What are the forums?
Bulletin boards, discussion forums, noticeboards - they have lots of different names - are a way of letting you have your say on the web site.
At the moment, they're provided by a company called ProBoards, who let you set up as many as you like for free as long as you put up with adverts appearing. Since these are mostly irrelevant to us (being American) and since a small donation each month keeps them at bay, that's what happens. Sometime soon, we'll have our own 'in-house' system that won't require suppression of ads.
Why should I register?
You don't have to: you can look at all the messages as a guest. Registering as a member, though, enables you to start your own 'threads' (topics) and to reply to messages posted by others. It also means you don't have to put your name in each time you visit the forums. You can log in once and whatever details you have recorded (eg: your email address) are there on each message.
There are other benefits to registering. You will be able to see which posts are new (there will be a marker next to posts that says "NEW"). You can send private messages to other members. Also, no one will be able to post using your name (you can "secure" it so that no one else has it!).
How do I register?
Click on the link below (it's also on the Forums menu on the home page for The Hill). After you've entered your name and email address (you must enter the latter, but you can hide it from view if you like), clicked 'I agree' to the terms of usage and clicked 'Register', ProBoards will send you an email with your authentication key in it. You can't log in until you've received this. It's a randomly generated piece of gobbledygook which you can copy and paste in when asked. The only other part of the process is entering your birthday, which is necessary to comply with some US statute (probably to do with monitoring chat lines where children might be involved). Once that's done, you're a member.