The cheese forum is the world's most popular cheese making discussion board. It has been running since 2007 and has some 3,400 members and almost 100,000 posts covering over 10,000 cheese-related topics.
The cheese forum is my go-to resource whenever I want to expand my knowledge or just can't quite find the answer I need. But, it can be a bit difficult to get going as a newbie and, even if you've been on there for a while, you may not appreciate just what a phenomenal resource this is.
With that in mind, and this website's mission to help get more people into the joy of making cheese at home, I've written this guide on how to get the very best out of the Cheese Forum. Let's get started, shall we?
If you're in a rush and don't want to read the whole article, use the clickable navigation panel below to take you directly to the information you need.
The first step is to find the website and then work your way through to the forum pages themselves. To get there you need http://www.cheeseforum.org then:
When you get there, you will not actually land in the forum itself. Instead, you'll land on the owner's (John, a.k.a Cheese Head) wiki page. To get to the forum proper, click on the forum tab at the top of the page (highlighted above), which takes you to...
... an intermediate page.
I'm not sure why the extra page is needed, but just click on the 'forum link' link, and you'll arrive where you need to be.
Now you are on the forum proper. Even at first glance (see the screen grab below) you can see what a huge resource this forum is for cheese makers of all abilities.
The boards are split into three broad groups:
I'll return to each of these later in the article. For now, take whatever time you need to look at the different topics of conversation that are to be had, and I'll see you on the other side to go through setting up an account.
You can quite happily just browse the cheese forum at your leisure, but there are distinct advantages in setting up a profile and actually joining in the conversation as a member. The screen grab below shows what these are:
If you decide to join (and I hope and recommend that you do) it is a straight forward affair:
1. Click on 'Register' at the top of the page.
2. Agree to the registration conditions (and confirm that you are over 15 years old).
3. Complete your user details, including a user name and password, and the rather tricky (I needed 3 attempts) 'captcha' text.
Now you are a user, there are some helpful first reads that you should get under your belt before you make your first post. It will also help to modify, or broaden out, your profile before you start writing, so other members can understand more about you.
First reads are just to help you get to grips with the etiquette, culture and usability of the forum. They are all accessed from the forum home page, which is reached simply by clicking on the 'Home' button at the top of the page, then click on the 'Webmaster's Board' which is the third one from the top.
My two recommended reads from the Webmaster's Board are below (and are clickable to take you to the actual page on the forum).
My final recommended step before finally going off to play is to modify your profile.
Below is a standard profile box that you will see at the side of every post in every thread. Each of the elements is described below, which will help make sense modify profile page.
With that knowledge in place, it's time to complete your profile so that we can get interacting with the rest of the community.
Navigate to the modify profile page by clicking on the profile tab, and then on the forum profile link on the drop down menu, as shown above.
This will take you to the 'modify profile' page where the headings are self explanatory. Below you can see mine as I've completed it.
Click on 'change profile' at the bottom right hand corner, and this part of our journey is done. Time to begin posting!
As you saw above, the cheese forum effectively has a 'home page' which is its list of discussion boards. This list is split into three broad groups:
At the time of writing, there are almost fifty separate boards up and running, so there is a great chance that your question has been covered before. My advice is to take the time to look around (read the 'Cheese Forum Shortcuts section below for how). I have rarely had to raise a new thread just because there is so much information already available.
If you read the webmaster's advice page you'll have seen he recommends posting first on the Introductions Board, so let's do that now.
Using the two screen shots below, navigate to the introductions board, select it and then click on 'new topic'.
You'll now be on a post editing screen which looks like the one below.
In the screenshot above, you can see that I've written the draft post in the large white box (I've explained all the icons and functions in the next section).
I recommend previewing your comments before posting by hitting the blue 'preview' button in the bottom right hand corner. The preview panel is the yellow box at the stop of the screen shot. You can see that this has converted my reference to this website to a clickable hyperlink automatically. This is exactly what the post will look like to other forum members if I hit 'post' now.
When you are happy with what you've written, do exactly that (i.e. hit the blue 'post' button in the bottom right hand corner) and you'll be taken back to the board page, where you'll see that your new post has just hit the top of the list under any fixed posts from the webmaster.
On this last shot, I have clicked back into the post, You can see my personal text just above the picture, I am a new cheese with one wedge. My signature appears at the bottom of the post (and I've changed this now to link to this website) and my personal text 'let's make cheese' appears under my number of posts.
Within the post-editing area, there are a number of options that can help make your post more useful to the rest of the community. Using the numbered picture below, let's explore some of these now.
As much as I can in the rest of this article, I'll be referring back to the numbered list above.
This is really straight forward. You can click on the insert image button (the first button in block 7, above) and add the url for your image if it's stored appropriately. The much easier way is to click on 'attachments and other options' (14, above) and browse the picture on your computer by clicking on the 'choose file' button as shown in the picture below.
You can see the other options you are presented with when you click on the add attachments button, and they are fairly self-explanatory. The one that I use the most if the check box against 'notify me of replies' which will make sure you are emailed whenever a reply is made to one of your posts.
A lot of the formatting functionality of a post comes from adding little pieces of code in square brackets. This tells the post editor that the tex between two sets of square brackets has a special meaning and that meaning is determined by the letters inside the square brackets.
Adding a hyperlink is the example that I use the most in my posts. A hyperlink is the technical word for what we all just call a link to a website or web page.
Pressing the 'add hyperlink' button (see number 7 in the list above) puts this set of two square bracket codes into your post: [url] and [/url].
URL is shorthand for webpage address. The first square bracket [url] tells the editor that what comes next is part of a hyperlink. The second square bracket [/url] uses the backslash to tell the editor that it's reached the end of the hyperlink code.
The easiest way of using this functionality to share a link to this web page with other members of the forum, is to copy the page address and insert it between the two sets of square brackets, as shown below.
Which then becomes an underlined and clickable link to this webpage in the post itself.
It is possible (and advisable) to tidy these links up a bit when they are a bit long and rambling.
To do that, I make use of the code functionality within the text I'm writing to create a clickable link that is just part of the flow of my writing, rather than a web address, such as below.
Creating that type of clickable link starts with editing the first [url] tag by adding an = sign inside the square bracket and then the web address, so it looks like this: [url=http://websiteaddress]
I've highlighted below what it looks like for the clickable link to this article.
Then, between the two tags, add the words that you want to become the clickable link in your post. For this example, I added the text 'the ultimate guide to the cheese forum' which I want forum members to be able to click to land at this page.
Before and after the [url] codes, you should write as normal, and what you end up with is a clickable text link which is a lot easier on the reader's eye.
The quotes system is a really useful piece of functionality to use if you want to make it clear to other readers that your reply is only to a specific comment or part of one post, rather than the whole thread or original question.
You might use it, for example, if someone has given a long response but one small part of it is incorrect and you have a better answer. In your post, you can highlight the part you think is incorrect in quotes then give your alternative underneath. This link shows a good example in the 5th response in the thread.
To walk though how to do it, let's suppose I want to make a comment about this poster's specific comment on Swiss International Airlines, which I've outlined in red below.
In my post, I'd write my comment and then click on the 'add quote' button (in block 9, above), which provides the [quote] and [/quote] tags in my post, as highlighted below. This is code that tells the forum software to display whatever text is between the tags as a quote.
Between those two tags, I've added the copied paragraph that I highlighted above.
My comment with that quote in it now looks like this:
Everyone following the thread can now clearly see which specific piece of the conversation I am responding to.
Note of caution: It is considered bad form to use lots of quoting in threads as it really clogs them up and does not make for a good user experience. My rule of thumb is only to use quotes if it is not really obvious what you are replying to.
Bulleted lists are incredibly useful in posts, particularly if you are describing a recipe or the steps you've taken in creating your homemade cheese.
To start a bulleted list, click on the bullet list button (which is the first button in group 10 of the 'Different Things You Can Do in a Post' section, above) which will give you the code you see in the picture on the left.
Bullet code is a little different to what we've seen so far, as it consists of two pairs of tags. The first are [list] and [/list] showing where the entire list starts and ends. The second set are the [li] and [/li] which tell the post where each individual bullet point starts and ends. You can see the effect of this in this second picture.
(Note: I have written the words 'this is a bulleted list' before pressing the bullets button.)
For each additional bullet in your list, you will need to add [li] and [/li] tags before and after it so that it displays as a bullet point in your finished list.
In the first picture below, you can see that I have added a further four bullets and added my own text in between each of the [li] and [/li] tags. If you look at the last bullet on the list in the second picture, you can see what happens if the [/li] is not typed correctly, i.e. the software doesn't see it as code and treats it as part of your text.
You can create a numbered bullets list by selecting the numbered bullets button, This is the middle button in group 10 in the 'Different Things You Can Do in a Post' section, above.
The process is exactly the same but, as you can see in the 'before and after' pictures below, the code is slightly different at the start of your list because it has the '=decimal' portion to make the bullets numbered. Note though that you still use the [li] and [/li] tags around each bullet point.
Bookmarks are a way of shortcutting to your favourite threads. Whenever you are reading the posts within a particular thread, the menu shown below will be at the top of the thread on the right hand side of your screen.
If the thread is one you want to follow, or refer back to easily in the future, quite simply click on the 'add bookmark' button.
You will immediately be transported to your own 'my bookmarks' page (my own is shown below) where the thread you've just been looking at will now appear. To get back there in the future, you can click on 'my bookmarks' in the main menu from anywhere in the forum.
There is no sort functionality in the 'my bookmarks' page, instead they are automatically sorted chronologically based on the date of last entry. To delete a thread from your bookmarks page, click in the empty box at the far right of the thread title and click on the 'delete selected bookmarks' button in the bottom right hand corner.
As a member of the cheese forum, you can have updates to a thread automatically emailed to you and you can easily see which of your posts have had updates made to them since you last visited.
By the side of the "hello [profile name]" box are two options. The second of these 'show new replies to your posts' does exactly what it implies. Clicking on it will show every response to one of your posts since you last were on the site.
Notification is a step on from this. Using it, you can have an email sent to you whenever an additional post is made on the thread or board you are interested in. Whilst in a thread or board, click on the 'notify' button to automatically set it up.
If you don't want to receive updates anymore, then, in the same thread or board, click on the 'un-notify' button, or read the 'Advanced Profile Settings' section below to see how to get more out of notifications.
In this section, I'm going to quickly show you a number of easy to use shortcuts that are sprinkled throughout the cheese forum.
At the bottom left hand corner of every thread you will see 'quick reply' which opens up a text box right there and allows for (surprisingly) a quick reply.
The bottom right hand corner of every thread has a 'jump to' box which contains a complete list of every board on the cheese forum. For quick moving around the forum, click on this box, select your desired cheese board and click 'go' to be transported there immediately.
Where ever you go on the forum, your 'Hello Username' box will be at the top left hand side of the page. The options in red, i.e. show unread posts and show replies to my posts, are two pieces of functionality that I find invaluable whenever I revisit.
Above the posts in a thread are short cuts for moving through the pages of posts, these are the left hand side of the screen.
On the right hand side of the screen, you'll see the 'previous / next' options. These allow you to move through the threads within a board.
You can email or send a direct message to any cheese forum member straight from any post they have made by simply clicking on their name.
There may be times when you just need a bit of direct help or advice from another member who you can see is an expert from the posts they have made previously. Or, you may just want to bring their attention to a thread you have been looking at that they could add value to or find interest in. So, in this section, I'm going to look at how to make contact with other forum members.
In the main menu, there is a 'members' option. Hover your mouse over that and you have the option of looking at the members list or searching for a particular member. Selecting the first of those brings you to the members screen, the top of which is shown below.
When you first go in, the list is sorted alphabetically, but it can be sorted by any column just by clicking in the column header (I often want to search for the mature cheeses or people that have posted a lot, for example).
There are a couple of ways to make contact from this page. The first is by direct message, which you do by clicking on the box to the left of the member's name (this is green if the member is currently logged into the forum and white if not). A direct message does not involve a swap of email addresses and the cheese forum will email you to say you have received a message.
The other way of making contact directly is to send the member an email. This can only be done for members that allow it, as shown by a little envelope symbol to the right of their name on the members list (you can see the two at the bottom of the picture above).
Click on the envelope symbol and you'll be taken to an email page where you will see their email address. Once you send them an email, they will of course be able to see your address too.
To search for a particular member, either go back to the main menu, hover over 'members' and select 'search for members' or, click on the 'search for members' button that you can see in the top right hand corner of the members page.
You'll be presented with this simple to use search box. You can see there are a number of ways you can search, I normally just leave 'name' checked and stick the name in the box.
Putting my user name into the box (Homecheese Adam) brings up the result below. From left to right this shows that I was logged in (green box), my user name, that I've logged an email address and a website (the globe symbol - clicking on this will take you the member's website), what kind of cheese I am (new-mature, see 'first reads and modifying your profile, above), the date I registered and the number of posts I have made.
Don't forget that you can also email/direct message a cheese forum member directly from any post they have made by clicking on their name.
Once you've found the member you are looking for, it is possible to add them to your 'Buddies List'. This is a very effective way of getting quick access to the posts of your favourite forum members. This is really useful if you're trying a new type of cheese or technique and want to keep track of the posts of someone who is obviously well practiced in it.
As mentioned above, click on any member's name anywhere in the cheese forum and you'll be taken to their profile page, which looks like this:
This is the profile of one of my favourite posters. You can see his details on the right hand side. These show he is one of the most prolific posters on the cheese forum (over 700 posts, averaging 5 per day). You can also see that his posts are of great quality, having amassed some 51 cheeses from his fellow forum members.
On the left hand side are some really useful options which I'll return to in the next section 'Member Posting Information'. For this section, the line to focus on is [Add to Buddy List].
When you click on that, the member will be added to your buddy list and the option you've just clicked on will change to [remove from buddy list].
Getting access to your buddy list is quite convoluted (please let me know if there's an easier way).
First, click on 'profile' on the main menu which will take you to your own profile page. Once there, hover over 'modify profile' and a drop down menu appears (as per picture on the left).
From that menu, select the last option, which is Buddies/Ignore List...
This will take you to your own Buddies page.
The buddies page shows you the list of members you're following and headline contact information for them. To remove them from your list, click on the red cross to the far right of their name. To add new members, just enter their user name into the box you can see in the bottom left hand corner of the picture below and click add.
You can see at the top of the picture below reference to an 'ignore list' which is the opposite of the buddies list and takes members away from being able to contact you directly. Depending on your profile settings, it will also mean that you don't see posts from these members on any thread.
You can now refer back to this list for your favourite cheese forum members, I'll look in the next section at how you can find out more about what your favourite members are writing about.
Over time, there will be some members who you really come to trust and respect, either for how they've helped you or because you see them throughout the forum constantly helping others.
If you get to a point where you want to find more from those cheese authorities, it is possible to track everything they've posted and to see where they most frequently 'hang out' to get a sense of where their posts can add value to your homemade cheese journey of discovery.
Below is the profile for one of my favourite cheese makers on the forum. There are two options on the bottom left hand side which will help you find more on their area of expertise. The first is 'show posts' and you won't be surprised to discover what that does, so I won't cover it in detail, except to say that their whole post list can then be sorted by topic, date, etc.
The second option is 'show stats' and clicking on that will bring up a wealth of information, particularly for the most authoritative and engaged members of the site.
Below is the main stat's page for the member shown above.
You can see that it has four main areas:
The cheese forum has helped my growth in making cheese at home tremendously and I find this information invaluable in learning alongside the people I have the highest respect for within the forum.
If you've read the whole article to this point then you are more that set-up to get and give great value to the cheese forum.
However, there are some really advanced features that will help you make the very most out of your experience, which I'm going to look at really quickly here.
I'm following the menu above from top to bottom.
Account settings is self-explanatory, allowing you to change your password and the like. Forum profile was covered up at the beginning of this article in the 'First Reads and Modifying Your Profile' section.
The 'Look and Layout' option is the first where it starts to get a bit more interesting.
As well as being able to change your time settings (I have a 6 hour offset as I'm in the UK) and the smiley you default to, there are another dozen or so options to choose from or modify.
A lot of them are designed to make the reviewing posts as simple as possible for you, such as removing avatars and signatures, or being clear about which board you are in when you are in it.
One thing that works well for me is to have the most recent posts at the top and work back in time... but it's all a matter of personal taste.
Continuing down the 'modify profile' menu, the notifications page lets you change the settings of your notifications and lists the ones you have made so that they can be quickly accessed or turned off.
Remember, notifications let you track additions to a board or thread by having the forum email you whenever a change is made (covered in 'Tracking Thread Updates', above.
The screen shot above shows that I am currently following a couple of threads about an asiago cheese and buttercheese, as well as my own thread about picking a logo for this site. I also follow the introductions board and the hard cheddared board as this is my particular favourite type of cheese to make.
The next option on the menu is around personal messaging, which lets you set how to receive, keep and manage and any personal messages - including any that you send - screen grab below.
That leaves 'Ignore Boards Options' which presents a list of every board on the forum and lets you check them individually if you do not wish them to be included in your updates lists or your search results. You can still access them from the boards homepage though.
It may just be possible that this article has not answered your 'How do I..?' question. You now have three options: drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org (I may be able to) to see if I can help, make a post on the forum to see if other members can help (they will be able to), or consult the forum's own help guide.
There is a 'help' option in the main menu that takes you to the 'Simple Machines Forum' (SMF) help wiki page. Here there is every conceivable detail you could wish to know about the forum laid out in a wikipedia-style format.
The Cheese Forum is an essential part of any cheese makers toolkit, whether complete beginner or experienced professional.
What I've aimed to do in this article is show you how to use most of the tools available in this incredibly powerful forum. The fun though, is in posting yourself to help others and find out more, following world-class cheese making experts and reading the exploits of people just like me and you who are having a go at a brand new cheese in their own kitchen.
It's now time for you to go and make a post - have fun!!