View Full Version : The Dreaded Web Forum Conversation

Jules Taplin
2004-12-18, 17:10
Right. I've promised my self a single post on this issue, and then I
promise to shut up, honest.

It seems to me that the critical issue here is exactly what we're trying
to achieve with the lists and/or a web forum. Thinking clearly about
that allows us to weigh up the pros and cons properly, and, you never
know, might actually allow us to arrive at a consensus.

I think, actually, this boils down to a very clear question: Is the
primary function of the slim-discuss list end-user support?

If so, then we need to think clearly about how that support is
delivered. For 'casual' users, a web forum clearly has a lower barrier
to entry, and a modern piece of forum software with 'sticky' threads and
the like can be quite useful for whittling down queries sensibly. So...
my personal view is that if slim-discuss is primarily an end-user
support tool, then it should probably either be directly forum based, or
be highly focused on providing an interface that certainly feels that
way for end-users.

But... There are two additional points: If the slim-discuss list is more
'conversational' than that, then I think mailing lists are more
appropriate. Personally, I follow both web-forum based communities, and
mailing list communities, and the mailing list ones are the only ones I
come close to a high level of coverages on the posts. So... if we're
more interested in the existing aspects of the community (prospective
plugin developers, people helping out with testing, and that kind of
thing), then I reckon that a mailing list is superior.

And while I'm here, I'd make one final point - and that's to do with the
nature of the provision of support. I'm only a minor cog in this whole
deal, but my daily reading load for this lot is the vast majority of
notes on both slimserver-discuss and slimserver-developers, as well as
direct email from AlienBBC users, developers and helpers. In this month
alone, on a single, non main-release plugin, there have been 70 or so
messages that were on the list and were AlienBBC related. Add to that
the conversations that are happening off lists, both with myself, and
(no doubt) with people like Craig and Triode, and that's quite a volume
of work. They all get read, and the vast majority of them get an answer,
and work done as a result. Now... an email list provides me a nice
strong mechanism for managing that activity (a good combination of
threaded readers, and virtual folders make it easy to keep on top of,
and it has the fringe benefit that I can deal with both incoming direct
queries and mailing list queries in the same interface). Genuinely, I
don't believe that I would provide the same level of support to a
web-based forum. Apart from anything else... it's just plain quicker to
scan down in a mail reader than it is to keep requesting web pages.
Given that information, it seems likely to me that a move to a web forum
would result in a drop of available support, so even if we feel that
slimserver-discuss OUGHT to be a support forum, we also need to be clear
on whether we would be further forward anyway.

Right. I've said my piece. Sorry for polluting the airwaves by
perpetuating this conversation, but sometimes I'm as keen for a rant as
the next man ;)

-- Jules

Philip Meyer
2004-12-19, 06:21
>I'm also not exaggerating when I say that the lack of any sort of forum for
>discussion of the product will cause some users to shy away and look
>elsewhere for a streaming music player.
This is one side of the argument I just can't believe. When I look for a product, I look at what the product has to offer, not whether there is email or web forum support. In fact I have bought many products where there has been very poor product support. Belkin for example are quite poor, but their products are quite good and popular.

If a consumer buys a product, and has trouble getting it to work and looks at asking questions through support, then I suppose they might be likely to return a product if support is not easily obtainable.

I have a friend that I recently convinced to purchase a SqueezeBox (where's my commission? ;-), and he had a problem using it through a wireless router. He's not a computer techie. He looked on the website, found an email address and asked a question about his router.

He exchanged his wireless router, and the SB is now working. The thought of not buying a SqueezeBox because there is no web forum never even crossed his mind, and he never considered it when looking for support.

I'm sure people don't go into buy a CD player for the HiFi checking to see if there's web forum support over email support.

The crucial thing I suppose is that if the main facilities of the product works out of the box (with a stable slimserver build installed), the majority of consumers will be happy and have no reason to look for a discussion group.


2009-02-02, 18:42
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SPAM CAN actually be quite informative.
Brings back historic discussions for born-latelys and gives a nice perspective looking back on a debate the outcome of which is obvious in retrospect...

Never saw spam that way: A reflection tool :-)