off topic but appropriate

Steve Lamb grey at
Mon Jan 19 04:02:40 UTC 2009

tom arnall wrote:
> 	Why do you use this maillist instead of the ubuntu users forum? 

    I use both.  Who says you have to use one or the other?  However I prefer
mailing lists.  Actually I would prefer newsgroups over mailing lists for what
mailing lists do but that's not because of the medium but because of the tools
designed for handling newsgroups.

    But why a mailing list over a webforum?  Well, let's look at the
difference between Ubuntu-Users (U-U) and Ubuntu Forums (UF).

    In U-U all the mail is waiting for me when I open up Thunderbird.
Discussions are threaded so it is trivial to follow the flow of conversations
and skip subthreads which have diverged into a direction that no longer
interests me.  I can comment on specific messages without having to provide an
undo amount of context.  Also I can reply to several different messages in
succession without "spamming" the topic.

    If UF I go to the main page and get to see a snapshot of the 10-12 latest
posts.  To find other messages that interest me I have to dig through the
interface and actively search for topics marked with "new" posts.  Those
topics are not threaded.  It is impossible to skip tangents that no longer
interest me.  Furthermore I can't reply to several messages at once without
being considered as spamming the topic.  Of particular note is the fact that
webforums in general are trending towards quoting as the normal style of reply
along with a link to the original to provide a crude form of threading.  IE,
webforums are gradually groping their way to what we have already in mailing

    I forgot to mention.  Mailing list, I get to choose the editor.  Webforum,
I have to use the editor installed on the forum or manually hand code all the
markup.  Mailing lists, text-only.  Webforums, not text-only.

    For a longer explanation (as if this weren't verbose enough) here's what I
wrote about IRC, IM and Twitter.  The same sequence is playing out vis a vis
newsgroups, mailing lists and webforums.

> I ask this question because I am working to organize a maillist for political 
> discussion. You may ask, "There are hundreds of them already. Why add 
> another?" The short answer is that for all practical purposes no one uses 
> them, although people use political forums like extensively. 
> Understanding this difference in participation is the next step in my 
> project.

    The problem with mailing lists for political discussion... outside of
D-U... is that generally people come to mailing lists for a common interest.
IE, I'm an Atheist Libertarian.  Why would I join an Evangelical Republican
mailing list?  So I can bang my head against things about which their mind
won't change?  Nah, better uses for my time.  And mailing lists for political
discussion between groups is just a powder keg waiting to happen because the
die-hard, no-mind-changing people are going to hammer at each other, drown out
the the people who might want to discuss ideas and are open to change until
they leave.

    As for the webforums I doubt you're seeing real discussion.  It's a place
which makes it easy for one side to collect and for the other side to take
quick pot-shots and never return.

         Steve C. Lamb         | But who can decide what they dream
       PGP Key: 1FC01004       |      and dream I do

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