Page 1 of 3

Where is NTS Going

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 6:22 pm
by dbhguru
Hi Ents,

The dwindling activity on the NTS BBS raises questions about where we appear to be going, or more to the point, want to go. ENTS was originally established to fill a void. I would argue that for the better part of 21 years, ENTS-WNTS-NTS has bridged the gap that had long existed in the world of big tree hunting, namely the wholly inadequate standard for measuring dimensions, especially height. Out of our measuring mission, we discovered many outstanding big tree sites and captured their superlatives through statistics such as the Rucker Indices. We were successful enough that today our most accomplished measurers form the base of the American Forests National Cadre of expert tree measurers. But the mission has not been passed to the Cadre, which is much more specialized than NTS.

Has our tree-measuring mission been fulfilled? I have my take, but would love to hear the thoughts of others before commenting further.


Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:42 am
by Shorea
I'll jump in first.

I think at its present state, ENTS is still very relevant. It's true many members are inactive, but I put that down to work, job, business, family, etc....I myself have gotten very busy in the past two years, and I presume it's the same for others, even as I see the ever declining earth all around me. Forests being chopped down wholesale.... but a more serious problem - trees dying suddenly or at a faster rate worldwide (a symptom of something more serious (?), because if the planet is growing inhospitable to trees, what more to humans). But that's another topic by itself.

I still like ENTS as a place to view tree photos, and read up on superlative tree news if there is any, but I think the main issue is the lack of members. After 6-7 years, there are only 610 members here, which is a very low number for any kind of forum. More specifically, a lack of international members. I've tried getting people including botanists in my part of the world to join, but they don't.

Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:10 am
by dbhguru

Yes, our low membership is a factor in the decline in BBS activity. Moreover, low membership is almost certainly a measure of the general popularity of our specialized interests. Still, the world is a big place and one might expect that we'd have a membership 3 or 4 times what we have.

There's a rough parallel between the broad challenge to grow NTS's membership and our local struggle to gain recognition for the exceptional forest sites here in Massachusetts. We can identify most of the local impediments, but have not found a path forward to overcome them. As a consequence, bringing attention to the superlative trees and forest sites of the Bay State remains the crusade of the few. Presently, there is John Eichholz, Jared Lockwood, Andrew Joslin, Doug Bidlack, Ray Asselin, and myself. I expect that the impediments we face locally apply globally. If sufficient interest develops around this thread, I'll discuss them.


Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:02 pm
by edfrank
Part of the problem may be the changing digital landscape. When ENTS first was created it was on a simple discussion list. That changed to a discussion list on Topica, then to one on Google Groups, and then to this BBS. People are not going as much to specialized single topic sites as much as the used to go to them. Now they are using Facebook, Tumbler, Instagram and so forth where they can create a feed that reflects the mix of their interests instead of just one aspect of them. Perhaps the days of the NTS BBS as a broad reaching forum are over and it should be considered to be place where certain key aspects of the organization - documenting forest sites with accurate measurements, and improving measurement techniques can be discussed among those involved in serious inquiry. Maybe it should streamline itself to reflect serious research?

For people with a more casual and broader interest in trees, a forum like the Facebook Group for the Native Tree Society is a better fit. The group has 4,725 members as of this writing. In the last 28 days there have been 2,800 posts, comments, and reactions, and 28 new members. That is 100 per day and an active members of 1200 per day. I am not sure how many countries are represented because Facebook only lists the top 10. (In 10th place is Italy with 18) - correction we have Facebook members in 90 countries

I know as for myself my life has changed and I am not able to participate as much as I want to and not as much as I did at one time. The question is what can be done to attract people to the group? I really don't have any answers. One suggestion might be to share links from significant BBS posts to the Facebook Group along with an invitation to join the BBS.

Edward Frank

Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:23 am
by Erik Danielsen
As long as there are trees and forests to measure, NTS is still relevant. Even if no one posts for a month, the archive of information here is valuable and unique. I don't have internet at my new place yet and so haven't had a chance to sit down and participate much, but there's plenty to report. The facebook group definitely does seem to siphon off a bit of the general-interest discussion, and it may be inevitable that that decreases thr general activity levels here. Of course, that venue does not always generate a high quality of discussion, and the NTS board itself is a valuable reference point in educating and informing participants on facebook to improve their understanding of our best state of knowledge regarding trees.

I am curious about your thoughts on said impediments- definitely an interesting subject. Displacement of established accepted attitudes towards how to regard and care for trees and forests seems like a source of hesitation for many scientifically minded non-NTSers; if you've already worked hard to put an ecogical puzzle together it's difficult to go tearing out pieces and adding in new ones.

Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:21 am
by dbhguru

I've read your very articulate post. Thanks for weighing in. I think you helped put NTS into perspective, the best of any of us.

When you mentioned impediments, at first I didn't realize that you were referring to my reference to local impediments. I'll explain what I meant by that in a future post. I'll have to choose my words carefully. It is a touchy subject.

BTW, our buddy Elijah remains unstoppable. At the rate he's going he'll be able to rewrite the book on the Adirondack Mts in a couple of years.


Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:48 pm
by edfrank

The reason I first became involved with the Eastern Native Tree Society, and took over as the webmaster many years ago was to preserve the information being presented in the various forum posts so that it would not simply fade away. I still see that as a valuable service provided by the NTS BBS and want to see it continue to serve that purpose long into the future. I am not and have not suggested that it be replaced by the Facebook Group, but that both groups be considered different subsets of the Native Tree Society as a whole.


Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 9:17 am
by pattyjenkins1
As the moderator of a formerly very active BBS on our website,, I can see where Facebook has siphoned off a great deal of discussion amongst tree climbers and tree enthusiasts there, too. Like the NTS BBS, participation has definitely plummeted on the TCI Forums. Nevertheless, when a climber wants more -- an expert's answer to questions or in-depth discussion of technique, experience, problems, etc. -- they come to our Forums.

This is the same role I see the NTS BBS playing. Though I don't sign in often, I read every morning's digest without fail. I do so not because I'm particularly interested in measuring technique, frankly; but because the participants' obvious deep knowledge about and love of trees and nature, and their role in our lives, are expressed in so many different ways. What I learn and gather here is invaluable to me.

Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:18 am
by dbhguru

Thanks for weighing in. It is through member perspectives such as yours, Shorea's, and Erik's that we will see the way forward. The Facebook appeal is undeniable and maybe there is a solution to better link BBSs with Facebook groups. I am open to experimentation.

I regret hearing that Facebook is diminishing the communications among serious tree climbers. It isn't a subject to be treated glibly.


Re: Where is NTS Going

Posted: Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:29 pm
by ElijahW
Bob, NTS,

Has the NTS mission been fulfilled? As far as our combined efforts go, I think it has. As far as reaching the general public, I don’t think it has.

I’ve been thinking about your question for a while, and Ed’s explanation makes a lot of sense. I’m not a good judge of how people perceive what I’m doing in general, and you may be able to tell by my reports that I kind of just keep on keeping on. I have no plans to cease surveying forests and writing about them, even though it seems that the number of people interacting on the BBS has dwindled. The social interchange which was pervasive in the early email list, the Google group, and the first years of the BBS is now nearly absent. I think Ed is correct in that other forms of social media have replaced these interactions.

I don’t see this change in communication as a negative, but adjustment to it will take time, and many people more interested in the social aspect of BBS threads than in their substance will cease participation. This has been the trend for the last couple of years, in my opinion.

I’m not a part of any social media groups, so I don’t have an idea about how to draw people to the BBS, but maybe it would be worth our while to put more effort into forms of media other than text, like photos, videos, and even sound. Also, figuring out a way, such as the VT and Galehouse databases, to consolidate and summarize our thousands of measurements over the years is critical. Bob has stressed this fact quite a bit recently, and I agree with him. Our numbers tell stories, but without organization and summarization of the numbers, the stories aren’t easily discernible.