When I first stepped into the role of POB’s editor nearly two years ago, I made a point of introducing myself on POB’s popular bulletin board for land surveyors, RPLS.com. 

When I first stepped into the role of POB’s editor nearly two years ago, I made a point of introducing myself on POB’s popular bulletin board for land surveyors, beta.rpls.com.

Larry Phipps, president of Land Surveyor’s Workshops and a longtime contributor to board discussions, was one of the first to welcome me to the community. “Ultimately, I think you'll find the surveying community is in many ways much like a large family,” he said. “A family complete with a few crazy uncles we’d rather disown. But a family nonetheless.”

Another frequent poster, who goes by the moniker Hole Digger, noted, “We resemble granola, a mixed bag of fruits, flakes and nuts. But you must understand that we represent the best and brightest this profession has to offer.”

Crazy uncles? Fruits, flakes and nuts? Just what was I getting myself into?

I needn’t have worried. As I began exchanging posts and e-mails with “POBers” and then meeting some of them in person, it quickly became evident that both Larry and Hole were right--not about the flakes and nuts (well, OK, maybe just a little), but about the camaraderie and wealth of knowledge that exists within the group. Spend any amount of time on the board, and you can learn about everything from resolving challenging survey/deed conflicts and using OPUS solutions to dealing with clients and prepping for exams. Frequently, the discussions are specific to surveying and mapping issues, but just as often, they’re about life in general. On any given day, you can find a heated political debate, a humorous story, an uplifting thought and a practical business suggestion. Post a question about surveying equipment, plumbing problems or planting tomatoes, and you’re sure to get at least a half dozen answers in short order. It’s a place to relax, hear the latest news, find encouragement and learn from the experiences of others.

The bulletin board pioneered by visionary Mark Deal has served the group well for more than a decade. But changes in technology and the increasing popularity of social networking within the last several years have altered the way people interact with each other online. Like an old building whose simple design was initially adequate, the basic “one-room” structure of the board eventually limited growth and outreach.

This month,  beta.rpls.com ;opens its doors on a new era. The transition to new quarters has been a long time in coming. With the new site comes the opportunity to collaborate with a broader range of professionals in different ways and to more easily share the vast knowledge of the group with the next generation. What began as a bulletin board for land surveyors is now a fully featured social network for geomatics professionals worldwide.

But ultimately, the structure is just that--merely a framework. It is the people who make RPLS.com a thriving community. Whether you’re looking for advice, encouragement, professional connections or friendship, you’re sure to find it here. I look forward to seeing you at RPLS.com.

Share your thoughts on this column at www.pobonline.com or 
beta.rpls.com. To contact the editor, send an e-mail to pobeditor@bnpmedia.com.