Gary Shannon wrote:

>Personally, I'd be much more comfortable if this
>mailing list were impressed on clay tablets, baked,
>and delivered quarterly by ox cart.

Not a bad idea. That's quarter-hourly, right?

>On the other hand, BBS forums have the huge advantage
>of being able to segregate everything into specific
>categories and topics.  In truth, as I'm sure I said
>once several years ago, I'd MUCH rather this were a
>BBS forum than this stone-age mailing list format.
>But alas, there are always those who, like Mark Twain,
>are in favor of progress but uncomfortable with
Regarding the use of phrases such as "*real*" and "stone-age" in this
discussion; clearly both formats have their advantages. In this case,
chronological progression does not reduce to "progress" (nor its
opposite): the fact the the mailing list format predates the phpBB
format doesn't mean it has been superseded.

For my part, I'm on the side of the mailing list. The only advantage
a forum system could offer me is the segregation of subjects. But
even that system depends on the author of a thread determining
the category. In other words, it's prone to the same failures the
the mailing-list solution of putting tags (like, say [CHAT]) in the
subject lines, though at least it's mandatory. However, this system
of categorisation is, IMHO, too strict for this mailing list, where
threads change subject quite quickly (which could at least be
indicated in a subject-line tag), and also, threads branch endlessly.

Forum systems I've seen tend to approach branching of threads
in two way: one, suppress them entirely and structure all discussions
as single lines; two, allow nested comments, which makes browsing
the forum an incredibly frustrating experience, since you need to click
on sub-responses and wait for pages to load. While it's ok to _read_
a forum like this, is makes quick skimming impossible. And the
ability to skim and skip quickly is about the only thing that makes it
possible for me to follow a high-volume forum like this (well, that
and the mutability of subject lines: something web forums don't offer).
Also, I find the methods of keeping track of what's been read on
forums to be inadequate. The usual simple  "threads you've never
clicked on" filter doesn't do the job, especially when new posts
occur as additions to the end of a "read" thread. On a list like this
where there's a mix of chat and fairly technical monologues, I like
to mark individual messages as read, unread, or with even finer
flags, say, to indicate "read, but I want to re-read in detail", and
so on (which I can do with my mail reader). I think, transition
to a web based forum would spell the end of my ability to keep
up with this list (and others), and for no clear advantage that I
can see.

On the other hand, the mailing list format offers a plethora of advantages,
at least with the right tools. I understand that if you just have all of
the CONLANG posts popping into your inbox alongside mail from
your mother and from other lists, it might not seem inconvenient. But
in that case, you really need to learn how to use your mail client properly.
For example, I read my list mail with the mail application that comes with
Mozilla. It's able to filter all my list mail (for multiple lists) into
folders, according to fairly complex rules that are quite easy to set up.
It's able to thread discussions by subject title, which makes it convenient
to skip and skim, and of course the response is instantaneous. It handles
Unicode [when the server doesn't eat it] and most other encodings with
ease (meaning that even if it chooses the wrong one, it's quite quick for
me to correct it). And although I'm quite a Mozilla fan, I suspect that
nothing unusual about these features: at least OE and Eudora must have
comparable abilities.


Stephen Mulraney  [log in to unmask]
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