Fw: [clug] Flirting Techniiques For Men (Paul Wayper)

Daniel Pittman daniel at rimspace.net
Sat May 2 05:17:14 GMT 2009

David Schoen <neerolyte at gmail.com> writes:

G'day David.

> I know it's taken me a while to respond but I still don't read my home
> email very often...
> At the risk of offending some, maybe it would be worth considering
> communication platforms in addition to email for CLUG discussions.
> I know part of the reason why I never signed up to the CLUG mailing
> list while I was just starting with Linux was because it kind of
> scared me.

That is kind of sad — not in your specific case, but because it says
that there is a perception that the group is rather elitist. :/

> My thoughts are that Forum/Bulletin Board might be the answer...
> The last one I played with was phpBB 2, which is fairly old now so I'm
> sure there must be something better :)
> We could have multiple sections (e.g. Anonymous/Beginners/General/Kernel
> Hacking/Off Topic/Whatever) and people would only have to subscribe to forum
> sections they were interested in reading.

Unfortunately, I don't think this will achieve the goal you are after —
not least because the issue you have is not (I think) a technical issue,
but also because this just won't scale.

More on that later, because it is apropos another point you raise.

> Meaning the people who aren't interested in reading questions from
> people posting anonymously wouldn't have to

Do you really think that allowing anonymous questions is really going to
be that much of an improvement?  Certainly, from my experience[1]
anonymous posting will encourage disruptive behaviour and reduce the
sense of community.

Do you have an example of somewhere that this is successfully done to
show as a model for how the system would work?  While I personally doubt
that it would be an improvement, someone doing it would help convince me
that it is possible.

> but anyone who's happy to try and help scared newbies but not so keen
> on reading about kernel hacking (me) would also be catered for.

Leaving aside that there has been very little discussion (that I recall)
of kernel hacking, how fine do you want to try and dice the community?

> Someone was also asking about the possibility for RSS feeds of the
> list, I think most forum packages supply RSS these days.

I can't understand why people want RSS feeds, really.  My question, of
course, is "how are they any different to getting the email?"

My best guess is that, like using the forum email systems, they will
only see the "start of a thread", and that is considered a feature,
because it makes it easier to avoid content they are "not interested in."

However, GMANE do archive public lists, and do make available an RSS
feed of the content, if that is what people really want.

> I definitely would have been much happier posting my "stupid"
> questions under "anonymous" somewhere while I was learning linux.

>From my experience, which includes running various online communities
over the last ten year, you have two key problems:

The first is that you are trying to split into categories a much more
general set of discussions — the CLUG content has a lot of cross-over,
and a lot of the value comes from being exposed to things that are not
directly interesting.

That is where the idea will not scale: it requires a good deal more
planning ahead, adaption to the gradual changes in the body of the
membership and much, much more active maintenence to work as well as the
list does today.

The second is that your model embeds privilege and power into the
system, as well as removing the requirement of being at least
pseudonymous for participation in the community.

This, generally speaking, discourages community and replaces it with a
brief period in which people can establish themselves followed by a long
period in which the "old guard" have power, while new participants are
relegated to the role of hanger-on in a much more formal way.

This is made worse by the habit of forum packages to assign "ranks"
based on participation in the forum: it substitutes the passage of time
for any actual skill, resulting in acknowledged experts in the field
being descibed (by the software) as "lowly neophites", while people who
have little real skill but plenty of time are "acknowledged masters".[2]

Finally, you also have the lesser technical problem that using a web
based forum is going to drive away technically skilled people because it
increases the cost of dealing with CLUG.

Personally, I get an average of between 500 and 800 emails a day from
various sources, including CLUG and other LUGs.  These are easy enough
for me to deal with because I have a set of tools that handle that
volume well — they make it efficient for me to sort, search,
machine-filter and otherwise manage that volume of traffic.

When I am faced with a web forum I am stuck: unlike a mailing list,
where I am handed the data and allowed to deal with it however I please,
a we forum requires me to use the web interface to that information.

My ability to search is limited by what the designer envisioned.
I can't, for example, automatically score up responses to my comments,
down topics that are not of interest, up various experts, and end up
with an automatically filtered and highlighted set of high and low
priority items to address myself.

I am also forced to use the web system to respond: I can't, easily, use
Emacs to edit my response, cross-refrence with my notes on various
topics, edit the message I am composing or otherwise integrate it
outside the web browser.

For me, those considerations actually make the "discussion" part of most
web forums sufficiently costly that I just /can't/ participate.  I could
manage literally a tenth or less of the same work — and, then, only when
connected to the Internet, not while travelling, or in a batch

The same is true of others, as is the simple matter that many of the
more experienced peolpe in the area just don't /like/ the new web forums
very much.[3]

Web forums certainly offer some technical advantages, but they also
offer a lot of technical drawbacks, and generally they don't work well
to build the sort of community that has historically been found around a

Oh, and a parting thought for you:

Like elsewhere in the Open Source Community, code talks; if you think
that a web based forum system is going to be better for the CLUG
membership than a mailing list, set one up.[4]

If you are right then the community will flock to it, and it will become
apparent to everyone that the forum solution is the better solution.

Plus, you know, if you put in the time, effort and money to run the
forum then it becomes hard for anyone to use the need of them as an
excuse to run it down. ;)


[1]  ...and, generally speaking, as the conclusion of every study done
     on communication behaviour in anonymous, pseudonymous and
     identified communications.

[2]  Yes, this actually /is/ from an online forum where one of the
     authors of the programming language under discussion joined to
     discuss things, and was corrected about the(ir own) intention of
     the language designer...

[3]  This will change; give it five or ten more years and email lists
     will certainly be vastly more in the minority, I suspect, since the
     people at the top of the field and in public view will have grown
     up with the web things.

[4]  If you approach it right it shouldn't even be hard to convince the
     membership to endorse it as the "official", or at least
     "experimental" forum of the CLUG, not just a disconnected service.

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