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Topic: LISTSERV vs. forum (i.e., vBulletin) (14 msgs / 1621 lines)
1) From: David
Greetings all,
I have been on, designing, building, programming, or fixing a computer since
1976, and in those 33 years, I have seen a lot of things, from both the
outside and inside. I'd like to offer an observation about the current
discussion of improving the LISTSERV vs. implementing Yahoo Groups or a
locally-maintained forum.
As we've all seen, the LISTSERV dispatches are cumbersome. By the time you
get in all the quoted messages (often multiple copies of them), headers that
don't get stripped out, and the occasional thousand lines of duplicate
content because somebody replied to a dispatch and forgot to delete the
portion that didn't apply to their post, we're averaging a whole lot of
extra material to have to try to read through, and whomever is moderating
has to not only skim through it, but read it carefully and edit it, meaning
they are making a lot of duplicate effort as well. And when good information
that is worth keeping for reference comes through, it has to be clipped and
saved to a private file, and then finding it again is a spin of a roulette
wheel.
Forums fix all of that. But that leaves the question of a public place like
Yahoo Groups or a private forum hosted on SM's server or leased space at a
place like GoDaddy or 1&1. I've spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to
support users who have trouble with Yahoo Groups, and it's a perfect example
of something free being exactly what you pay for it -- worthless.
vBulletin (php-based forum) is about $300 per year to license, last I heard,
and comes set up to require little to no customization just for straight
discussion boards; adding download-tracking features and stuff like that
might take a little custom programming, but that wouldn't be necessary for
the scant needs of a bunch of adventurous folks wanting to share information
and maybe an occasional picture. GoDaddy also has several free forum add-ons
that are quite good (you just pay them something like $9 per month for the
server space and if I'm not mistaken, they include a domain registration in
that) and some inexpensive high-end forum add-ons as well. For basic use,
all of these options are very easy for anybody who has even a little
computer geek in them to customize and moderate.
For those not familiar, in a forum environment, threads are divided into
categories, and possibly subcategories, and their presentation is sorted by
activity date, so even very old threads that still have questions and
answers going in them appear at the tops of the lists while even newer
threads that aren't seeing activity drift downward and out of the way. The
software tracks which posts in which threads you have viewed and not viewed,
so you can easily skip what you've already seen, and this is an extreme
benefit to a moderator, who can moderate only what they have not seen and
not have to sift through volumes of text they've already reviewed looking
for anything new. 
Sorting into categories and subcategories allows for divisions of on-topic
(coffee) and off-topic (whatever else that is not coffee) threads to be
started in different areas. A lot of people become "pen pals" through
LISTSERV and forums, and the off-topic areas are a place to congregate for
off-topic discussion instead of clogging up the coffee information stream.
Within the on-topic category can be subcategories for bean reviews, roasting
methods, brewing method instruction and reviews, equipment reviews,
troubleshooting, etc., allowing someone who is looking for information to be
able to find it quickly by either browsing or using the internal search
engine that is a part of all forum software, allowing both keyword and
username searches, filtered by dates, etc.
Forums also allow for multiple moderators, so if whomever is in charge as
the Administrator at SM's wants some help and sees posts from people who are
consistently informative, mentoring, and appropriately self-edited, he or
she can ask them to volunteer to help with moderation of a single topic,
multiple topics, or the entire board. And FYI, some forums make the mistake
of treating moderator status as some sort of reward for being active or
popular; it is not a reward. It is a responsibility and can be a lot of work
and requires dedication. I have personally moderated on 27 forums in my
life, and have administered four, and I can tell you from long, hard
experience, it can be fun, but it is a labor of love for the dedicated, not
a prize in a popularity contest, so if SM's decides to go this route, be
aware that this is something you do as a supporter, not something you flaunt
as a status symbol; it's a supreme example of leadership being a position of
service more than power.
I'm not trying to sell this. For my purposes over the years it has proven to
be the best way to handle the flow, storage and retrieval of group-generated
information. It's easy to set up, easy to maintain, and easy to use. But
somebody has to make the decision to switch, and if the decision is made,
somebody has to set it up, and somebody has to pay for it, both to exist and
be maintained (the maintenance effort and cost would be less than that
required to moderate LISTSERV). That may not be practical for this
situation, and that's somebody else's decision. What I am trying to do is to
offer the benefit of 33 years experience as an IT consultant, because I like
you folks, and love the crew at SM's; nothing more, and nothing less.
Now I'm off to draw a couple shots of Panama Maunier Estate MWP Decaf. ;-)
David Jackson

2) From: Ira
At 10:23 PM 8/22/2009, you wrote:
<Snip>
Yea, but all forums suck rocks.  Mail is passive, forums are active. 
No one's made a decent go of fixing that problem.
Ira
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3) From: Mark Osborne
Heh,
I'm confused by the following, considering the entire digest was
attached, there is no mention of the current SM list that seems to be
running fine and is hosted by our hosts.
Is it:
Sarcasm
Irony
or just not paying attention to detail?
Enjoying a nice cup of IMV from the FP  city + on 4 day's rest in NorCal
Mark
On Sat, Aug 22, 2009 at 10:23 PM, David wrote:
<Snip>
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4) From: Kathleen Tinkel
Have you checked out the 
Sweet Marias forum? 
It is on phpBB, not vBulletin, but seems fine. Like this list, the 
forum is run by Tom and the crew at Sweet Marias, who are giving it 
time to find a critical mass of users. For now it co-exists with (and 
does not duplicate) the list.
Kathleen
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5) From: raymanowen
I knew my Bit Bucket file would get some traffic, eventually. I will spread
this all out and read it [mostly again]. EGAD!
Cheers, Mabuhay -RayO, aka Opa!
Got Grinder?
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6) From: Phil Palmintere
<Snip>
With all your experience, maybe you can offer insight as to why it only
takes something like 8 mins & 18 seconds for light to travel from the Sun to
Planet Earth, but it takes as much as 5 mins for my computer to boot up???
:-)
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7) From: Jack M. Rogers
David,
While I agree wholeheartedly with your observations about listserves vs. Yahoo!Groups vs. web forums, this is a dead issue.  Tom already implemented a forum http://www.sweetmariascoffee.com/forum). The forum is phpBB, which is open source and free.  Those who prefer the listserve are still using it, although traffic seems to be slower.
Also (but not quite as central to your point), Yahoo!Groups is not a forum.  It as a clunky listserve-type arrangement that has a web interface that in some way resembles very primative forums, but it lacks modern functionality.
Jack

8) From: Rick Copple
David wrote:
<Snip>
A fairly complete run down on the benefits of forums. I do use them, 
primarily for my writing groups because they work better for critiquing 
each other's work than an email list would be.
But I have to admit, that forums are much more work to use than email. 
At least on my end. And I still get many of the benefits you've 
mentioned by having all this list's emails filter to a specific folder, 
where it is threaded and only post I haven't read show up. That makes it 
easy to look at the titles, decide if I want to read them, etc. And most 
people either top post or interleave their responses, so I rarely have 
to go hunting for the responses. (BTW, you forgot to trim your digest 
post, which means everyone on digest will get today's and yesterdays 
again!) And the search function on Thunderbird is decent, and can find 
old post which I've kept since I first started on this list back in 2004.
But forums do have an advantage of organization and archiving entire 
threads completely. Assuming your serve doesn't do something stupid 
(like one forum I've helped run where a whole three months worth of post 
were lost and we had to reconstruct the database because the host 
couldn't restore it on their end--a reminder to back up the forum 
database regularly via the web interface).
But, as I recall, when Tom started this forum many of our folk have 
already migrated to, it wasn't with the intention of replacing this 
email list. Though, as I predicted, there has been a reduced amount of 
traffic on this list since that time.
But I'm already on too many forums and maintain passwords and users 
names for them all, I don't need one more. I don't begrudge others if 
that's what they want to do. The forum has its place and serves a need 
some people have.
And certainly I'm still going to buy coffee from SM no matter how much 
traffic is here or not, or even if it closes down. But for me, it is so 
much easier to have it download to my email program, click on the 
folder, look over titles I might want to read, and go onto the rest of 
my email, as opposed to going to a website, clicking to log in, clicking 
for unread post, then scanning through the list. That's a minimum of 
four to five clicks compared to one click, and using the slower web 
based interface. So for me, its a time issue.
Each has its benefits and downfalls. I'm glad Tom and company are 
providing both.
Today's post sponsored by Panama Don Pepe Estate, the Central American 
Harrar. :D
-- 
Rick Copplehttp://www.rlcopple.com/Homeroast mailing list
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9) From: Floyd Lozano
The sun runs linux.  ;)
-F
On Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 1:08 PM, Phil Palmintere <
phil.palmintere> wrote:
<Snip>
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10) From: Rich
Probably because you are using windows.....
Phil Palmintere wrote:
<Snip>
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11) From: Joseph Robertson
Floyd,
What a good laugh.... If not linux then most likely Unix.
Hardware aside. I have no doubt linux will out boot any windows system hands
down.
JoeR
On Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 8:31 PM, Floyd Lozano  wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.
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12) From: Ira
At 10:08 AM 8/24/2009, you wrote:
<Snip>
It's not as good as the Linux answer, but it's because the hard drive is slow.
Ira
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13) From: Dave Ehrenkranz
Thanks for reminding me about its existence. I think I signed on when  
it first started but simply forgot about it as there wasn't much  
traffic there. It appears to be much more active now.
dave.
On Aug 24, 2009, at 9:47 AM, Kathleen Tinkel wrote:
<Snip>
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14) From: Allon Stern
On Aug 24, 2009, at 11:31 PM, Floyd Lozano wrote:
<Snip>
Actually, the Sun runs Unix. With a TM.
(SunOS, Solaris, whatever...)
A favorite quote from John Rose on the Unix Hater's mailing list, oh  
those many aeons ago....http://www.art.net/~hopkins/Don/unix-haters/preface.html"But, of course, Suns are very good at booting! So good, they  
sometimes spontaneously boot, just to let you know they're in peak  
form!"
If you're a Unix(tm) curmugeon, it's a good read.
And of course, I suggest you read it while sipping homeroast.
-
allon
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