email vs forum (was Re: OK, the forum is coming..)

Steven ** montgoss+openmokocommunity at
Wed Jul 25 17:52:36 CEST 2007

I've been mostly silent in this discussion (partially because it's taken me
two days to catch up on it), but I have some thoughts/questions.

The gist of the argument for email seems to be:
1. You can download all the messages and view them offline
2. Standalone email clients group messages by who they replied to instead of
grouping by subject line and then by date
3. Forums suck (in your opinion)

I understand that now, but I didn't before because:
1. I use gmail and am always online
2. I use gmail, which does not group messages based on replies
3. I check several forums daily and don't think they suck

Forums work for me because:
1. I'm always online
2. Forums have categories.  So, I never check the hardware category because
I don't do low-level stuff.  I watch some other category closely reading
every message closely (and reply to some).  I occasionally check out the
other catagories as well, but only if I have free time.
3. If I post a question or response in a thread, I often have the forum
notify me when there is a response.  So, even if I don't have a lot of free
time, I'll see an email come in saying someone has responded to something
I'm directly involved in, so I will take a minute to see what the new
message is.
4. In a forum, you can edit a post and easily format your message (I could
use HTML in an email, but seems like a lot of people here view email in
plaintext and my HTML would just annoy them).

So, my questions:
1.  Is there a way to get Gmail to thread the messages based on who it was
in response to?
2.  Is there a way to get a mailing list with categories?  So that I can see
that a particular category and not worry about the other stuff?  I thought
that was the point of separate mailing lists, but I get messages ranging
from questions on ordering and shipping the phone to problems setting up a
build environment to marketing ideas to feature suggests etc. The traffic is
getting unmanageably large.  (perhaps you manage better than me.  but I
don't have time to sift through 20 threads with 5-50 responses every day).
The result is that I delete entire threads based on the subject.  I will
probably miss valuable information that might have even been relevant to me
because of this.  Any ideas on how to reduce the traffic or make it more


On 7/24/07, kent at <kent at> wrote:
> On Tue, Jul 24, 2007 at 10:45:32AM -0700, Daniel Robinson wrote:
> > The fact that you are subscribed to 20 different mailing lists and you
> would
> > find it difficult to read all of that information on 20 different
> forum's
> > is your issue, and it is not the responsibility of this community to
> > address.
> Probably it is.  There are many people *in this community* in the same
> boat,
> and in general, those people will be the most knowledgeable and the most
> valuable sources of information, since they will tend to be more
> technically
> oriented, and be the most experienced internet users, and will be plugged
> in
> to more numerous sources of information (since email is indeed more
> efficient
> for being connected to many different information sources).
> > To state, axiomatically,  that mailing lists are more efficient is to
> > attempt proof by assertion.
> Not trying to "prove" something -- trying to give benefit of long
> experience
> in similar situations.  Email is substantially more efficient, because it
> is
> intrinsically more powerful.  For example:
> 1) Essentially any functionality a forum can support can be supported by
> good
> email clients -- threading, sorting (or categorization), searching,
> restricted visibility.  Converse isn't true (see below).
> 2) Forums cannot be viewed when you are offline, but email is a store and
> forward protocol, and works perfectly with only occasional connections to
> the internet -- you can read your email on a plane; you can't read a
> forum.
> 3) A forum, and indeed any web-based application by definition, is
> fundamentally
> restricted to the functions that can be provided by a browser.  Web-based
> email suffers the same restrictions, but email clients can make full use
> of
> the OS interface.  And contrariwise, email also supports pure text-based
> clients -- try using a text-based browser on typical forum applications
> for
> an exercise in frustration.
> 4) With email, you get to pick what you want to keep and don't want to
> keep.
> With a forum you have no control -- garbage stays there unless removed by
> an
> admin.
> 5) Email is accessible to a far larger population.  Email supports both
> web-based and client based interaction.  It supports text and graphical
> UIs.
> It gives a decent user experience over less bandwidth.  It works better
> with mobile devices (eg blackberry).
> 6) Email has far better support for exchanging documents, media, and other
> kinds of information.  (Web interfaces have good support for *display*,
> but
> lousy support for *sending*.)
> 7) When you get really good at using a particular email client, that real
> "down to the fingers" expertise generalizes to every email list.  Forums
> use
> different interfaces.
> Well, then, why not have forums for people who want them, and leave email
> for people who don't want them?   The thing is, it doesn't work very well
> in
> practice.  If experience is any guide, then the technically knowledgable
> people will use email, and won't waste much time on the forums.  But a
> project at the current stage of the openmoko project will require lots of
> *technical* help for everyone, so what will happen is that you will have
> to
> follow the email lists anyway... I mean -- I could be wrong, but that's
> the
> way things seem to go with this kind of project.
> Kent
> --
> Kent Crispin
> Technical Systems Manager
> _______________________________________________
> OpenMoko community mailing list
> community at
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