From: Asmus Freytag (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun Jan 17 2010 - 06:04:02 CST
On 1/17/2010 2:23 AM, Julian Bradfield wrote:
> On 2010-01-17, Asmus Freytag <email@example.com> wrote:
>> Forum software has improved dramatically since Unicode started out, and
>> in my view would be the right technology to allow this group to engage
>> in its deep technical discussions 90% of the time, but handle the
>> occasional digression in a way that is both flexible and structured.
> Please, no!
> If forum software has improved, I haven't seen it - not least because
> all the forum software I've seen uses the Web, and anything requiring
> a Web browser is ipso facto far less usable and convenient for ongoing
> use than a mail/Usenet system.
> Forums are good for archiving and googling; lousy for keeping up with
> the news.
If I was Michael, I would just answer: "this is just your opinion" :)
I've tried both extensively over the last few years and have found that
I had to revise my opinion of forums. At first I used to google into
the middle of some badly designed forums with atrocious user interfaces,
badly administered (read unstructured) and in the worst case, made
unreadable by ads.
Then I stumbled on several where the admins made good use of the latest
forum software, provided clean structured layouts and kept the visual
distractions low (as in e-mail). These forums I find a joy to use.
One of their main advantages, in my view, is that they structure
*parallel* discussions much better than email lists. And if you make a
mistake you (or a helpful admin) can correct it, so that with a little
effort the record is much cleaner and usable than an e-mail list archive.
And, I've found that it's rather easy to "keep up" even with rather
massive forums (orders of magnitude more traffic than this list). You
have a choice of push-type technologies you can use to let the Forum
alert you to new content (subscriptions). I tend to use those for forums
that I don't want to monitor closely but where I don't want to miss
anything. Where I'm active in an ongoing discussion, I'll check the list
of "new posts" frequently enough to follow.
I make an exception, in my view, for closely knit groups that are
working on a common project. In that situation, where all team members
must be on the same page all the time, the broadcast nature of e-mail
really does have an advantage.
But for people seeking information from the Consortium (which is the
ostensible raison d'Ítre of this list) it's a much higher threshold to
sign up to a mail list sight unseen and yell in the dark, than to go to
a forum, see what the discussion has been and pick up an existing thread
(or start a new one). So, in my analysis, a forum is a better way to get
from a discussion to a knowledge base.
In e-mail, you can't easily refer to discussions longer than about a
week or at most two ago. Yes the archives exist, but they are
disconnected in user interface and perception so it's difficult to keep
things together once a little bit of time has passed.
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