has been asked for by many people in the past, and something that I've always wanted to do.
I am adding a new section to the site, containing discussion boards (or forums, I keep going back and forth on what to call them). Boards like these will provide all of us with an additional way to communicate with each other, in an environment that is somewhat more open and instant than in our diaries.
My one concern with adding boards like this has always been in how we would be able to successfully moderate them, and ensure that use of the boards follows the Rules of the site. The answer finally came in the (heavily modified) board software we will be using - the software allows the boards to be integrated with our existing member database. This means that if you choose to use the OD Boards, you will be posting under the same name that you use in the rest of OD. Which means that people who break the Rules on the boards will face the same sort of punishment they would face breaking the Rules on the rest of the site - suspension or deletion of their diary, and possible IP-banning from the site.
It is very important that everybody understands the use of the boards must follow these guidelines - I expect everybody to respect each other as they do on the site, and not to post personal attacks against other members. As I said, such behaviour may result in you being blocked from the boards, having your diary removed, and/or being banned from OD altogether.
So, how to use the boards? You'll notice that there is now a selection for them in the top menu bar. The boards actually reside in a separate subdomain (boards.opendiary.com), so if you want to go directly to them or bookmark them, you can use that address.
You will notice when you first go there, that you will see a notice in the upper left corner which says you must join the boards in able to use them. Joining is easy - all you have to do is click the link one time, and there is no additional information to fill out. This one-time thing transfers the information the system needs to activate your ID in the boards.
After that, any time you log into your diary, you will also be logged into the boards. When you go there, you will see your login name displayed in the upper right corner. Please note that people who are not signed into their diaries can not post in the boards - if you are not logged in, you will show as a "Guest", which means you can read the boards, but you can't post.
I think the board software itself is pretty self-explanatory, and very easy to use. However, it is also extremely powerful - it offers the best features available for this sort of application. I've added a few forums to start - I won't bother describing them here, since you can go there and see for yourself. If anybody has suggestions for additional forums they think would be valuable, please let me know.
Finally, if you are an OD Plus user, you will (of course) see no ads on the boards. Regular members will see ads, just like on the rest of the site.
Edit: Some people have reported clicking the "join" link and not being automatically logged into the boards. If this happens, please try locking and unlocking your diary - that should get you signed into the boards. Please note that the only way to log into the boards is by logging into your diary - this ensures that the two are linked, so we can keep track of activity.