Forums vs Mailing Lists

Michael Shigorin mike at
Fri Dec 23 20:12:29 GMT 2005

On Thu, Dec 22, 2005 at 08:06:52PM -0800, Daniel Robitaille wrote:
> > however what really sucks about Debain and what keeps it back
> > is lack of a proper forum.  The community is distributed in
> > the mailing lists and so its inclusive/exclusive more than
> > distro's with well organised forums.
> That posting from a Forum user raises all sort of issues in my mind:

Me too.

> a) the disconnect between the Forum and the Developers.
> It seems there is perceived gap between users of the forum  and
> the "developers", and an apparent feeling that developers
> ignore the forums.

Forums being quite ineffective, it's no surprise.

> b) the lack of quality of the Ubuntu forums versus others like
> Gentoo's forums
> It is because developers and some of the Ubuntu users are
> ignoring the forums that the quality is apparently low?
> (obviously I cannot comment on this quality of the forums due
> to my lack of forum history)

I'd conclude a few things on Gentoo community if they prefer
forums as the discussion medium... but folks tend to be offended 
for a few years -- until they actually find out the scalability
of forums vs mail/news ;-)

Actually there *are* a few management things that are possible
with forums and are hard to impossible with "proper media" (TM)
but I can't recall exactly what it was (and it's not generally
available feature(s)).

> I find it interesting to see that someone can think that
> because Ubuntu activities are mailing list based, that create
> an "inclusive/exclusive" separation; anyone can join the lists.

It's harder than just dumping stuff into a forum, and a bit "less
intuitive" to the Pepsi generation than singing up onto a forum.

There's one constructive bit on this: Mailman badly lacks proper
MLM features like single sign-on possibility.  That's exactly why
we're striving with Sympa even if 4.x got broken wrt a few things
that worked flawlessly in 3.x -- it's actually *easy* there to
register *one* email address and then pick up the needed number
of fine-grained mailing lists to one's taste.

Getting lists to helps with those who feel
incomfortable with this mailman's misfeature to some degree
though ;-)

> I'm not sure it is a good thing on the long run to have a
> growing resentement that we have 2 separate community, one
> mailing list based, and one forum based, and the developers
> tend to hang in one side of the fence.  But is there anything
> we can do?

Maybe no, it's a matter of taste and habit.  I really tend to
find tastes and habits of most forum inhabitants differing enough
from mine to have too much background to be passed to and fro
before actual help occurs.  So considered a waste of time.

> It's not like we can force people to join the forums, and we
> cannot force people to join the mailing lists.

Maybe it would help to have a clear lists ad topping the forums?
(e.g. "most of the community actually lives there, let's go!")

Ah, we even have that answer laid out on wiki:

 ---- WBR, Michael Shigorin <mike at>
  ------ Linux.Kiev

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