Re: off-topic discussions [was: A poem using localizable sentences]

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Sun Jan 17 2010 - 06:04:02 CST

  • Next message: Doug Ewell: "Re: off-topic discussions"

    On 1/17/2010 2:23 AM, Julian Bradfield wrote:
    > On 2010-01-17, Asmus Freytag <> 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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