How to...

How to Use the Discussion Forums and Libraries




Community. A group of people with a shared interest, communicating and collaborating on that interest. SPM is our top-level of global community.

Discussion groups. Sub-communities within the global SPM community. Depending on the context, these are sometimes called SIGs (for Special Interest Groups), Member Generated Communities, or just communities.

Discussions. Groups of conversations within each discussion group, consisting of individual threads.

Threads. Individual conversations consisting of one or more posts on a topic within a discussion.

Posts: individual messages within a thread.

(back to top

General concepts and information

The purpose for this SPM discussion platform is to help us communicate, exchange information, and collaborate on shared goals and projects related to participatory medicine. No tool or software does everything or works perfectly. If you experience problems here or have suggestions about how to make this better, please use the Contact Us link at the top of the page to share your ideas.

This platform is designed to be usable with both computers and mobile devices. The layout and theme are what is called 'responsive' so things change location and size depending on the type and size of the screen. All the information in this guide is based on a computer screen, so things will look and work somewhat differently on your tablet or phone.

While this Forum can be used via email (and you can receive notifications through both email and RSS for newsreaders), there are some definite advantages to using the online interface:

  • Some functionalities only exist with the online interface. 
  • Starting a conversational thread by email requires knowing the email address for that specific discussion group.
  • Starting a conversational thread by email means that you cannot browse to see if that discussion is already occurring, and you may end up duplicating a conversation. If that happens, a moderator may lock your conversation and ask you to make your comments in the existing pertinent thread. 
  • The online interface is the only way to browse to see what conversations and announcements have occurred, to look for discussion groups to join, to look through libraries or download documents and resources.

We encourage you to use the online interface as much as feasible and become familiar with it. In our testing, the difference in how long it takes to do tasks like starting or replying to a conversation is measured in seconds, once one has become comfortable with the process.

(back to top


Homepage annotated map

home page map

1. Header

a. Contact us form.

b. Code of conduct for our communities.

c. Link to your profile.

2. Main or top menu bar

d. Link to get back to the Homepage

e. Communities drop down link to access All Communities where you are a member or can join, and MyCommunities where you are a member.

f. Link to the directory of SPM members

g. Link to scheduled events.

h. Browse drop down link to browse discussions or library entries.

i. Participate drop down to links for posting to discussion groups, sharing files, or joining a community

j. User's Guide dropdown to access FAQs, site instructions, and video tutorials.

k. Search: type a word here to search for it in the discussions and libraries.

3. Body (most pages are two columns)

l. Latest Discussions with subject, poster and a teaser snippet from the most recent posts. (If you are on a Community Homepage, you will see the latest posts in that community.

m. Announcements

n. Upcoming events

o. Recently share files

p. Links to members at the bottom of the page (scroll down)

(back to top)  


Registration, logging in, and password management

NOTE: Your membership password on the main SPM site ( is NOT the password here on Connect, our discussion forum platform. You need to register on Connect and set your password. You can use the same password in both places, if you choose.

New registration (see three screenshots below):

  • The first time you navigate to you will see a link in the upper right corner 'New members set password'. Click this.
  • In the login form, click the 'Set or reset your password link' 
  • Enter your email address and click 'Send password link'
  • You will get an email with a link that allows you to set your password and login.




Logging in:

  • Your Username is the email address you use for SPM
  • You set your password the first time you access the site. (See above.)
  • If you have forgotten your password, you can recover or rest it. (See below.)

Password recovery/reset:

  • Click 'Sign in'
  • Click 'Set or reset your password' 
  • Enter your email address and click 'Send link'
  • You will receive an email with a link to set or reset your password and login.

Password requirements:

  • Passwords must be at least 6 characters and at least 1 (one) upper case letter.

(back to top


Profile and Account

Your profile is extremely important. It allows members to find other members with similar interests or specific skills. The more information you add, the better and more effective our community will be. PLEASE take the time to add a picture and fill out your profile. In the top right corner of the online interface is the link to your profile. It gives you two options, Profile (where your profile, connections, contributions and account are) and Communities.


  • Please replace the default silhouette by uploading a photo of yourself, using the 'Actions' button under the photo.
  • Add information about yourself in the various categories:
    • Contact details 
    • Bio
    • Education
    • Job history
    • Social links
    • Affiliations

Connections, where you will find three options:

  • Contacts
  • Networks
  • Communities (the Discussion groups where you are a member)


Contributions, where you will see:

  • Summary.
  • Achievements.
  • List of contributions.


Account: Here you can set some important details about privacy and notifications.

  • InBox: here you can read and reply to internal messages, see invitations to join communities and requests for contact.
  • Privacy settings; here you can determine what is visible to the public, to SPM members, or to no one.
  • Email preferences: here you can determine how often you get emails from the system.
  • RSS feeds: if you prefer to follow discussion groups with a newsreader, here is where you can subscribe to some or all of the discussion group feeds.
  • Community notifications: here is where you set your preferences for email notification from discussion groups.
  • Discussion signature: here you can set the 'signature' that appears with your posts.


Communities. This lists the communities where you are a member and those that you can join.

(back to top) 


Discussion groups (communities)

Annotated Map of Discussion Group Homepage 

  1. Settings, where you can adjust your email notifications for that discussion group, and leave the discussion group.
  2. Tabe for the Homepage for that discussion group.
  3. Discussion: tab for the list of discussion threads, in reverse chronologic order, with number of replies and last post. 
  4. Library: tab to see files uploaded to the Library for that discussion group.
  5. Members: tab to see the membership in tha discussion group.
  6. Brief description of the purpose or guidelines for that discussion group.
  7. The left side of the body of the page contains a button for starting a conversation ('Add') and a list of the most recent posts.
  8. The top of the rigt side of the body of the page is for announcements.
  9. Below the announcements on the right side of the page are the most recently added files in the Library. 


Lists of discussion groups (communities):

  • All Communities: this lists both the discussion groups where you are a member and those you can join.
  • My Communities: this lists the discussion groups you have joined. 
  • Invitation only: there are some discussion groups that are intended to be limited to a small number of individuals working on a project or issue that may be set so one needs to be invited to join the group. 
  • Hidden: there are some special purpose groups that are hidden.

Joining a discussion group:

  • Find discussion groups you are able to join either by looking at the Communities > All Communities list or by going to your Profile > Connections > Explore All Communities.
  • If a Community has a blue 'JOIN' button, you can join that discussion group by clicking it. 
  • You will get a box that lists your email address and lets you pick whether to get real-time notifications of posts (an email every time something is posted), a daily digest (an email once daily listing that day's posts), or no notifications. Then you click to confirm that you wish to join.

Discussion group email notification settings (subscribing or following):

  • There are three community-level notification options:
    • Real-time: you get an email whenever a post is made.
    • Daily digest: you get an email once daily with that day's posts.
    • No emails: you get no notification of new posts. (This is good for a group you want to follow peripherally but where you are not active.) 
  • When you join a discussion group, you are always given the opportunity to determine how often you wish to receive email notification of posts.
  • For discussion groups you are in by default, the usual default setting is daily digest.
  • You can always change your settings by navigating to that Discussion group, clicking the 'Settings' button with the gear icon next to the name of the group near the top, and using the blue button to pick.
  • Subscribing and unsubscribing to threads:
    • If you post, reply to a post, or 'like' a post in a thread, Connect will automatically 'subscribe' you to that thread.
    • Once subscribed, you will get real-time notification of new posts in that thread - REGARDLESS of your notification settings for that community. (e.g., if your notifications for My Favorite Community are daily digest, but you start a thread, reply in a thread, or like a post in a thread within that community, Connect will send you real-time notifications of new posts in that discussion thread - but not for the entire community.
    • There is at this time no list of threads to which you are subscribed, and you will not get a notification when you post, reply or 'like' that you will get real-time notifications in that thread.
    • If you wish to unsubscribe to a thread, you havae to navigate to the top of that thread and click on the black star icon - this will unsubscribe you from that thread.

Use RSS to subscribe to a discussion group:

  • From your Profile icon in the top right click the Profile button, use the My Account tab to access the RSS control panel
  • Be sure the Discussions tab is picked and the 'Using this Forum' box is checked.
  • Use the check boxes to select the discussion groups you wish to subscribe to in your news reader.
  • Copy the link provided at the bottom (for use in your news reader).
  • Save
  • Go to your news reader and add a new feed using the link you copied.

Leaving a discussion group:

  • Navigate to the Discussion Group you wish to leave
  • Click the 'Settings' button with the gear icon next to the name of the group near the top.
  • Click the 'Leave group' button.

 Browsing and reading discussions:

  • To browse, one needs to use the online interface. This cannot be done by email. 
  • To read a thread or conversation, click on the subject

Replying to a post in a thread:

  • Using the online interface:
    • Click on the thread where you want to reply.
    • Click the 'Reply to Discussion' button
    • Type or paste your reply in the text area. (It has a WYSIWYG text editor.)
    • You may edit your signature
    • You can use 'Original Message' to see the original post. This can be very useful in a long thread.
    • You can attach a file to be uploaded to the Library. (See Library for instructions.)
    • Click Send.
  • From an email
    • When you get an email notification of a post in a discussion group, it has links to reply to the individual, reply to the group, view the thread, or navigate to the online interface to reply.

Posting (starting a new thread or conversation). There are several ways to do this:

  • From the discussion group home page
    • Navigate to the Discussion Group where you wish to start a conversation.
    • Click the 'Add' button.
    • Type or paste your reply in the text area. (It has a WYSIWYG text editor.)
    • You may edit your signature
    • You can use 'Original Message' to see the original post. This can be very useful in a long thread.
    • You can attach a file to be uploaded to the Library. (See Library for instructions.)
    • Click Send.
  • From the SPM Homepage using the 'Participate' menu the process is the same.
  • Using email rather than the online interface
    • Send an email to the Discussion Group with the email address specific to that discussion group.
    • CAUTION: when starting a conversation using email this way, it is like walking into a room and starting to talk without seeing what is happening in the room. You run the risk of duplicating a conversational thread that already exists. This is a problem becuase it makes it harder to keep information in a findable and usable form. If an admin or moderator sees a post that duplicates an ongoing conversation, they will 'lock' it so that others cannot reply, and will contact you to ask you to post your comment in the existing thread.

 (back to top

Member directory

Using the default basic search, you can search for other members by first name, last name, company, or email address.

Using the advanced search, you can also search by location, group membership, or keyword.

(back to top



This is a listing of coming events. If you click on the link for the event name, you will see details of that event.

The 'Calendar' link in the light blue top menu bar will take you to SPM's Google calendar on the site. You can subscribe to this calendar so SPM events also appear in your Google calendar.

If you want to add an event to the SPM calendar, you can add an event to YOUR Google calendar and then invite guests using the SPM event email address <> it will appear on the SPM Google calendar.

(back to top



You can browse discussions or library entries.

Browsing discussions:

  • Click 'Discussion posts' under the 'Browse' top menu item.
  • You will see a listing of discussions in reverse chronological order, with the discussion with the most recent post on top. 
  • Use the 'per page' option at the top right of the list to control how many discussions you see at a time.
  • (You can also use the 'Post to a discussion' button here to start a new conversational thread.)
  • The list shows:
    • The subject of the conversational thread. Click on this to see the thread.
    • The number of replies.
    • The time and author of the most recent post in the thread.
    • The name of the discussion group or community where that thread can be found.
  • Click on the Subject to see the conversation. 
    • You will see the hierarchy of posts listed at the top with the full posts underneath.
    • You can post your comments in this thread here. 


Browsing library entries:

  • Click 'Library entries' under the 'Browse' top menu item.
  • You will see a listing of library items in reverse chronological order (most recent on top).
  • If the library item icon has a link on it, clicking on it will open the item in a new window.

(back to top



The Library is where various kinds of files are stored for access, after being uploaded through the online interface.

  • Most Discussion Groups have a dedicated Library, which can be accessed from the Homepage of that discussion group.
  • Files in all the libraries are browsable through the 'Browse' drop down in the top menu.

(back to top



The 'Participate' dropdown contains shortcuts to tools for posting messages, sharing files, and joining communities.

Post a message:

  • Click on Post a message to get the message creation form
  • Pick the discussion group (community) you wish to post in from the top drop down. It will only list the discussion groups where you are a member.
  • It is possible - but strongly discouraged - to cross post, posting your message in two places. This splits the conversation. If you want your post to be known in another group, the recommended approach is to post in that other group alerting its members to the discussion in this group.
  • Type a clear and concise Subject in the Subject box. "Question" doesn;t help people know what the post is about. "Question about diabetes treatments" is informative. 
  • Use the large white text box to type or copy/paste your post. It has a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. Most people are somewhat familiar with these from word processing programs.
  • Your signature is automatically included from your profile, but you can edit it here.
  • Attachment(s) lets you upload an attached document into the Library associated with that discussion group.
  • 'Send' posts the message.

(back to top


Share a file:

  • Click share a file to upload a file to a library.
  • Enter a meaningful title for the file to be uploaded.
  • Enter a short but meaningful description. This will appear in the Library entry, and the goal is to help other members understand what the file is about and what it contains.
  • Select a library to upload to. If you select a library from a discussion group where you are NOT a member, it will ask you to select an email notification setting and then will add you to that discussion groupp.
  • Select a file type. Most uploads are 'Standard File Uploads' and the description here relates to that. Other file types have more complicated upload processes, not in this instruction page (yet).
  • Click 'Next" and use the 'Choose and Upload' button to and then the 'choose files' button in the next screen to pick a file from your computer to upload. 
  • Click 'Finish' to complete the process. 

 (back to top)


Join a community:

  • Click 'Join a community'
  • You get a list of the communities available for you to join with brief descriptions and some information about the number of discussions, library files and members.
  • Click Join if you wish to join a discussion group.
  • You will then be given the opportunity to select how often you want email notifications of new posts in that discussion group (real time, daily digest, none).


(back to top) 

Feedback and Contact Us:

The Contact Us form at the top right of the page is an easy way to send feedback, offer suggestions, request help, or volunteer to become part of the Forum team. 


(back to top)