Tomorrow's change from the Google list to a BBS will represent the 3rd Internet move we've made since the formation of ENTS. Our original list was hosted on a local Chicopee, MA server. The idea of ENTS was new and novel and despite the limitations of the server, we attracted lots of folks. Our membership increased to 125. But the listserve was too limited in its features and flexibility. Eventually Joe Zorzin encouraged me to move the list onto the Topica host. Immediately after the move, our membership dropped to around 75 and we stayed there for a long time. We stayed with Topica until Ed, with encouragement from others, prevailed on me to move to Google. That qickly proved to be a step up. With a membership close to 400, we've been successful on Google. It is tempting to stay put because moves are upsetting. We'll likely drop to fraction of our current membership on the BBS, but then the numbers will increase. Hopefully, our mission will be strengthened by a better, more functional designed channel of Internet communication.
Paralleling our email listserve route, our first website was hosted on a University of Arkansas server. The website was created by Matt Therrell, then a doctoral candidate under grand Ent Dr. David Stahle, one of the co-founder of ENTS. That was back in 1996. Ed Frank eventually moved the website to a domain that he purchased himself, and piece by piece, built it into what we have now. Ed has been a one man army and his dedication to ENTS has made him a cornerstone of the organization.
Don Bragg entered the picture to add depth to our science mission by creating the Bulletin of the Eastern Native Tree Society in the summer of 2006, a decade after the organization was officially launched. So today, ENTS is visible on the Internet through our listserve (to become a BBS), our website, and the Bulletin. We are also known within state conservation organizations, NPS, USFS, and environmental organizations based on presentations we give and projects we do for those organizations.
I don't know how much standing we have within the scientific community considering our free wheeling style. I would image many scientists view us as an assemblage of hobbyists often with interesting information to share, but not necessarily to be taken too seriously. Others recognize a deeper level of expertise and recognize that we have valuable contributions to make. The question those of us in the Executive Committee are constantly asking ourselves is how do we build on our successes.
Recently I re-visited the Peakbagger.com website:
Peakbaggers is a non-commercial interest group that collects information and statistics about the mountain peaks and mountain ranges of the world. They are intensely serious about mountains and compile accurate information about the ranges and individual mountains of prominence around the world.
I draw inspiration from their example. I encourage Ents to visit the peakbaggers's site. It is time we took our big/tall lists more seriously. With the BBS, we can push for higher standards with the accomplishments of peakbaggers showing us the way. We can accomplish this goal while retaining a conviviality that has marked our communications. We just won't be mixing casual conversation with serious data gathering, analysis, and presentation.