[OpenIndiana-discuss] Help with website

Gregory Youngblood gregory at youngblood.me
Sun Oct 9 19:24:33 UTC 2011

On Oct 9, 2011, at 11:37 AM, Ken Gunderson wrote:

> On Sat, 2011-10-08 at 18:35 -0600, LinuxBSDos.com wrote:
>>>> As Bernd Helber remarked, forums can play a significant role in Linux
>>>> distributions, as they allow users to "have conversations". It would be
>>>> great if an initiative to create one for OI could be started.
>>> I agree that forums are more user-friendly when you're searching for
>>> an answer that already exists. However, I find mailing lists easier to
>>> interact with and reply to on a regular basis. I think the reason the
>>> OpenSolaris forums worked so well is that each forum also had a
>>> mailing list bridged with it, so you got the best of both worlds (easy
>>> search and easy participation). My request would be the the mailing
>>> lists not be dumped in favor of forums, but rather set up as another
>>> way of participating with the forums.
>> I didn't call for abandoning the mailing list, rather for setting up
>> something that is more community-oriented.
> Mailing Lists are inherently community oriented.  That some other
> johnny-come-lately technology, e.g. web based forums, has subsequently
> gained popularity does not invalidate mailing lists communities.

I prefer mailing lists because I can be subscribed to multiple topics and have only one place I need to go in order to stay abreast of the topics I choose to follow. With web forums, that's not as easy. RSS feeds/readers have made it easier. Strangely enough, web forums that post new topics as twitter comments, and then email copies of replies seems to be taking on popularity, so that now I'm able to follow some sites on Twitter to see what's new, and if I participate in a thread I can then subscribe to email updates of that conversation. With that approach I no longer have to go visit the forum directly until I get a notification (twitter or email) of something new.

All of that said, however, I've noticed that "newer" internet users are not so much internet users but rather WEB users. For them, support mechanisms are Forum based, not mailing list. Some may eventually get on mailing lists, but the forums tend to be their preferred choice. Their popularity has reached the point where one forum software company also has Android (not sure about iphone) apps that are able to communicate with the forum software directly giving a mobile interface other than the web native interface.

Despite personal preferences aside, the current reality is that a web forum can be, right or wrong, a critical factor in the success of a project, and may be viewed as an indication of the health of the project as well.

And, if we do start a web forum, until we have a critical mass of active "experts" able to answer questions, I believe we should have the forum gated to the mailing lists. Otherwise we'll end up with two classes of users and answers.  It takes work to build a forum and get the community active and helping each other, and without gating the forums to the mailing list I'm betting there will be frustrating delays between questions asked and answers that really help them from those that are not used to checking the forums too. I don't see the gate between forum and mailing list being there forever though.

There's not an easy answer here.

If the concern is that there is an undisclosed relationship with a "new" forum system, then use one of the older ones that are common, then consider using something like phpBB that's been around for a while. Or, if we can get it approved, something like vBulletin that has the mobile apps I mentioned previously. If there's support for going towards vBulletin, I'd consider sponsoring (and hosting if necessary) part (or possibly all) of the cost to get the initial license (licenses are one time, with upgrades within the release included, but not upgrades to next major release). And, for the record, I have no relationship with phpBB or vBulletin, other than I have setup phpBB and I have been a user in a community that uses vBulletin.

However, to really benefit, it would help if the forums, wiki, site documentation, etc. were all under one umbrella and "seamless" to the users. Going to one place for wiki documentation, another for forums, and possibly others for other information, ends up leaving the user with a disconnected and unprofessional feeling about the project, IMO, which can be worse than not having the forums to begin with.


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