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[gNewSense-users] Re: Changing the forum

From: Yavor Doganov
Subject: [gNewSense-users] Re: Changing the forum
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2008 22:34:45 +0300
User-agent: Wanderlust/2.15.5 (Almost Unreal) SEMI/1.14.6 (Maruoka) FLIM/1.14.9 (Goj┼Ź) APEL/10.7 Emacs/22.2 (i486-pc-linux-gnu) MULE/5.0 (SAKAKI)

Ali Gunduz wrote:
> For better or worse, it has become the convention to provide user
> support over a web forum

I believe this is true, and it is a big regression.  Back in good old
days of the telex and later Usenet people had the culture of
respecting the time and resources of others.  Now resources are cheap,
knowledge and culture is mostly lacking, and that's what happens --
one big pigsty that we call Internet.

> The actuality of this convention can also be seen in the gNewSense
> faclities, since the forum is full of user issues whereas messages
> containing such issues are only a minority here in the list.

This is only a proof that most gNS users do not have the habit to read
documentation and resort to suboptimal forms of communication where
possibly other users like them give them suboptimal advices.  Surely
that's a speculation -- there might be many helpful replies in forums,
but this is not my general observation.

> I have seen the forum features used very effectively especially in
> tutorial making, where the first post is the how-to and may be
> continuously tweaked according to the incoming feedback.

That's not a good thing: documentation should be part of the package,
as that way it corresponds to the version of the package and can be
(info-)browsed/read locally (and quickly and efficiently!).  Random
tutorials at forums can be excellent too, but it is a disservice to
users to hide such a tutorial this way.  

What I've seen most commonly is random sequences of commands and/or
steps with little explanation -- the typical user who's being "helped"
that way just copy-pastes/executes the steps, reporting "it doesn't
work" or "many thanks" but at the end having little clue what the
problem is about.  Next time, for another problem, he goes to this
web-cloac rather than reading the documentation, and in some cases
fiddling with the source code.

That's how basically forums work in my view.

> Additionally, I do not think anyone here would want to see this list
> flooded

It is easier to skip a message that is not of interest than to go
through the huge pain of slow repetitive browsing in the quest of
something that you need.  Browse a forum with a text browser or a
screen reader to experience ultimate levels of frustration and
sky-rocketing disgust.

> However, what I was suggesting was, if we are going to have a forum
> (which is linked in the left hand menu, whereas this list is not), we
> should have a more usable one.

Another fundamental problem with forums: For you, the Foo forum is
usable, and Bar is not.  For someone else, the Baz forum software is
the best.  But the project leader and/or site administrator decides to
use the Mumbo forum software, for whatever reason (he likes it better,
he is familiar with the configuration, considers it less burden to
maintain, does a security audit and thinks it's better security-wise,
you name it).  Whatever happens, a certain category of users suffer,
and they suffer badly.

By contrast, mailing lists, newsgroups, IRC networks/channels and
Jabber rooms do not have this problem.  You can use any MUA,
newsreader, IRC or Jabber client you like, without doing any harm to
others or causing them inconvenience.  (There are even web-based MUAs
for the masochists, and maybe even web-based IRC/Jabber clients.)  You
can use advanced filtering, searching, greping, logging sessions,
etc. -- you can do literally everything, in many ways convenient *to
you only*.  And it works pretty well on a tty too, unlike browsing
forums with a text browser.  And it matters little if
and have different mailing lists software, because
you don't interact with the mailing lists software interface on a
daily basis.

If you read thousands of forum posts per day like I read thousands of
messages and you have to reply to some of them (and reply to the
followups), you'll see what I'm talking about.

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