In the months leading up to the 30th anniversary of the deaths in Jonestown, Josef Dieckman, founder and co-administrator of The Peoples Temple Discussion Forum, and I anticipated an increase in traffic to the site. In order to avoid any misunderstandings as to our position on Peoples Temple and how we see the role of the discussion forum in the “great debate” about the Temple that goes on in many places on the internet, we rewrote both our Code of Conduct and our Mission Statement to reflect what we had experienced in the past few years.
The exercise turned out to beneficial in more ways than we expected. First of all, we became much clearer ourselves about what we wanted to do and how we wanted the forum to progress. Secondly, it turned out to be a good way to introduce the forum to the new members. Finally, it was a great example of collaboration across oceans and time zones, as we are located in Oregon and Denmark respectively.
Quite a few new members joined the forum during the fall of 2008, and it was buzzing with activity. Unfortunately some of the discussions took disrespectful turns and we, the administrators, suddenly found ourselves spending too much time straightening things out. As a result we decided to take the forum off for a few months while we decided on a new course.
When we relaunched the forum in early 2009, we implemented a sign-and-return-policy to ensure that new members read and actively communicated their compliance with our Code of Conduct and Mission Statement to us. While both measures were necessary at the time, they resulted in slowing down the activity in the forum. After a period of calm, we decided that the sign-and-return-policy was no longer needed, and new members are now again able to activate their accounts themselves. However, we do expect our members to read and follow the guidelines.
While the forum was off the air, we did a bit of early spring cleaning and moved some idle threads into a new Archives section. The 30th anniversary also inspired us to put in a new section, namely the Lost and Found section, where anyone who is looking for information about friends or relatives who died in Jonestown can post their questions. Though not very active at the moment, we hope that this section can help people who are looking for answers about their families and friends find the information they need. We realize that this is a sensitive issue, and therefore we invite you to go through the administrators if you wish to remain anonymous.
Currently we have one request for information in the forum: a member is looking for information about his father. I hope that survivors or former members will share the information they have, either through the forum or in an e-mail to me. If we can contribute to the continued healing of the relatives of the people of Jonestown in any small way, we will be very pleased indeed.
One feature which remains very popular on the forum is the Ask a former member of Peoples Temple a question section. At the moment six former members participate. We hope to receive many more questions – big and small – from members in the coming year, as this is a unique opportunity to get straight answers from the people who are part of the history of Peoples Temple. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our panel of former members who so generously share their memories and opinions with us.
We currently have 83 registered members but there is room for many more, so come join us at http://www.jonestownforum.dk/index.php.