[clug] Re: Using a forum system for CLUG

Nemo Thorx wombat at nemo.house.cx
Tue May 5 18:28:21 GMT 2009

On Tue, May 05, 2009 at 11:11:28AM +1000, Daniel Pittman did utter:
> >> The email-to-forum gateway idea has been growing on me, would you mind
> >> sharing what sort of problems you're referring to though?
> >
> > Curiously, the email list vs forum vs usenet discussion is one that has
> > occupied my mind in the past. Only a few weeks ago I wrote up the bare
> > bones summary as I saw it, and what sort of solution might be viable.
> > Write up is on my wiki - feel free to pitch in anyone:
> > http://wiki.thorx.net/wiki/Forum
> The tone of the article is rather emotional, and pejorative.  Well,
> perhaps misanthropic is better; you don't seem to like any of the
> alternatives.

It's one of the proverbial itches that I might scratch one day. Of
course it's emotional. More relevantly, It's also very very much a first
draft rambling of ideas, and shouldn't be seen as more. 

> > Problem with gateways seems to be that one frontend (web/email/etc) is
> > "native", and the others are translations, making all other frontends
> > clumsy workarounds.
> >
> > A ground-up rebuilding which divorced frontend from backend could (and
> > I stress that that is a 'c' could, not a 'w' would) go a long way to
> > solving this.
> I think you have mis-identified the problem: the issue isn't that the
> "web" or "NNTP" or "email" is considered the primary source...
> It is that those three forums each have different social customs, habits
> and assumptions.  That mismatch shows up when you get the worlds
> colliding.
> For example, it is common on web forums to include large and graphical
> signatures, to use HTML styling in articles[1], and to assume that
> people are looking at your text in explicit and linear context.
> In the NNTP space, conversely, HTML is more or less verboten, outside of
> alt.warlord you don't use big signatures, and you assume that people see
> your text in context, but provide edited quotations anyhow.
> In the email world HTML is mixed, but unpopular in technical circles,
> signatures vary but tend toward the NNTP side, and there is vicious
> debate about which method of quoting and what assumption of context can
> be made.

yeah, this is a good point. One I kind of was aware of, but hadn't
properly thought about, though I had started that section with the
usability points. It's a wiki, feel free to expand (or, you know, I will
later :)

> Those users often get on like a house on fire, with screaming, death and
> destruction everywhere. ;)

I think on my wiki page I alluded to user education as one means of
bridging the gaps. I think if the web front-end was sufficiently
2.0-ised (and not so BBforum style), that this could be done. When I say
2.0-ised, I'm thinking slashdot comment threads now. There is no culture
of HTML, sigs, etc in there, and there IS a culture of threading... 

> Those shared social assumptions from the space are much, much more
> important than any technical aspects of the discussion at hand.

Which is why something new can start with fresh assumptions. 

> Actually, I have one technical offering: MarkDown is probably a good
> source of inspiration for bridging between the HTML-rich and HTML-poor
> worlds, and using multipart/alternative views that translate in both
> directions will help bridge some of the social gap.
> Specifically MarkDown, by the way, and not just "plain text markup",
> because it was designed to mirror email and Usenet conventions in favour
> of the more correct or expressive markup that some other languages
> elected to use.

I like some aspects of MarkDown (most of the textformatting actually),
but think they dropped the ball totally with link and image handling.
I'm also not particularly impressed with their emphasis handling.
(but then: I can be annoyingly opinionated about things I've spent too
much looking into myself, regardless of popular usage:
http://wiki.thorx.net/wiki/NEWS/Markup  <-- 6+ years ago I spent some
time devising some markup of my own... (some of which looks embarrasing
now :)

So that personal opinion aside, yes, MarkDown fits the bill nicely. 

> Footnotes: 
> [1]  Typically through some sort of intermediate language designed to
>      make HTML "safe" when entered by untrusted users.

Yes, I could rant about BBcode too... 


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