[typo] Typo Forums?

Freedom Dumlao freedom at freedomdumlao.com
Mon Dec 5 01:30:32 EST 2005

On Dec 4, 2005, at 1:21 PM, Victor Jalencas wrote:

> 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.
So a new user who wants to ask a question about installation should  
sign up for the mailing list and *lurk* and keep his or her fingers  
crossed hoping someone covers the topic, or that someone will reveal  
that *they* are the person to ask? If I can't install a blogware  
system in one night, Im not using it. If I needed to *lurk* before I  
could ask a question, I would just say forget it.

> 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.
Once the question has been asked and answered, it is easily found by  
using the forum search. Also most people may only need one question  
answered during their entire time using a piece of software.

> I am a bit old-fashioned, and I like getting to know people.
I do too, but like you I too am old fashioned.

>>>> 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,
Yes if it is linked to under the support link on the typo main page.  
Or if the domain is meaningful like say: typoforums.com

> but not a mailing list archive? How much more scope exactness do  
> you need?
It's not me I am concerned about. I am concerned about those users  
who are *NOT* developers, but are *users.* this group of people does  
not have the patience or the experience to bother with mailing lists.

> 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.
Point taken, but still, relying on google to fulfill our support needs.

>>>> 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?
Exactly. Like in a forum. Or in a FAQ, which typo's is pretty soft.  
Or even a wiki, once again a soft spot.

>>>> 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.
Yes that is correct. But that should not upset anyone, after all you  
have to register to use this list.
>>> 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
The advantage is you can subscribe only to threads you care about. If  
you are only interested in *theme development* you dont have to get  
posts on *installation troubles* in your email.

>>> 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
How on earth do you check your email without logging into a mail server?

>>> 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)
As I said, it is *relative* and highly subjective. You are not  
typical of a blogware end user group. Your experience is probably  
much greater than the average blogger, who only wants to install the  
system and use it and report bugs and ask questions. Not EVERYONE is  
a developer.
> 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)
Yes or simple sorting by category. All of these facilities are  
available for sorting things out. Now try and search a particular  
thread for a particular phrase. Can't easily be done in most mail  
>>>> 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.
Both ugly.

> 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.
Agreed. I would prefer to use a ruby solution, but rforums is a bit  
feature lacking at the moment (although coming along very nicely!)
>>>> 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.
Great, but not for END USER SUPPORT.

> 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.
Your question was "More popular according to who?" And by the way, if  
WordPress' forum is so ineffective, why are there so many WP users  
vs. any other open-source blogware system?

> You are free to use your own rating system, of course
Lets use userbase. I think any software project should be focused on  
users. Typo is beautiful, and deserves a larger share of the blogware  
market, IMO.

>>>> 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?
Have you ever been to Thailand? Hong-Kong? Japan? Internet cafes  
there are not *sub-par* just because they dont include Outlook. What  
if the power went out while you were logged into outlook at an  
internet cafe? If you diddnt wait around till the lights came back  
on, your config info would still be saved in outlook, and the next  
user would get a free looksee.

I have a java based SSH client on my server that I can use to log  
into and edit code on my server when I am overseas. I also have a  
backup web interface for doing the same thing.

> 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.
I work for a bank. We are VERY restricted on services we can access.

> 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.
Sure but if you only get ports 80, 21, and 23 and any page with the  
word web-mail or mailing list is barred, this is hard to do.

>>> 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.
Since it would be coming through port 80, I would be. Not that its  
any business of anyone here.

> And I
> think you'll agree that your case is a particular exception to the  
> norm,
Yes, probably.

> 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)
Only for this situation. The rest of your argument has applied to  
your situation. The *normal* case is not a developer like you or I.  
The *normal* blogger just wants to blog and not sign up for mailing  
lists or set up NNTP access which they may or may not have access to  
or experience with.

> Expecting that typo would accommodate this rare profile is a bit
> demanding IMHO
I dont expect that they accommodate *me.* But to accommodate a much  
more diverse set of scenarios. I just used some of my situations as  
examples of the diverse situations that people find themselves in.

> In my previous job, if the need was justified, they would have obliged
> and relaxed access, often for a single workstation if need be.
Not if you were at a bank you would not have.

> In my current one, there is no need since everything is readily  
> accessible.
Lucky you.

> 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?
A person at such a company could do no work on Typo from his or her  
terminal at all then, so would have little need to read the mailing  
list. Also, these situations do not allow for people to access  
personal email.

>>>> 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?
Touche! I better watch out for busses! All kidding aside, the same  
could be said for many servers anywhere. What if google decides it no  
longer wants to provide its service for free? What if google stops  
indexing mailing lists, what if, what if... You can not discount an  
idea just because there is a what if. Perhaps the backups could be  
made available on a mirror somewhere, there are a thousand solutions  
to that problem. Please dont hit me with a bus though ;)

>>> * 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?
I don't discount the intelligence of spammers. They tend to be quite  
savvy. All they would have to do is sign up  for the list here, and  
send one email to the list. Then everyone gets the spam. Do that one  
hundred times in a night, before they get banned, and that is a LOT  
of spam.

>>> * 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?
I'm not sure I understand the question. I use mutt for mail reading  

>>> * 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)
Yes, I also dislike them. But I don't think we should count out the  
whole idea because someone might decide to show ads.

>>> * 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
I see! This is a very interesting project! I wish you luck with it. I  
did like the idea of making the forums tandem with the list, that way  
your software would still be able to index the mail.

>>> 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
> Victor
All in all Victor, I have to say that I am gaining a great respect  
for your opinion and your defense of it. I think the idea of  
connecting the forums to the mailing list is the way to go. I think  
what I will do is create a "sleeper" forum that simply indexes the  
list for the time being. At least for those who want an easy way to  
search for support.

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