Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(February 2001)

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Subject: Re: how to make mail lists scale well
From: Chuq Von Rospach <chuqui @ plaidworks . com>
Date: Fri, 09 Feb 2001 18:01:07 -0800
To: <bernie @ fantasyfarm . com>, List-Managers <list-managers @ greatcircle . com>
In-reply-to: <200102092000 . f19K0mo07023 @ mail . rev . net>
User-agent: Microsoft-Entourage/9.0.2509

On 2/9/01 12:00 PM, "Bernie Cosell" <bernie @
 fantasyfarm .
 com> wrote:

>> I've more or less come to the conclusion that the discussion list via email
>> is a bad technology.

> Could you elaborate?  I've stated that opinion several times on this
> forum [that emails aren't good for 'discussion forums'], but I've
> always thought [then and now] that usenet-technology was really quite
> good 

I'll try. This is an issue I'm still grappling with, which is why so much of
what I'm saying rambles and is unclear. I'm still figuring it out.

You're right that NNTP is a good technology for this stuff, to a point. That
point is where you hit the interface -- since you're in a more or less
dedicated tool which users may or may not be familiar with, I think it lends
itself to more technically sophisticated audiences (even moderately so) --
my mom can use email, and use web, but it would take some doing to get her
up and running on a newsclient.

Since it's a separate app, there's a learning curve, and you have limited
ability to customize the interface -- with web forums, you have complete (or
pretty much complete) control of the user experience, and I feel that's key
for a community.

So, NNTP is good, but he wrappings around it are deficient for what I want
to do, unless it's somehow interfaced with other forms that I do have more
control over. And I tried that about 18 months ago, and found that if the
same data was available two or three different ways, NNTP came in third and
basically nobody used it (I actually ran systems that were bi-directional
web<=>email and web<=>nntp for a good while, and finally shut off the NNTP
because it was more work than worth for the usage, which was tiny)

So from a purely technical standpoint, you're correct. For my purposes, NNTP
falls short, but in ways that aren't insurmountable. I think the more
technically savvy or knowledgable the audience, the better NNTP is to serve
them. But I think it's intimidating to the tech-novice, and rquires a
learning curve users have to be willing to take to get advantage of it. I'm
not sure the advantages of NNTP are worth all that -- e-mail was more
comfortable for users, and I think the web-based stuff is now maturing
enough to give us the advantages NNTP gave us but in a form that's got
better control of the way data is displayed and in a way that users are more
comfortable with. 

> The only slightly-new
> technologies I've seen are various sorts of web-based
> discussion/thread/message systems, but every one I've seen [or tried
> to use] has been invariably awful and cumbersome, so I doubt that
> that's what you had it mind.  Was it?

Take a look at what I'm doing -- and I'd
be curious what you think. There's still work to do, but I think the systems
are quite usable now, and while the audiences aren't huge (I've done
basically no marketing or push for growth while I've been figuring out
whether what I wrote was worth pushing and made sure it all worked the way
I'd hoped) -- I'm comfortable with the current setup and think it has a nice
growth path as technologies mature.

The nice thing about what I've got is that it does have an e-mail component.
You can set up a subscription that mails you topic digests, and also can
email you immediately if someone replies to one of your own postings. But
you aren't required to be inundated by email just to get stuff you're most
interested in. the biggest missing pieces are the ability to post to the
forums via email, and better email delivery options and granularity. Maybe

Chuq Von Rospach, Internet Gnome <>
[<chuqui @
 plaidworks .
 com> = <me @
 chuqui .
 com> = <chuq @
 apple .
Yes, yes, I've finally finished my home page. Lucky you.

I like you.  You remind me of when I was
young and stupid.

Indexed By Date Previous: Re: Lists and society
From: JC Dill <inet-list @ vo . cnchost . com>
Next: Re: how to make mail lists scale well
From: Tim Bowden <tcbowden @ clovis . nerdnosh . org>
Indexed By Thread Previous: Re: how to make mail lists scale well
From: "Bernie Cosell" <bernie @ fantasyfarm . com>
Next: Re: how to make mail lists scale well
From: Russ Allbery <rra @ stanford . edu>

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