Author: Joel Abrams

What Are Discussions?
A discussion on is a kind of electronic bulletin board where you can post a message. Someone else can post a responding message below your message, and then a message below that, and so on. You can respond to anyone else's messages with your advice and opinions.

Any user of, from anywhere in the world, can read all the messages posted on the discussion boards. So it's a great way to ask for advice or offer your experiences to entrepreneurs who are your peers. If you'd like to respond to a message, or start a discussion yourself, we ask that you get a free membership (Membership also gives you access to My and free tools.)

The discussions are organized into folders, just like the files on your computer. Folders can have subfolders within them, as well as discussions. Each discussion focuses on one specific topic, within the broader topic of the folder.

When you click on a folder name, you'll see the contents of that folder, which may include subfolders and discussions. The one at the top of the list is where you'll find the most recently posted message. At the bottom of the list are discussions where nobody has written anything recently.

Q: How do I log in?

Before you can log in, you must first join Membership is free, and just requires filling out a short registration form to tell us about yourself.

Whenever you're not logged in, you'll see a log in form in the upper-right of your screen. (If you are logged in already, you'll see a link that lets you log out.) To protect your personal information, we save your user name on your computer, but we do not save your password. This means you must type your password to log in, even if your user name appears in the log in form.

Logging in allows the discussion software to keep track of which messages you've read, so you can tell at a glance where there are new responses. You might want to get into the habit of logging in each time you arrive at the discussions. This also allows you to use the message center.

Q: How do I reply to a message?

First, you need to log in. (See How do I log in? above.)

If you're already in the discussion you wish to participate in, scroll down to the bottom of the screen. You should see a big text-entry field. Just type your message there, and then click the "Post My Message" button.

When you're in a discussion and logged in, you'll also see a "Reply" button next to each message. Clicking it will take you to a new page with just that message and the box to type your own message.

Q: How do I start a discussion of my own?

If you're in a folder where you can start a new discussion, click on the "Add New Discussion" link from the toolbar of links at the bottom of the page. You can't start a new discussion when you're already in a discussion. If there's nothing on your page but a discussion header and messages, you're in a discussion. That link also does not appear on the top-level Discussions home page.

If you have a question or an idea that you want to post, you should surf around to see if there's a discussion already going on about that topic. You can also use the search link found in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. If the issue is already being addressed, please add your message to the end of that discussion.

What rules of netiquette are there here?
Moderators will enforce two basic rules with the aim of making our discussions a friendly place to exchange ideas and information.

  1. Ads are banned from all discussions other than the Announcements & Networking folder.
  2. Expletives and personal attacks are banned from every discussion on
Our moderators will delete such messages, but they'll spend most of their time starting discussions and chiming in on discussions that users start. does not collect the e-mail addresses of bulletin board visitors. Unscrupulous marketers sometimes collect e-mail addresses of those who participate in public forums on the Web, but we unfortunately cannot stop them.

Q: How do I put a link in my message?

You need to know a little HTML to put in a link — but very little. The HTML command that creates a hyperlink looks like this:

<A HREF=Web address>Name of the Link</A> The Web address, technically known as the URL, begins with http://... and appears in the window at the top of your browser. It's where you want people to go when they click on the link. "Name of the Link" are the words that other people will see underlined in the link; you should change this to the name of the site or the headline of an article to which you're linking.

What other formatting can I use in my message?
You can do several things to make your message look good. To divide your message into paragraphs, leave a blank line between the paragraphs — i.e., hit the "Enter" key twice. If you hit the "Enter" key only once, the cursor will simply advance one space.

Standard HTML formatting codes — including <BR>, <P>, and <B> — all will work. Certain advanced HTML tags — including tables, images, and blinking text — are not available in messages.

Don't want to learn HTML codes? Quick commands let you format the text them. If you start a line with a b and then a space, everything after that b will be in boldface until you hit the "Enter" key once. For example:

I want to give
b special emphasis
to this thought.

When your message displays, this will look like:
I want to give special emphasis to this thought.

The quick edit commands are:
B - bold
i - italic
c - center this line
* - bulleted paragraph
] - indented paragraph
> - indented paragraph using a special font to indicate quoted text

Q: How do I get the BizCard icon next to my name?

The BizCard icon will show up next to your name automatically if you've created one for yourself in My You need to be a member of to do this — but you already joined so that you could post a message. The BizCard itself is an electronic business card, which is your entry in the Biz-to-Biz Directory on It's a good way to attach your contact information to a message that you post.

To create your card, go to My, and then click on the "Create/Edit BizCard" link in the yellow navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen.

Q: How do I get rid of the BizCard icon?

If you're uncomfortable revealing some (or any) of the information that displays on the BizCard, go to My, and then click on the "Create/Edit BizCard" link in the yellow navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen. You can edit your personal data, or delete the card entirely.

Q: How do I see just new messages?

The "Message Center" feature is a good way to see at a glance the new messages in either the whole discussions area, or in just those discussions that interest you.

To use it, you must first subscribe to the areas that interest you. To track all new messages, click on the "Subscribe to All" link in the toolbar at the bottom of the top-level page of the discussion boards ( To track only the folders that are of interest to you, click on the "Subscribe" link in the toolbar of each individual folder.

Now, when you click on the "Message Center" link, you'll see all the messages you haven't read yet. The order may appear somewhat random, but it's actually based on the alphabetical order of the folder in which the messages appear (from Announcing & Networking to Zinc).

Once you've read all those messages that interest you, you can clear out the rest of the messages by clicking on "Preferences" from the toolbar and then picking up with step 3 in the instructions below for clearing out new messages. Note that you will see messages in your message center that were there the last time you checked in, unless you either clear them or read them.

If you click on the "Next New Message" link in the toolbar, you'll be taken right to the next message in the list on your Message Center page, even if you haven't actually visited the Message Center. Hitting "Next New Message" repeatedly is a great way to scroll through the new stuff, after you've subscribed to the folders that interest you. (Occasionally, you may see repeat messages, due to an oddity in how data is shared between the three computers that run the discussions software.)

Q: How do I track interesting discussions?

There are three ways to do this. They all work only when you're logged in.

  1. Click on the "Subscribe" link at the bottom of a folder or discussion that interests you, and you'll be able to easily follow what's new there. Once you've subscribed, you can check for new messages in your "Message Center." When you click that link, you'll see all the new messages in all your subscribed folders and discussions. This will show you at a glance all the new stuff you're interested in.
  2. Click on the "Add to Portfolio" link at the top of your screen, sandwiched in the black bar between the advertisement and the Discussions tab. Your portfolio is a filing cabinet where you can save links to anything on that interests you. When you click the link, a little window will pop up where you can type a name that will help you remember the discussion. Then select a folder in your portfolio and click "save." The link won't show you new messages in the discussion, but on the other hand you can pop-up your portfolio from anywhere on our site by clicking the "View Portfolio" link at the top of the screen.
  3. Click on the "Mark" button that you see next to every message. This will put a link to that message at the bottom of your "Message Center." You can also add a comment next to the bookmark.
Q: How do I clear out the six bazillion "new" messages?

The number of new messages you see after you log in is really the number of messages you haven't seen before, regardless of how old they are. So when you first come to the discussion boards, the number will be high. To clear them out:

  1. From the top-level page of the discussion boards (, click on the "Subscribe to All" link in the toolbar at the bottom of the page.
  2. Click on the blue "Preferences" button on the next screen.
  3. On your preferences screen, scroll down to the bottom (past where it says "+Include /", which is tech-speak for "include messages from everywhere") and select "Mark subscription list as current". Click "Set Preferences."
  4. Then on the next screen, click "OK".
You can now click on the "Cancel All Subscription" link from the toolbar, if you wish, but it's useful to remain subscribed to all so that you can use the Message Center.

If your question was not answered here, or if you have any other comments, please contact us.