W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > January 2012

RE: Forums

From: Sylvain Galineau <sylvaing@microsoft.com>
Date: Fri, 6 Jan 2012 20:07:19 +0000
To: Marat Tanalin | tanalin.com <mtanalin@yandex.ru>
CC: "robert@ocallahan.org" <robert@ocallahan.org>, Matthew Wilcox <elvendil@gmail.com>, "Kang-Hao (Kenny) Lu" <kennyluck@csail.mit.edu>, Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>, WWW Style <www-style@w3.org>
Message-ID: <3C4041FF83E1E04A986B6DC50F017829033FA485@TK5EX14MBXC296.redmond.corp.microsoft.com>

[Marat Tanalin:]
> 
> 06.01.2012, 22:20, "Sylvain Galineau" <sylvaing@microsoft.com>:
> > [Marat Tanalin:]
> >
> >>  As it's already said in this thread multiple times, properly
> >> implemented
> >>  forum (not some existing one) would be identical to mailing list
> >> from
> >>  perspective of those who prefer mailing lists.
> >
> > You might as well be saying "a proper Presidential candidate (not any
> > of the known ones) would be as good as the incumbent from the
> > perspective of those who prefer the latter". Until you identify what
> > 'proper' means to those people, the assertion is rather meaningless.
> 
> [Just in case: I'm not a starter of this thread.]
> 
> See B. Zbarsky's comment for what people that like mailing lists could
> expect from forum equivalent of mailing list to be ok with such a forum:
> 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-style/2012Jan/0146.html
> 
> Principle here is quite simple: make forum to function transparently
> identical to mailing lists while providing more rich forum functionality
> for those who find mailing list functionality too limited/unusable.

That's what's proper for Boris. Others may differ. And if these users
 already have that functionality in Gmail or some other tool and are 
productive with them the only hard incentive you'd have to make them switch 
would be to shut down the mailing list. 

> 
> > I'm just not convinced quantity will magically lead to higher quality
> > or even increase the group's output since the latter is gated by the
> > number of active editors (which increases at a slower rate than the
> > number of WG members). At the margin, is it likely the current system
> > causes us to miss valuable feedback from the community ? It's
> > definitely possible. But if it also prevents us from being spammed
> > with so much trolling and nonsense that the WG would have to retreat
> > into a private space to do its work (as was the case in the past),
> shouldn't we think very carefully about what it is we're trying to fix and
> how we do it?
> >
> > As there is no shortage of forums where the barrier to entry is low,
> > the volume high and the signal/noise ratio indistinguishable from zero
> > it should be no surprise than any existing arrangement that doesn't
> exhibit these problems will be defended.
> 
> It's out of my authority to estimate such signal/noise ratio. 

Your general authority on the matter is unlikely to be higher than anyone 
else's and, in the case of www-style, can be assumed lower than that of the 
Working Group members who do use this mailing list to carry out their work 
every day. If the signal/noise ratio on www-style were to get too high for 
*them* they will leave the list, thus defeating both your goals and their own. 

> But I would humbly note that spam should not prevented at the cost of 
> usability for those who are not spammers.

If improving 'usability' to gain the contribution of 10 extra people also
comes with 100 Slashdot trolls ruining the productivity and wasting the time 
of all the existing users as well as those 10 new contributors, I would humbly 
argue that it should be. 

> 
> > So while I have no problem in principle with your overall request,
> > acknowledging the existing norms and goals in order to understand what
> > makes the current setup work would be helpful imo. Alternatively, you
> > could explain why you think the current system doesn't work i.e. why
> > spec X missed the boat and how this would not have happened with the
> feedback we would have collected using a different communication platform.
> 
> Several benefits of forum over mailing list are already mentioned in this
> thread. If you want more, here is one of: it's impossible to use
> [pseudo]markup for at least such basic things as clickable links (not
> autolinked long URLs, but, instead, short meaningful in-text strings
> pointing to some URL), bold text and code blocks. Pure-text discussions
> are hard to read and therefore have limited demonstrativeness and
> usefulness.

Many of these alleged benefits do not matter to me. I do not, for instance, 
have any issue with pure-text discussions or the lack of clickable anchors.
This is not something I need to be effective or productive on this mailing
list given its purpose.

But even if I wanted those features they would remain far less important to me 
than having a space where folks like fantasai, David Baron, Simon Fraser, Tab 
Atkins, Stephen Zilles, John Daggett and many, many others are available to discuss 
past, current and future CSS work. *That* is the high-order bit. I don't care
how the interface works or how many people can use it anywhere near as much as 
I care about who is here, the topics being discussed and the sustained quality 
of the exchange. If all those folks were to move to a VAX Terminal chat system 
I'd follow them there (with some kicking and screaming, but I would). Maximizing 
the number of subscribers is not a goal and a better back-end UI only matters if 
it supports group progress e.g. a modern webmail-like archive interface with full 
search capabilities would be an improvement for all of us.

Bottom line: I don't believe it should be a goal for www-style to maximize the 
raw number of folks who opine on it. We do want to maximize the number of people 
who can meaningfully contribute to the kind of conversations this mailing list
is intended for. And I don't see any serious evidence that this is hindered by the 
nature of the current platform. Text layout algorithm experts who implement CSS modules 
are few and unlikely to be deterred by a one-time sign-up process or the lack of clickable 
links, imo.

I am simply not interested in taking the risk to harm the usefulness and productivity 
of this list for the sake of entirely hypothetical improvements to the life of alleged 
non-users. Especially when those improvements depend on the development and deployment of 
imaginary software that will be inherently untested and unproven for the purpose at hand.

This being said, I have no objection to having a forum for the wider community *in 
addition to* www-style. A space affiliated with the WG where authors could engage with 
each other, vote on questions/answers a la Stack Overflow, a space where spec authors 
and implementors could look for real-world feedback and issues in exchange for some 
level of participation on their end. Achieving and maintaining a sound signal/noise 
ratio would still be critical for this to benefit everyone, of course. But I don't see 
why such a space would have to be www-style. The latter works well for its narrow, 
focused technical purpose and a better archive should suffice for all the lurkers 
interested in looking into the gorier technical threads. 


> 
> Thanks.
Received on Friday, 6 January 2012 20:07:56 GMT

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