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Re: Linux Forums

I have been following this mailing list vs web forum thread and I hope my post is not too late. I like the post by Anders Breindahl so I quoted his entire message below.

My view is that commiters will favor mailing list because it requires commitment, as Adners said, it has a sense of "seriousness". But, is it reasonable to expect a general user to be committed?

For exmaple, suppose a user just wants to ask a question, is it reasonable to require him to subscribe, receive unrelated emails, then unsubscribe? Why should asking a question be complicated? Why can't the list be designed to let him receive only replies to his post instead of receiving all emails? Because, by design, a list favors commiters, not the general users.

Why are we discussing this? I think we want to show some love for the general users, no? They do contribute by finding bugs. What's more, without them, why doing the project?

But setting up a separate web forum will not help. The reason is well explained in this thread, and the result is proven by history. Doing so only splits the community. A web forum is more friendly to the general users but it has no substance because the commiters are not there.

Sergey Spiridonov suggested Gmane http://www.nabble.com/Linux-Forums-t971482.html#a2573281 - I think that's the way to go. The core of the discussion should remain rooted in mailing list as it is backed by a group of committers - nothing can beat this. But at the same time there should be a web gateway to allow a general user to search, post, get reply without causing a cluttered mailbox and frequent subscribe/unsubscribe drills.

Having a good search is key. But mailing list archive search is often slow, broken, not up-to-date, or incomplete as in the case of using Google's site search. Same questions get asked repeatedly, this annoys committers. If searching a mailing list archive is as easy as Google, then the postings will become less and more on-topic.

I am a member of a new project called Nabble - the goal is to improve public discussions on the web. It works like Gmane with regard to mailing list - it provides mailing list with a searchable archive, a threaded view, and a web gateway for posting. But it tries to improve upon existing solutions by providing a better search (using Lucene) and a clean UI. Check out the mirror of this Debian list here: http://www.nabble.com/Debian-Project-f43.html

Also, Nabble allows to combine lists into a structured heirachy (v.s. a flat list). For example, all 150 Debian lists are archived here: http://www.nabble.com/Debian-f24.html - a user can search all Debian lists from this one node instead of going to each individual list to search. Finding the matched thread/post will help them to post to the right list.

I hope this helps the discussion.

Will L

Anders Breindahl wrote:
On 2006-01-25  0151, Michael Banck wrote:
> On Tue, Jan 24, 2006 at 08:02:19AM -0800, Paul Johnson wrote:
> > I don't see how opening a web forum only the newbies are likely to
> > benefits the newbies or is fair to the experienced users who volunteer
> > to help them.
> People learn quickly.  Those who discovered GNU/Linux a year ago and
> only got exposed to web forums before might be totally capable of
> helping others already, and are more likely to do so on their familiar
> media.

I might pitch in, here. Almost two years ago, I have been in the
community for almost two years, and in my experience, web forums are
useless. Generally, of course.

As a new GNU/Linux user, you have some rather recurring questions:
- I have this crazy Windows habit -- how is that done in GNU/Linux?
- I lack a replacement for this Windows program
And, the less trivial:
- I can't get this to compile

The way I see it, the first two bullets should be covered in some
central document. Does Debian have a migrating-from-Windows guide?

The last bullet is the interesting one, as some community interaction is
required. Rather often, I look back and think, that I would have been so
much better off mailing a mailing list with my troubles. I searched the
web, crawled forums, and my all-in-all trivial question could more
easily be answered at d-u. My problem was, that I was afraid of mailing
lists (that is, how the experienced community would react).
Once that fear was overcome, I had no trouble using mailing lists. In
fact, the superior degree of seriousness is very appreciated.

So, IMHO, Debian needs to integrate new users more into the mailing
lists -- at least, rather than forking the community.

Also, some quick-start links from the download pages would be smart.
Most of us use some 10m - 2h on downloading a disc, while sitting more
or less idle in whatever working operating system. We could encourage
people to jump across a few lightly-read guides?

Anyway. Merely my rather unstructured thoughts on this.
Anders Breindahl / skrewz

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