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Author Topic: Mailing lists or Message boards for offering software support?  (Read 5970 times)
Eóin
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« on: August 05, 2006, 08:12:41 AM »

Hi, I'm working on a small project which is approaching a state where it can be released. I am curious as to how I should let people contact me to request help or just ask simple questions. I would be expecting a very low volume of support issues certainly initially while the library is being developed.

The two obvious choices are mailing lists which I can get through SourceForge or setting up a small message board which I can do with my own web space provider. Now personally I prefeer message boards but I get the impression that for low volume support mailing lists seem to be the norm.

So I'm interested to hear opinions from the developers here (ok I suspect you'll be a bit biased towards a forum seeing as how well this one is run).

Thanks, Eoin.
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mitzevo
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2006, 03:19:25 PM »

You have to take the initiate and try some thing new.. Just choose any one and go with it tongue
If I was working on a small project and need to communicate with other developers about it's development or what ever.

I would probably use a newsletter/list based approach.

Setting up a forum like phpBB, or the other free ones, or the commercial ones might be more trouble than it's worth.
You have to spend time moderating and cleaning the forums etc. Maybe some spam nut will come along and spam the
hell out of it. A new bug might be found and used against you before you could have done any thing about it.
I know I'm leaping into big proportions here but it could happen,  tellme

A newsletter is a nice and convenient way for delivering your content.   Thmbsup
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Eóin
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2006, 04:43:50 PM »

Thanks for your feedback mitzevo. I actually decided to opt for the forum solution. A bug plus for it was the fact it more easily acts as an archive of answered question than a mailing list does, though I know a mailing also offers this.

I agree with you regarding the initial workload but thats once off, however the security issue you mention is very valid, espicially since I opted for phpbb over smf, and I believe phpbb has a higher history of exploits.

I'll try it for a while anyway and see how it works out.
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Josh
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2006, 04:48:28 PM »

While phpbb has had its share of hacks, if you stay on top of the patches, you are fine. A forum provides a better method for users to support each other (as opposed to just you supporting them). It also has a much easier way for users to search for past answers to a problem they might be experiencing.

I personally have never used mailing lists as a primary means of support simply because they are very tedious. With a forum, I can go to one central place, search for an answer, and if none is found, post it and get a response that much quicker.
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f0dder
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[Well, THAT escalated quickly!]

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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2006, 05:20:58 PM »

Quote
While phpbb has had its share of hacks, if you stay on top of the patches, you are fine.
Iirc http://www.asmcommunity.net/ used to run phpBB before it switched to SMF... and considering the amount of times the win32asm community has been hacked before it made the switch, well, I certainly wouldn't recommend the previous board software. As holed as a sieve.
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- carpe noctem
Josh
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« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2006, 05:27:12 PM »

Again, its only as secure as the number of users it has. phpBB has been around a good long time, and as such, it has become one of the primarily used bb software packages. (Remember when ultimatebb was king?). The only hacks I have seen against phpbb's were ones that were caused due to admins not patching in a timely fashion.
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f0dder
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« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2006, 05:51:05 PM »

Well, if it had been programmed decently, it wouldn't have (as many) holes. Yes, it's obviously the most targetted forum because it's the most widespread, but considering the amount of holes and the severity of them, I wouldn't want to run phpBB. Ever.
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- carpe noctem
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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2006, 06:00:14 PM »

I think investing in vBulletin ($120?) is the smartest move you can make if looking at a forum, which IS the best way to get a community started.  It's very familiar, fast & flexible.
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Josh
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« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2006, 06:17:07 PM »

Well, if it had been programmed decently, it wouldn't have (as many) holes. Yes, it's obviously the most targetted forum because it's the most widespread, but considering the amount of holes and the severity of them, I wouldn't want to run phpBB. Ever.

Programmed decently? Programming, regardless of who is doing it and how well you think it is done, has one major flaw. Its done by humans. So by saying that phpbb must not have been coded decently because it has so many holes, is like saying a car isnt safe because one man has managed to crash 8 of them in 2 years.
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mouser
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« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2006, 06:44:22 PM »

we use simplemachines.org here (smf).
i like the forum approach to interacting with users, assuming you do want to interact with them.  if you dont have time to answer posts though, then dont start it, because it will give a bad impression if there are people posting questions and no one answering.
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« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2006, 07:02:30 PM »

Well, initially, I think any author that starts a forum will respond. Once a good knowledge base is started up, then it will be less required except for unhandled issues. Thats the way I've seen most forums work, and I think its a good approach once a good KB is built up.
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mitzevo
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« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2006, 12:06:25 AM »

I think investing in vBulletin ($120?) is the smartest move you can make if looking at a forum, which IS the best way to get a community started.  It's very familiar, fast & flexible.

Damn, I totally prefer Invision over vB tongue But I don't think I would buy some thing expensive just for a small dev based forum. If I needed a large forum and knew it would be quite popular etc. I would set up some thing like IPB.
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mouser
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« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2006, 12:30:18 AM »

i've love to see a nice long review comparing the different forums...
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mitzevo
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« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2006, 01:32:07 AM »

Mouser this is a very good idea.. actually I was thinking of mentioning it. The most comprehensive forum system review on the net.. would make a  nice spot light for DC wont you think? smiley The reason I didn't mention was because I thought you would remind me that this is a software based community, but I guess forum systems could be an exception or special review or some rather like that tongue
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JavaJones
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« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2006, 01:57:10 AM »

I would kill for a good forum review. There are actually a ton of options though. You'd have to stick to the "top 5" or something, since there are so many variables, features, etc. to compare. Unfortunately the top 5 often lack some of the cooler core features that other systems have (for example, on-topic with the OP here, mailing list and forum integration). Usually these things are available as addons/hacks/mods/plugins/whatever, but it would of course be ludicrous to try to include even a few mods in the review. All of which is to say that I fully support a complete forum review (and would gladly put my money where my mouth just went cheesy), but I fear it may be too daunting a task to do "right". Nonetheless I'd love to see it done...

As far as mailing list vs. forum, I personally much prefer forums. It used to be that forums weren't as full-featured as your email client in terms of formatting, spell-checking, unread post tracking, etc. but modern systems like SMF and vB take care of most of those things very well. So the arguments for using a mailing list are diminishing. There are still some who simply like to download everything and read it "offline" at their leisure. It's just what works for their particular work approach I suppose. I do think these people are in the minority however, so a forum is usually a very safe bet. Forums are also generally friendlier to "newbies" and generally inexperienced people. Mailing lists are kind of archaic, klunky, and obscure for many people who are newer to the web.

- Oshyan
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app103
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« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2006, 03:39:28 AM »

If it's going to be something small, you could go with this style of message board:  http://draconislabs.net:8080/forums/

No database needed...and if you want the source, just leave a message on that board and Krish will probably give you the source for it. He loves to share his code.  Wink

Tell him I sent you.
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Eóin
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O'Callaghan

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« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2006, 04:48:59 AM »

I think a forum software review would also be a great idea.

Regarding the security concerns, I have to admit I made the choice for phpbb mainly because of aesthetic reasons, i.e. I saw a nice style available for phpbb which I knew I could easily adapt to fit it in with my site. Probably not the ideal reason to base a decision on.

On the mailing list v forums discussion, one great thing about mailings lists is that you can sign up for a number of low volume list and have them come to you rather than you being forced to check a larger number of sites everyday to see if there have been any updates. Thank fully though RSS support and even subscriptions mean that forums also offer this feature just in a less obvious way.

Also on a personal note I think forums are more welcoming to new users. In the past where I've needed support and it was only available through mailing lists I was very conscious that any post I make would be ending up in the inbox of a large number of people, with a forum I don't feel like I'm imposing as much when I ask a question.
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vegas
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« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2006, 11:43:09 AM »

As far as mailing list vs. forum, I personally much prefer forums. It used to be that forums weren't as full-featured as your email client in terms of formatting, spell-checking, unread post tracking, etc. but modern systems like SMF and vB take care of most of those things very well. So the arguments for using a mailing list are diminishing. There are still some who simply like to download everything and read it "offline" at their leisure. It's just what works for their particular work approach I suppose.

- Oshyan

Actually both Invision & vB have made this very easy to do with the newer option to download a full thread in your choice of formats.  I am on like 6 forums that use Invision and about 16 that use vBulletin.  On a good server, I much prefer vBulletin, but thats just me.  I too would love to see a review of forum softwares, if not even just a list of all the options out there, with what each one can do & can't do and let the user decide from there.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2006, 01:42:23 PM »

Sure, you can download threads in whatever format, but doing it automatically for every thread, or just certain fora, many times a day, and then notifying you of updates, is beyond current capability. Maybe one day we'll have the perfect balance between mailing list and forum, but I haven't found it yet.

- Oshyan
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Eóin
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« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2006, 07:57:34 AM »

I must say the security concerns over phpbb were niggling at me a bit over the past few days when I happened across PunBB. It’s a lovely lightweight bulletin board software, none of the fancy frills like PMs, polls, etc. which I don’t want anyway and the clincher for me was that someone had ported the very style I was working with from phpbb.

Now I don’t know how it stacks up against either phpbb, smf or the rest when it come to security but I gather that its developer(s) take(s) this matter very seriously. I’m hoping that security through obscurity will work in my favour, i.e. a small unknown site running a relatively little known bb software hopefully won’t attract the wrong type of attention.

Just thought I’d share this little gem with you all.
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urlwolf
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« Reply #20 on: February 21, 2008, 04:52:24 AM »

I'm impressed with PunBB too.
it's lightning fast. My gues is that the do round corners with CSS only (not images) etc, trying to minimize the Kbs transmitted.

Very, very responsive. Ideal if you expect to be under huge loads and your hardware is so-so.
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app103
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« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2008, 10:14:32 AM »

How about the best of both worlds? I recently discovered something called QuickTopic, which is a hosted solution (they host it for you). It's a mailing list and simple single topic message board all in one.

They have a sample board set up where you can see how it looks/works and play with it.

Features include:
  • RSS
  • mailing list
  • web based board

Admin features include:
  • Delete individual messages
  • Delete the entire discussion or document
  • Ban IP addresses (Pro version)
  • Moderate posts (Pro version)
  • Change the Data/Time display format
  • Change the title
  • Archive - Download comma-separated-value version of the discussion that’s readable by MS Excel.
  • Disallow further posts
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