REBOL Technologies

AltME vs Mail-lists vs Web Forums

Carl Sassenrath, CTO
REBOL Technologies
5-Jan-2005 17:16 GMT

Article #0089
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There has been some recent discussion about the use of these three methods of communication within the REBOL community. The topic has been: which is best?

It depends totally on what you want to do!

  • AltME is great for private messaging in small (<100) closed groups.
    It is stable and trustworthy. The recent loss of the AltME REBOL2 world was the result of a hard disk crash that destroyed all of its files. It was not a problem with AltME. In fact, because AltME messages are copied to your local disk, nothing important was lost. (Whereas many of our wiki web pages that lived only on that web server were lost.)

  • Mail-lists are a thing of the past.
    Yes, they are still useful because they run as part of your email reader, but are very problematic these days. They take a lot of server bandwidth (at least 100-1000 times more than AltME), they are not secure, and they are not reliable. The reliability problem comes from the fact that there is no guarantee that email is actually delivered and with the volume of spam these servers must process and reject, the problem has gotten worse. Ask anyone that runs a large public mail-list!

  • Web Forums are great for public messaging.
    Unfortunately, they take the most bandwidth of all, they require people to go check the forum for updates, and their content is not downloaded to your hard disk for offline reading or reference (so if they have a hard disk failure, their messages are totally gone). Also, unless they are designed really well, they tend to required too much "clicking around" to see messages. (But, these days there are some well designed forums!)

Ultimately, we need a system that combines the best of these. It's called REBOL/Services; however, it's still in the making, so for now, let's pick a good alternative.

Personally, I've always thought a well-done web forum would best serve the open discussions of the REBOL community. I was happy to see REBOL Talk come online (although I had hoped that such a forum would be run by a REBOL backend, created by someone in the REBOL community -- then we could make and drink our own wine). REBOL Talk looks like a good quality system, and we should all consider using it a lot more!

I think the unforunate thing about the 100's of thousands of REBOL community messages that have been posted to the various AltME worlds is that they are private and cannot be seen by search engines like Google. There is a mountain of information that can only be seen by a small group of users who are lucky enough to be granted access to that AltME world.

Using a web forum would probably change that, and I think it would be a good thing as long as:

  1. those of us in the REBOL community are willing to use it as much as we use AltME or the mail list,
  2. it can handle the bandwidth of all of us converging on it (REBOL has a few hundred people who post on a regular basis and thousands that read postings on a regular basis),
  3. it gets backed up so we don't lose anything (because messages are not transparently backed up locally),
  4. as long as it allows search engine indexing. Perhaps the REBOL Talk web forum is the best way to go.

For special private projects and groups like AGG, we would keep those on AltME, where it is the most convenient and safe.

But, for general group discussions, let's talk as a group about what we want to do. Let's start a discussion on the REBOL3 world and on the mailing list, and let's find a decent solution and make it happen.

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