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View Full Version : Discussion list overload and Gossamer Forum



2004-11-29, 03:59
Well, I'm all in favour of a forum.

I already use email prefiltering and threading, but it's not enough.

Perhaps it's because I am stuck using outlook, but the threading does
not work 100% - it often displays as new threads when the original is
just nearby. Maybe it cannot cope with replies from different mail
clients. Forum software has a much better method for tracking threads.

Email access for me from home is painful when there are more than a few
messages. A forum is something I can get at much more flexibly.

Several replies raised issues with forums that I think can be addressed,
at least to some extent:

The Gmane options - do they allow posting? If not then they are not a
suitable replacement. The link from slimdevices says we can only search
and view.

trouble remembering passwords? forums are a good place to use your
browser's password storage feature.

Does not remember where you left off? One forum I visit manages to
remember my last visit no matter whether it was from home or work (but I
think it only remembers the time, not actual threads read, so it does
not have the granularity of a news reader). On another forum, I can
"subscribe" to specific threads, in which case the last read item in
that thread is remembered.

I can certainly understand the problem with non-threaded email digests
and I would agree that digests alone are not a suitable alternative.

Forum pages cluttered with avatars, signatures, html etc? By all means
disable avatars - they are never essential. Signatures I would expects
to be no different from email equivalents. html? I feel that careful use
of formatting can actually improve readability over plain text.

Finally, it would probably cut down on faq questions if the search
function was integrated into the same system rather than on some other
site that does not exactly leap out at you from the slimdevices support
page. But maybe i'm excessively optimistic on that. Having a sticky FAQ
in the forum itself would help also.


Whichever way the choice goes, I think the list/forum could be improved
by being split into several sections. There is quite a lot of traffic in
certain areas - iTunes, Softsqueeze, alienBBC that I think would benefit
from their own category. Topics specific to server platform would also
be helpful - I have lost count of the number of times I have read a
thread only to discover later that the server was running on XP. Again
this segmentation would make it much easier for readers browsing past
posts, whether it be via forum or nntp.


Cameron.

Roy M. Silvernail
2004-11-29, 05:17
Cameron.Davidson (AT) csiro (DOT) au wrote:

>Well, I'm all in favour of a forum.
>
>I already use email prefiltering and threading, but it's not enough.
>
>Perhaps it's because I am stuck using outlook,
>
I'd tend to say "yes". Outlook is not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

>but the threading does
>not work 100% - it often displays as new threads when the original is
>just nearby. Maybe it cannot cope with replies from different mail
>clients.
>
This is a training issue. Some users mistakenly use the 'reply'
function when they should be starting a new thread. Fora don't prevent
this, either.

>Forum software has a much better method for tracking threads.
>
>
I submit that most forum software is vastly inferior at tracking
threads. I have yet to see a forum that will track individual messages
in a thread. One visit and you're considered to have read everything.

>Email access for me from home is painful when there are more than a few
>messages. A forum is something I can get at much more flexibly.
>
>Several replies raised issues with forums that I think can be addressed,
>at least to some extent:
>
>The Gmane options - do they allow posting? If not then they are not a
>suitable replacement. The link from slimdevices says we can only search
>and view.
>
>
I don't know about the web interface offhand, but Gmane's NNTP server
certainly allows posting.

>trouble remembering passwords? forums are a good place to use your
>browser's password storage feature.
>
>
Some of us don't like to store personal passwords on our work machines,
but this is really an orthogonal point.

>Does not remember where you left off? One forum I visit manages to
>remember my last visit no matter whether it was from home or work (but I
>think it only remembers the time, not actual threads read, so it does
>not have the granularity of a news reader). On another forum, I can
>"subscribe" to specific threads, in which case the last read item in
>that thread is remembered.
>
>
"Last read", but not individual items read. There's a big difference
there that many of us list jockeys appreciate.

>I can certainly understand the problem with non-threaded email digests
>and I would agree that digests alone are not a suitable alternative.
>
>
Digests *are* an alternative. They aren't a suitable *replacement*.

>Forum pages cluttered with avatars, signatures, html etc? By all means
>disable avatars - they are never essential. Signatures I would expects
>to be no different from email equivalents. html? I feel that careful use
>of formatting can actually improve readability over plain text.
>
>
Eye candy is also orthogonal to the usability of the forum vs. a mailing
list.

>Finally, it would probably cut down on faq questions if the search
>function was integrated into the same system rather than on some other
>site that does not exactly leap out at you from the slimdevices support
>page. But maybe i'm excessively optimistic on that. Having a sticky FAQ
>in the forum itself would help also.
>
>
Not to be too cynical here, but the format of a forum (even vs. a
mailing list with associated search facilities) will do little to "cut
down on faq questions".

>Whichever way the choice goes, I think the list/forum could be improved
>by being split into several sections. There is quite a lot of traffic in
>certain areas - iTunes, Softsqueeze, alienBBC that I think would benefit
>from their own category. Topics specific to server platform would also
>be helpful - I have lost count of the number of times I have read a
>thread only to discover later that the server was running on XP. Again
>this segmentation would make it much easier for readers browsing past
>posts, whether it be via forum or nntp.
>
>
Agreed that we could use a little more granularity. I would propose
spawning a wider set of lists to segregate the topic load a bit. Then
I'd suggest using the Gmane software (which is open-source) locally to
present the lists as NNTP news groups. The Gmane package allows several
web access methods, including one that looks blog-like. It also
incorporates RSS. In this way, Slim Devices can keep the lists
in-house, offer web interfaces for the forum fans, keep us email jockeys
happy and get much better RSS feeds than Mailman provides.

Please keep in mind that nothing will magically cure topic drift or
thread hijacking, nor will new posts magically appear in the "correct"
list. (the concept of herding cats comes to mind) But the essential
problem we're suffering is one of presentation, and I think we can
achieve a solution that will keep most all the list members happy
without forcing a single presentation paradigm on everyone.

--

Roy M. Silvernail is roy (AT) rant-central (DOT) com, and you're not
"It's just this little chromium switch, here." - TFT
SpamAssassin->procmail->/dev/null->bliss
http://www.rant-central.com

Philip Meyer
2004-11-29, 12:59
>Perhaps it's because I am stuck using outlook, but the threading does
>not work 100% - it often displays as new threads when the original is
>just nearby.
Yeah, Outlook is generally rubbish for handling mail, and very slow for navigating between messages.

>Email access for me from home is painful when there are more than a few
>messages. A forum is something I can get at much more flexibly.
>
Accessing forum information via the web though is hardly ideal for dial-up users who may want to connect mail and get off-line for off-line reading.

>html? I feel that careful use
>of formatting can actually improve readability over plain text.
>
Html adds to the bulk. There's a considerable size difference. I find plain text more than adequate.

Navigating between messages in a web forum must be an order of magnitude slower than accessing local email messages, what with constant refreshes of the same threads over and over again. And when the site is down, no-one can access any information.

Phil