Introduction to the Chironomid Exchange Forum
Many times I have visited John Epler's webpage with additions and corrections to his identification manual for larval Chironomidae of North and South Carolina (see http://home.comcast.net/~johnepler3/index.html), I have thought how useful it would be to have similar listings of important corrections and updates for all the major reference works being used in chironomid research. Then, everybody using such a standard tool – e.g., an identification key to taxa – could stay as up to date as everyone else on necessary modifications to its contents, and could evaluate any detail in that work which may not look quite right, all by making no more than a few mouse clicks rather than having to perform cumbersome searches for possibly informative other publications or for a colleague who might be willing and able to help.
One widely used resource for which listings like Epler's have been desirable for a long time are the three Entomologica scandinavica Supplement books with keys and diagnoses to the Chironomidae of the Holarctic region (edited by Torgny Wiederholm 1983, 1986, 1989). The fact that the first of these volumes, the one on larvae, will see a revised edition published in the hopefully near future, has now – at long last – led to active attempts to transform the wishful thinking reported above into reality.
Consequently, it is my pleasure today to invite all of you to visit and, if you're interested, register (for free) as a member of the brand new Chironomid Exchange Forum at http://www.chironomidae.net/chiroforum/. This site has been set up for us by Ethan Bright, who thankfully has been providing enormous volunteer service to the chironomid community for years by maintaining the Chironomid Home Page (http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/~ethanbr/chiro/).
The initial intended purpose of the Chironomid Exchange Forum is to produce supplementary and updating information on widely used standard references, as outlined above. However, by visiting the site you will find that the Forum could also serve as a venue for communication about chironomid issues of more general kinds (but definitely not about any non-chironomid issues).
Hopefully, this new service will result in more, and more widely spread, such exchanges than chironomid research has seen in recent times. Towards this aim, the Forum is meant to supplement, not to replace the long-existing Chironomid Listserver for discussions by e-mail (http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/~ethanbr/chiro/internet_res.html). The Forum adds significant functionality, not available via the listserver, by allowing us to continually post datasets of general community interest that are to be gradually improved via feedback from as many participants as feasible.
At this time, the basic structure of the Chironomid Exchange Forum is as follows. When you open the "Home" page of the site, the main parts of the screen are divided horizontally by dark blue bars representing the headers of the sections (also called boards) into which the Forum contents are divided. The title of each such section is given in white letters at the left end of the bar. Underneath each such heading, there is a row with light blue background and a label "Comments" in orange color. In these Comments rows, as well as in the "General Discussion" section near the top of the screen, everyone will be able to view and comment on content posted in them.
However, to access the major contents the Forum is mostly intended for, one has to initially register once and then on each visit log in as a member. When you have done so, a second set of light blue rows will appear between the respective section header bar and comments row. Each such row is labeled "Data" on the left, and offers its respective contents either directly or by links to downloadable files.
Basically, there will be two kinds of Forum membership: one for so-called moderators with the opportunity and responsibility to upload and update content in the Data rows, and regular membership for those who will be able to view and discuss such moderator-posted data, but not to alter them.
At the time of this writing, Ethan Bright and myself are the only registered moderators in the Forum. It is our great hope, though, that a good number of colleagues will sign up soon and not only more or less passively receive what is offered there, but also agree to moderating parts of the posted content on behalf and in the interest of the entire community. For example, an author of any standard reference discussed in the Forum – e.g. an author of a subfamily chapter in one or more of the Wiederholm volumes – would be a most natural choice for moderator of the corresponding Forum section. His/her responsibility, possibly shared with other moderators for the same section, would be to upload documents and/or data in that section, e.g. a PDF file summarizing all corrections and notes on a relevant identification key known up to that time, and to incorporate corresponding input from the membership, as applicable. The latter feedback could come in the form of comments within the Forum, or via e-mail directly and exclusively to a moderator, which would be the method of choice whenever actual data of considerable volume are transmitted.
Examples of data that can be posted, along the outlines in the first paragraphs of this introduction, can be viewed on the site already – that is, if and when you register for membership (which, of course, you can cancel again at any time).
As I have learned myself, finding one's way around the Forum functions and technicalities takes a little getting used to if one doesn't do such things all the time, but it isn't really difficult, and the platform on which the site is running does offer help pages.
With this, Ethan and I would be delighted to welcome as many of you as possible among the new Forum's membership soon, and then to see many data posted and discussed there for the benefit of chironomid research and the people pursuing it.
Martin Spies, 31 December 2011