Upgrading fsfe.org -- your feedback

Ben Finney ben at benfinney.id.au
Fri Oct 12 00:51:08 UTC 2007

On 11-Oct-2007, allergic-to-spam at karlsen.me.uk wrote:
> > 3. Are there other tools you would like to have?
> Users should have the choice between forums and the mailing list. 
> Whilst I have used mailing lists when I absolutely needed to in the 
> past (and usenet), I find them obnoxious and very unpleasant to use. 

You give a lot of detail in your message exploring why you find 
mailing lists unwelcoming, and I thank you for it.

My main observation is that pretty much all the complaints you have 
are to do with *user interface*: entirely valid, but IMO not something 
the FSFE should spend much of its scarce resources on.

I think your complaints are far better addressed by providing messages 
via a standard network protocol — a mailing list or an NNTP forum — 
and allowing the user the choice of what *program* to use to interact 
with it. The FSFE shouldn't be expected to be, or employ, experts on 
user interface design for what is essentially a solved problem.

That way, the conversation isn't balkanised between "those who use 
mailing lists" and "those who use the web forums"; instead, everyone 
is using the same communication channel, but the end-point is selected 
by the individual to match their needs.

I, for one, have exactly the mirror reaction to yours: I find email 
and NNTP far more inclusive, because I already know how to use the 
software that interacts with it. If I need a different presentation of 
the messages, organised in custom ways as you suggest, I can choose 
software that does so without getting the service provider involved in 
that process at all.

With a web forum, on the other hand,  I have to suffer with whatever 
lame interface the webmaster chooses and learn a different interface 
for every different site, and hassle the provider not only for the 
delivery of messages but also the detailed interaction with them. 
Instead, of course, I throw my hands up at the effort involved and 
don't participate at all.

If the forum is, instead, accessible in all its features by a standard 
protocol with software I *already* know how to use, but isn't 
necessarily the *same* software everyone else uses, none of use are 
forced to learn each other's crazy preferences.

 \     "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?" "Uh, I think so, |
  `\      Brain, but balancing a family and a career ... ooh, it's all |
_o__)                      too much for me."  -- _Pinky and The Brain_ |
Ben Finney <ben at benfinney.id.au>
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