[LINK] Maintaining the link list

Craig Sanders cas at taz.net.au
Sat Feb 19 13:22:03 AEDT 2011

On Sat, Feb 19, 2011 at 11:21:02AM +1000, Greg Taylor wrote:
> Why not move to an online discussion forum?

because it would be an incredibly bad idea.

> Pros:
> - email addresses are not exposed

big deal. if you rely on obscuring your email address to avoid spammers



b) it doesn't work, because spammers will get your email address anyway
- even if they don't trawl it from the web or from somebody's address
book or contacts list or facebook or whatever, they will make it up in
the usual manner by combining random localparts (usernames) with random
domain names and spamming it anyway.

keeping spam out of your mailbox requires good spam filters, not hiding your
email address.

also, it's trivially easy to set up new email addresses for subscribing to
mailing lists if you don't want to use your main address.

> - only subject postings of interest need to be downloaded by each subscriber

actually, there is no downloading. there is only browsing. one post at a
time, with HTTP round-trip delays for each one.

> - RSS feeds are available for those with the need for immediate 
> notification of new messages
> - forum software is now quite sophisticated and easy to install, 
> maintain and administer
> - topic categorisation is enforced

forum type software is suited to announcement bulletin boards (e.g. a
blog), not discussion lists. the things that make it good for the former
make it bad for the latter.

> - posting blunders can be easily corrected.

only if you ignore caches, the wayback machine, personal archives,
and everything else that ensures that anything posted publicly to the
internet is impossible to un-post.

in other words, no real difference to a mailing list.

> Cons 
> - more public (although since the link list is currently archived
>   online, this is a moot point) 
> - may attract spammers (but there are ways to manage this) 
> - usually needs a LAMP hosting service, but these are now cheap, reliable
>   and accessible.
>  Maybe ANU can provide the service anyway. It's easy enough to set up.

 - they're clumsy to use

 - they're slow

 - they're designed for casual, occasional use rather than regular use.

 - they require a web browser rather than an email client

 - too much mousing, not enough keyboard use.

 - keeping track of where you are up to in a individual forum thread
   is essentially impossible. doubly so for the entire forum itself.

 - it requires you to login (or at least visit the site) for
   updates rather than deliver new posts to you as they are sent.

 - they require you to have yet another login account (and password)
   on yet another system, instead of using your existing email account.

   for slack people who use the same password on multiple systems
   (which, unfortunately, is probably the majority of the population),
   that also means yet another opportunity for your accounts to be

 - in my experience, the quality of posts on a forum is greatly inferior
   to the quality of posts on a mailing list.  this seems to be a universal
   principle, regardless of the forum topic or intended audience (i.e. it's
   just as true for a tech-oriented forum as it is for a non-tech forum)

 - you can't download the archives of previous months or years to (at
   your convenience) catch up, search for particular topics, read FAQs,

   with a mailing list, for example, i can download an mbox or Maildir
   format archive, load it into mutt (or whatever) and then scan/search
   for older posts of interest.  WITHOUT the huge and annoying delays of
   using a web browser to browse a remote web site.

   and forum software typically requires a stupid Captcha for every
   search, and almost always requires you to be logged in to the forum
   before you are even allowed to search. sure, this is a configuration
   option but it's probably there because not restricting/limiting
   searches will have too great an impact on performance.

 - in short, they suck 

i've got no objection to a forum *in addition to* a mailing list
(because i can then ignore it as if it doesn't exist), but it is not a
substitute for one.


craig sanders <cas at taz.net.au>

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