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Re: TECH: Why this low-tech forum?

From:Stephen Mulraney <ataltanie@...>
Date:Monday, May 3, 2004, 22:06
Gary Shannon wrote:

>Personally, I'd be much more comfortable if this >mailing list were impressed on clay tablets, baked, >and delivered quarterly by ox cart. > >
Not a bad idea. That's quarter-hourly, right?
>On the other hand, BBS forums have the huge advantage >of being able to segregate everything into specific >categories and topics. In truth, as I'm sure I said >once several years ago, I'd MUCH rather this were a >BBS forum than this stone-age mailing list format. >But alas, there are always those who, like Mark Twain, >are in favor of progress but uncomfortable with >change. > >--gary > > > >
Regarding the use of phrases such as "*real*" and "stone-age" in this discussion; clearly both formats have their advantages. In this case, chronological progression does not reduce to "progress" (nor its opposite): the fact the the mailing list format predates the phpBB format doesn't mean it has been superseded. For my part, I'm on the side of the mailing list. The only advantage a forum system could offer me is the segregation of subjects. But even that system depends on the author of a thread determining the category. In other words, it's prone to the same failures the the mailing-list solution of putting tags (like, say [CHAT]) in the subject lines, though at least it's mandatory. However, this system of categorisation is, IMHO, too strict for this mailing list, where threads change subject quite quickly (which could at least be indicated in a subject-line tag), and also, threads branch endlessly. Forum systems I've seen tend to approach branching of threads in two way: one, suppress them entirely and structure all discussions as single lines; two, allow nested comments, which makes browsing the forum an incredibly frustrating experience, since you need to click on sub-responses and wait for pages to load. While it's ok to _read_ a forum like this, is makes quick skimming impossible. And the ability to skim and skip quickly is about the only thing that makes it possible for me to follow a high-volume forum like this (well, that and the mutability of subject lines: something web forums don't offer). Also, I find the methods of keeping track of what's been read on forums to be inadequate. The usual simple "threads you've never clicked on" filter doesn't do the job, especially when new posts occur as additions to the end of a "read" thread. On a list like this where there's a mix of chat and fairly technical monologues, I like to mark individual messages as read, unread, or with even finer flags, say, to indicate "read, but I want to re-read in detail", and so on (which I can do with my mail reader). I think, transition to a web based forum would spell the end of my ability to keep up with this list (and others), and for no clear advantage that I can see. On the other hand, the mailing list format offers a plethora of advantages, at least with the right tools. I understand that if you just have all of the CONLANG posts popping into your inbox alongside mail from your mother and from other lists, it might not seem inconvenient. But in that case, you really need to learn how to use your mail client properly. For example, I read my list mail with the mail application that comes with Mozilla. It's able to filter all my list mail (for multiple lists) into appropriate folders, according to fairly complex rules that are quite easy to set up. It's able to thread discussions by subject title, which makes it convenient to skip and skim, and of course the response is instantaneous. It handles Unicode [when the server doesn't eat it] and most other encodings with ease (meaning that even if it chooses the wrong one, it's quite quick for me to correct it). And although I'm quite a Mozilla fan, I suspect that there's nothing unusual about these features: at least OE and Eudora must have comparable abilities. s. ----- Stephen Mulraney This post brought to you by the letter 3 and the number 0xF


John Cowan <cowan@...>
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>