Recent Development on the Use-LIst
dvk at dvkconsult.com.au
Thu Dec 15 17:52:27 CST 2005
On or before 16/12/2005, at 7:58, various people wrote in relation to
the old question of forum vs mailing list.
After a few years on the RunRev Use and Improve lists I switched to
digest mode which cleaned my mailbox a bit but took away the ability
to see messages in a timely manner. A few months ago I observed that
there were so many new users asking and answering questions that I
had no great need (or perhaps ability) to contribute and nothing to
ask for myself at the time. I considered this a triumph for Rev,
evidence of both a growing user base and increasing sophistication
rather than it formerly being a mix of the deeply knowledgeable and
the deeply inexperienced.
This week, tackling an SQL database for the first time, I had need of
assistance (although the problem naturally proved to be my own) and
was impressed to see Chris Bohnert and Mark Wieder both take the
trouble to test my code and respond very helpfully. I have no fears
for the constructive quality of the readership and contributions. It
was also a bit of a homecoming, to see (for example) Klaus and
Richmond being their very different selves.
So, to the actual topic here which is the medium for the discussions.
On one of the occasions this debate ran a few years ago, I found the
mailing list format easy to manage and use and agreed that it was
preferable to forum software. The content was not very voluminous
then. In the past 6-12 months I have spent much of my time on another
list, on a wholly unrelated topic, using forum software. It employs
Discus which is reputed by some to be not the greatest piece of forum
software. Despite that supposed disadvantage, I find it to be vastly
superior to the mailing list in every significant respect with key
gains in responsiveness, coherence and time management.
The notion, recently expressed by one highly respected member here,
that a forum obliges trolling material or does not allow casual
integration of list review with other work, is probably born of a
lack of knowledge of the alternative. These are precisely the
problems I find in a mailing list whereas a forum simplifies and
expedites working with the list.
Firstly, topics are broadly categorised based on input from the
users. Secondly, a single button brings up in tree format every post
made since you yourself last checked, and no others. Additional to
the topic/thread categorisation, the hierarchy gives you crucial
information on author and the first line of content. Using a tabbed
browser you quickly pick out the items of interest and review or
respond to them. Timeliness is superior because you manage the
material in bulk when you wish to without waiting for a digest to
turn up or alternatively being bombarded with irrelevant messages. If
you wish to trace material there is a powerful built-in search
facility. You can also immerse yourself in a topic or thread from the
start for learning purposes, and having learned will most probably
use the Posts ["since I last checked"] feature. You can use basic web
text styling for clarification without tripping over mail reader
limitations and easily add diagrams or pictures (size and density
restricted) where relevant. It also facilitates creation of
informative user profiles, although in the forums I use I do prefer
the one which excludes signature lines within the post (additional to
author identification in the left column) as completely useless clutter.
I guess these advantages have all been discussed before, but I wish
to emphasise their superiority in my practical experience. No-one
expects everyone to favour a change but from what I am reading at
least some of the pro-mail-list group are going to be pleasantly
surprised when the inevitable change occurs. Whether RunRev manages a
forum of its own, blesses an existing forum, or abandons the whole
thing to the market is something on which I choose not to have an
opinion at the moment but I agree that one of the alternatives they
are doubtlessly considering needs to be taken up.
Sorry about the length of post. Perhaps I have indulged myself in
compensation for having been away for a while.
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