[typo] Typo Forums?

Victor Jalencas victor-typo at carotena.net
Sun Dec 4 13:21:56 EST 2005

Freedom Dumlao wrote:
> On Dec 4, 2005, at 8:26 AM, Victor Jalencas wrote:
>> Freedom Dumlao wrote:
>>> The mailing list may be *easy* to sign up for, but it is a pain in
>>> the neck to find information on. If you want the answer to one
>>> question, you must *subscribe* to the mailing list.
>> Unless you respond directly to the user. Of course, if you know  
>> what to
>> respond, chances are you are already subscribed.
> If I were a *new* user, I would have no idea *who* to ask.
Sorry I misread you before. I understood you wanted to answer a 
question, not the answer to a question.
In that case, it's a good idea (as well as good netiquette, however 
passé that is) to lurk a bit before firing away questions.
You might like the fire-and-forget post style forums promote these days, 
where most of them are newly signed up users who ask a question, get 
their response, and never come back. If that is the case, I concede a 
forum might be the best answer here.
I am a bit old-fashioned, and I like getting to know people.

>>> You may decide to
>>> do a google search for your answer, but I will tell you that every
>>> question I have researched this way has returned results for several
>>> different rails apps, and not just typo specifically.
>> You should restrict the scope to the typo list archive then
> While this may seem practical, the exact scope is not immediately  
> obvious, not to mention that Google does not index frequently enough  
> to make this really practical.
Oh well. So you're telling me you're able to find a typo-focused forum, 
but not a mailing list archive? How much more scope exactness do you need?
Also, once you're subscribed, either the answer is recent enough that 
you can look for it in your own archive (because you remember reading 
about it) or it is old enough to have been indexed by google.
>>> It's
>>> frustrating. And when the question is one you are SURE has been asked
>>> before, a person is not likely to feel that the question is welcome
>>> on the mailing list.
>> If it's so commonplace, chances are a) the answer is in the archive
>> b) the answer is published on some blog somewhere
> Once again, the archive is not easily searchable, and why on earth  
> would we want to rely on Google and other bloggers for our support  
> system, its like saying "if you need help, go somewhere else!"
I was just making the point that the answer is bound to be findable 
through Google. That shouldn't refrain anyone from asking it on the 
list, because the person that knows how to answer won't mind posting a 
link to its own blog, even if repeated for the thousand time. If you are 
so SURE it has been asked before, what makes you think you shouldn't be 
looking elsewhere first?

>>> Another disadvantage to the mailing list is that I have to receive
>>> EVERY thread, regardless of weather or not I give a crap about it.
>> The inverse is true of forums: How do I know I am not missing anything
>> interesting? How does the forum keep track of which threads have been
>> already read by me,
> phpBB keeps track of this for all registered users
What about other forum engines?
Last time I looked, forums needed you to register before being able to 
keep track of what you have read.

>> and how does it notify me of new posts?
> it notifies you by email if any thread or forum has been updated, or  
> you could log in
So umm... I need to 'subscribe' to a thread... interesting concept
>> How does it
>> know if I'm accessing anonymously from an internet cafe?
> you log in, just the same as if you were checking email
When I said anonymously I was referring to 'without the need to log in', 
because you might not remember all your forum logins everywhere
>> Also, do I really need to open a page full of answers to a poster,  
>> when
>> by looking at the first post I would already know that I am not
>> interested? Or, do I need to download and read through the whole  
>> thread
>> just to read a couple of new messages (one of them being 'me too')  
>> when
>> a few mail bytes would have sufficed?
> most forums allow you to simply go to the last page automatically

>> Yes, of course, you can paginate
>> the posts, but I don't call that accessible.
> Obviously, the concept of accessible is *relative*, I have no problem  
> with pagination. 
I do. When my hands are on the keyboard, I can't use PgDown to go to the 
next page, I need to pick the mouse, and then click one, two, three 
times to go to the following pages. Once I'm done, I need to backtrack 
to the index page to keep reading, supposing I didn't open each thread 
in a tab.
Depending on the mail client, hitting space is all I need to scroll 
trhough a post and to the next unread post in this thread or others 
(mutt, outlook, apple mail and thunderbird do this)

Also, this format would keep all the contents of one
> thread in one easily accessible place so someone new who hasn't yet  
> joined the mailing list can easily get the info.
That points me to your answer before: if you were a *new* user, how 
would you *know* where that place is?
And, do you think that joining a mailing list, is so high a barrier?

>>> Yes, all of my typo list stuff is filtered to its own box, but still,
>>> watching one thread is not convenient.
>> I am not sure what you mean by convenience of watching a thread here
> For example, if I only wanted to see this thread
I suppose you and I use different approaches then. I don't want to miss 
any thread, so I try to read them all. There's always that elusive 
nugget of knowledge that might always came useful, or you might see a 
question that you are able to answer for others
There's mechanisms in most mail clients, though, to highlight specific 
threads (think thunderbird labels or gmail's star)

>>> As far as the gmane thing, its nice to have them suck up the info,
>>> but the fact is the info is re-displayed in a flat out ugly way. For
>>> a piece of software that is so beautiful to use, it sure is ugly
>>> trying to get support for it.
>> I would say these two statements are unrelated. No one here can  
>> control
>> how gmane looks like.
> Yes but you *can* opt not to use it as your sole source of archives
Of course, no one said the contrary! Mailman does its own archives, and 
there's mhonarc as well. However, I'm afraid you want easily searchable 
archives, so none of these will fit your needs, I admit that readily.
I wouldn't say phpBB has the most beautiful interface ever, though.
>>> There is just no elegance in a mailing
>>> list/NNTP/gmane support system, backed up by Trac, which while a good
>>> ticked and development tracking system, is certainly not the ideal
>>> solution for a primary website for something like typo.
>> I disagree. I think mailing lists are more elegant than forums, for
>> certain purposes. And this is one of them. But then again, you are
>> presuming the main website should be devoted to support. Why not  
>> devote
>> it to promotion, or to development, or to the community?
> No that is not my presumption at all. I think it would be nice to see  
> a main website that would connect you to the various parts of the  
> community, for example, link me to trac for development, link me to  
> forums for support, link me to downloads for a list of them, etc..
>>> I don't really know what Typo's plans are as far as what it wants to
>>> become. With the recent theme promotion and contest, it really seemed
>>> like typo was trying to reach out to the masses and say, look at me!
>>> But many people will be discouraged by the current support system,
>>> especially if they are used to the much more popular support system,
>>> the forum.
>> More popular according to who?
> More popular as far as *userbase*.  While mailing lists are quite  
> common in developer communities, they are largely unknown amongst end  
> users. Head over to MT or WordPress or even TextPattern's site and  
> find the mailing list. These are the 2 most popular blogging systems,  
> and less popular one, all with forums available for support.
LOL! I'm still subscribed to 2 MT lists, as a former MT plugin 
developer. Not that I read them much anymore, but I know spotlight will 
be able to turn relevant posts up if I do a search that is related to 
something discussed there.
Whereas the MT and WP forums are filled with noise nowadays.
However, I don't rate support systems by popularity, but by 
efectiveness. You are free to use your own rating system, of course

>>> If Typo wants to become the popular blogging system it deserves to
>>> be, it is going to need a more available format. NNTP is nice, but
>>> still requires news software to access. I can't get to it from the
>>> office at my day job, or from an international internet cafe.
>> Don't you have outlook express? I thought it still came bundled with
>> windows
> I dont use windows. I do have a news reader however and I am  
> comfortable using it.
>> (which I assume is what most offices and internet cafes use today)
> This is a terrible assumption. My office uses Outlook, but is  
> filtered exclusively to our exchange server. Internet cafes more  
> often then not do *not* provide an email client at all. Only web.
So what are you doing in such a cafe? I don't get the use case: you need 
support for an advanced blogging system,
so you go to a subpar internet cafe to obtain answers, answers that 
won't be of use until you return home, where you can connect to your 
hosting account (or your home server) apply the fixes, and return to the 
internet cafe to check everything is working now?
My office is a bit different than yours I suppose. Since most users are 
developers (and responsible and knowledgeable) internet use is not 
restricted (other than an informal ban on P2P clients, and mostly 
because of bandwidth consumption) so we can access any kind of service.
Where I worked before there, as an internet developer specifically, they 
wouldn't have minded me browsing typo forums if we had supported that 
product commercially. Then again, I was free (and expected) to access 
any kind of resource that was useful to me in my daily work.

>> In any case, I wouldn't expect my boss to tolerate me browsing typo
>> posts while at work.
> Im sure your boss wouldn't. Mine does. But the corporation is not  
> going to relax its filtering system for a couple of end users.
Well, if you go to work to read typo support forums, I think it is 
reasonably expected you comply with your corporate policy anyway. And I 
think you'll agree that your case is a particular exception to the norm, 
not the common case. (oh and by the way, I was exemplifying the normal 
case. As long as I don't miss deadlines, mine wouldn't either)
Expecting that typo would accommodate this rare profile is a bit 
demanding IMHO

In my previous job, if the need was justified, they would have obliged 
and relaxed access, often for a single workstation if need be.
In my current one, there is no need since everything is readily accessible.

There are companies that don't provide web access, only email access, 
mostly to avoid distractions. Now tell me, which model needs less 
special privileges?

>>> My point is this: a forum is plain EASY to use and everyone is
>>> familiar with the concepts. Patching together multiple various
>>> technologies and relying GOOGLE to be the lists search engine (which
>>> of course wont index every day) is not strong enough to escalate Typo
>>> to the usership of other popular systems. Unless the idea is to keep
>>> out everyone except those who are already rails initiates, I cannot
>>> think of a good reason not to use a forum.
>> Well, a forum has also certain disadvantages:
>> * If the forum server falls, you need to use google cache or something
>> like that. While I will be able to access my mailing list archive  
>> in 200
>> years (provided I'm still alive) and see the latest posts in my
>> blackberry or PDA (if I had one)
> My webserver has 99.9% uptime. If its ever down, it will be up again  
> within 5 minutes. Not to mention it is backed up nightly.
Oh and if the maintainer is hit by the proverbial bus and something goes 
awry, who's gonna ask for the backups to be published somewhere else?
>> * You need to register (and sign in) when you want to answer a  
>> question,
>> even when you want to respond individually to a poster. If not
>> necessary, forums soon become spamfected
> You must register for the mailing list, and sign into the email  
> server. And you are correct that it would be undesirable to allow  
> anonymous posting as that does generate spam. But what is stopping a  
> spammer from signing up for this list...
So you concede it so easy to use a mailing list than even a retarded 
spammer could do it, then?

>> * You need a web browser to access them, with good table support. So,
>> lynx is ruled out when you're in a system with shell only access (yes,
>> this is far-fetched)
> Actually, I am a frequent user of Lynx, and I am happy to report that  
> it has EXCELLENT table support.
for certain types of tables I suppose. What about other text based mail 
readers, though?
>> * There's always the need to nominate forum moderators, which need  
>> to be
>> managed by the maintainer. This reeks of elitism to me (but that's  
>> just
>> me of course)
> I agree this is a forums biggest challenge. The best way to solve it  
> is relatively unkown,  but I believe this is a challenge that is  
> overcommable
>> * Forum maintainers always find the need to put google ads somehow. I
>> respect their need to offset the costs, but then, they shouldn't offer
>> to donate resources if they can't keep them up.
> I agree. And truly if an opensource forum is running ads, they had  
> better be donating proceeds to the development of the project. IMHO.
Don't misinterpret me  here. As long as it is an independent user 
maintaining an 'unofficial' forum, I think it is within their rights to 
put ads. And often, unofficial forums become better than the official 
ones. But having an officially sanctioned forum with ads, that I don't 
like much (wherever the profit goes)
>> * Mail messages are easier to parse.
> Sure, but why do you need to parse them, when they are already in an  
> easy to use format.
Oh well, to make them easily searchable and indexable to begin with! 
Forums are easy to use for humans, but not for robots
I happen to be planning a new rails app, that would smartly (I refuse to 
say intelligently here) classify, filter and tag mail messages (and 
specially, mailing list messages) for easy browsing, thread watching, 
keyword highlighting and topic grouping of (personal) mail archives. And 
individual, plain text messages are always easier to deal with than web 
formatted post collections. That would explain why I am so biased to 
mailing lists ;) and what I'm doing to address their shortcomings. But 
that's only me, so my point doesn't carry much strength yet (at least 
until this product is something more than vaporware). Others, though, 
are doing interesting things in that field

>> If you want to devote a forum for support, by all means do so. I don't
>> want to appear as if I want to prevent you from doing it, just  
>> answering
>> your points here. I expect the developers will keep posting on the
>> mailing list as well, though.
> I appreciate that. I certainly would like to provide a support forum  
> for the community, and am fully willing to do so. I however could not  
> offer the bulk of support myself. Someone earlier on made the  
> statement that we should link up the forums to the mailing list, and  
> this is *very* easy to do. This would allow both options to exist in  
> tandem, both carrying the same information. This could give those who  
> want it choice. I would not think of making such a move without  
> approval from the community though. Because the community would be  
> the sole source of support for the forum.
I'm ok with that, as long as my email address is scrambled, and as long 
as there is not a brain leak towards the forums ;)
I still think mail messages are more accessible, since I only need to go 
to a place, my mail client, to follow different unrelated projects


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