Choice of support forums

Hi,

With the obsolescence of USENET in favor of more "portal-based" forums, what are the relative advantages/disadvantages of corporate-sponsored (and hosted?) forums vs. more "independent" approaches? I've seen good (and bad) examples of each and can only conclude that the "players" are the deciding factor (?)

Reply to
Don Y
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A few thoughts:

Usenet gives more freedom and with that come advantages and disadvantages. There is a need for self-discipline, for respect of others based on their merits, for the search of the truth by debate and not that of victory by all means.

Usenet was born in another time when only a limited number of people could participate. There was selection based on education. All that has changed now, the Internet is everywhere for everybody. We could say that it has moved from the universities to the street.

Corporate forums are a response, moderation prevents chaos but your freedom is restricted. You become dependant on an organisation that you don't control, you lose your independance. You lose for instance the right to criticize that organisation.

Reply to
Lanarcam

Corporate forums are specialized. Here, you can ask general questions, like about architectures, circuits, parts, equipment, techniques, history.

There are several "web forums" that are directly ripped from SED, with ads. You can post something silly here, and then google it and see where it winds up. Teal elephant sidesaddle.

--
John Larkin         Highland Technology, Inc 
picosecond timing   laser drivers and controllers 
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Reply to
John Larkin

The good thing about fora is that there are so many of them. This is also the bad thing about them. I mainly use fora through Google searches; even then, it's hit or miss.

Usenet is a vast improvement over everything that tried to replace it.

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Les Cargill
Reply to
Les Cargill

Yes. So, folks intent on the venue to exchange information are left with a crappier S/N.

Yes, as well. The moderation tends to get a bit more heavy-handed; BOfH-ish.

OTOH, you can get "moderation" without corporate sponsorship. But, the big (potential) win of corporate involvement is the presence of "experts", hopefully (unless the firm assigns the newbies to the task of "support")

I see support "venues" (trying to avoid conflicting with "forum") as having several different characteristics that drive their overall utility. In no particular order (some of these rely on others -- but, IMO, merit being addressed explicitly):

- Technology How is the venue implemented (mailing lists, web pages, SMS services, etc.)? This has direct impact on many of the other issues (that follow)

- Accessibility How readily can the content can be accessed (devices, media, etc.)? And, how well can it be *searched* for applicable content?

- Push vs Pull Does the content come to you or do you go to it? Mailing lists being an example of the former; USENET the latter.

- Privacy How much privacy does the venue present its participants? Do you have any idea/control as to who is "seeing" your posted content? Can you limit your exposure?

- "Richness" of content What sorts of media are supported? E.g., USENET is effectively text only while most "portal forums" support at least limited types of multimedia.

- Focus Is there an "effective" charter governing the venue's usage? Or, does the content (topic and quality) wander aimlessly?

- Control How is access controlled? Content? Is any form of moderation in force and, if so, how (specific moderators, distributed moderation, etc.)?

- Exploitability How susceptible is the venue to abuse (spam, etc.)? How vulnerable are the participants to that (unwanted) abuse?

- Cost Is there a cost associated with posting/reading content? To maintaining the service?

- "Value" (Bad choice of terms) Are the right people drawn to the venue to address the subject matter covered in the charter? (note that this applies to encouraging the participation of "experts" as well as NOT discouraging the participation of neophytes)

I can go on, but I think this gives an indication of how multifaceted the decision is.

Reply to
Don Y

What obsolescence? Usenet is alive and kicking. Nother ever came close to its efficiency, certainly nothing "modern" from the script kiddies. I am also quite certain that nothing ever will come close.

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Regards, Joerg 

http://www.analogconsultants.com/
Reply to
Joerg

NNTP is vastly superior to the rest for this.

So use NNTP over port 80.

Pull is good.

Ha! Privacy is an absolute illusion.

Very bad. Text is good. Multimedia is a threat vector medium at the very least.

NNTP coupled with webpages should be enough.

Doesn't matter. Focus is also overrated.

There should be total anarchy. Control is an illusion ( unless all the poles are on the unit circle ).

Who cares? Become adept at filtering.

Pay for your NNTP link, then stop worrying. I feel for people trying to monetize fora, but not too much.

The best thing a neophyte can do is learn to ask good questions.

Gated communities are no way to live.

--
Les Cargill
Reply to
Les Cargill

Wrong. The distinction is that Usenet is essentially a text based system, which really means that content is what's important. What you get with the web based forums is advertising, advertising, and more advertising. You also get avatars, navigation aids, user identification, prematurely terminated threads, and the ability to imbed images. Oh yeah, you get plenty of useless one-line replies.

Corporate sponsored means that it deals primarily with the company's products. If you have an interesting topic, but not necessarily related to the company's product line, you may find yourself admonished or censored. Independent really means advertising funded instead of corporate funded. I have no clue which type has fewer distractions, less junk on the page, and less advertising.

Corporate forums also tend to be devoid of comments that are critical to the company, its products, and its management. If you want a realistic comparison of devices that include competitors products, you will rarely find them on a corporate support forum.

Oddly, you may also find a lack of decent answers. I do quite a bit of Googling, looking for answers to specific issues and problems. I often find the same question on a corporate forum, where the only answer is "Sorry that you're having this problem. Please call your support team at XXX-XXX-XXXX for assistance". If you like useless answers, you won't have any problem finding them in corporate forums.

Corporate forums also like to "expire" old history and evidence of common problems. At one point, Linksys was removing anything that was more than about 2 weeks old. It was impossible to determine if a problem had been known and reported, or if it was something unique. While this is a rather extreme example, the retention of old postings on corporate forums is nothing when compared to Google Groups and various Usenet news services.

Don't forget about mailing lists many of which have the beneficial characteristics of Usenet, without the ugly mess on forums. For example, for time and GPS related issues, there's the Time Nuts mailing list: Looks like over 700 to 1000 messages per month. By comparison, sci.electronics.design gets about 100-200 per day.

Yeah, something like that. It's really the players of the moment. I read and post to about 8 Usenet forums literally since the beginning of Usenet. I've run mailing lists, moderated local newsgroups, and run Bnews, Cnews, and INN news servers since about 1985(?).

It's not the players so much as the polluters found in many newsgroups. I've noticed a significant drop of knowledgeable contributors immediately after the arrival of those who are not looking for help, but instead are looking for entertainment value, ego inflation, or targets for their personality problems. Only those with substantial dedication, a willingness to help, and a cast iron stomach stick around. Usenet groups that were previously thriving with intelligent questions and comments, are now dead thanks to a few individuals.

So, what problem are you trying to solve? Is there something wrong with Usenet (other than the rumor of its demise) that would inspire you seek an alternative?

--
Jeff Liebermann     jeffl@cruzio.com 
150 Felker St #D    http://www.LearnByDestroying.com 
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Reply to
Jeff Liebermann

That isn't a direct consequence of the format. Just because it's better suited to animated dancing popsicles, doesn't mean it has to be *used* for that! I've seen "independent" portals that were devoid of advertising (despite the pressures on "owners" of such sites to give in to "rent us your viewers' eyes"). And, mailing lists with ads tacked onto every message! :-/

Again, what you *choose* to present as the UX is up to the designer of the interface. If you want to clutter it up with eye-candy... . What I find most crippling in web forums is the lack of a threaded interface as the *norm* -- instead, it's just a flattened accretion of all posts in a form that's easy for the software to implement (time-ordered) instead of thinking about the viewer.

That's exactly the point! It's a SUPPORT venue, not a "chat room". However, dealing with a particular product(s) doesn't require corporate sponsorship. Nor, corporate *control*.

Why can't a venue be corporate *funded* (to eliminate the need for adverts) yet "controlled" independently?

Exactly. But, that doesn't also have to be a *consequence* of their sponsorship/involvement.

I *think* (IANAL) that a corporate sponsored venue probably has to take some steps to prevent its use in illegal activities (e.g., allowing participants to post copyrighted materials, etc.). But, that doesn't also have to include prohibiting criticism of the "sponsor" or the sponsor's products -- you can't prevent folks from making those criticisms in *other* places so why bother, "here"? At least you can attempt to address them and, possibly, make the complainant look unreasonable, etc. (e.g., "Yes, you *did* submit your device for warranty repair. But, it was 3 months PAST the warranty date -- here's a copy of the paperwork that you submitted with it, note the date. At that time, we indicated that we had determined the reason for the failure was because the device had been hit with a baseball bat and informed you that the cost of the repair would be $X. Additionally, we offerred to sell you a reconditioned unit at a reduced price, as indicated in this correspondence (attached)...")

Any participants acting as representatives for the corporation would obviously be constrained in what they could do/say ON BEHALF OF THE CORPORATION.

And, "membership" can be conditioned based on *ownership* of the product(s) in question. Want a say? Buy the item!

The liberties that a corporation (as sponsor) is willing to permit speak to its commitment to its customers.

Yeah, and useless answers are SOLELY within that domain, eh? ;)

Again, that's just policy and how comfortable sponsors are about hearing bad things. Given that most such venues are visited by FOLKS HAVING PROBLEMS, anyone reading them that is NOT at least subconciously aware of this does themselves a disservice ("Gee, EVERY vendors' products suck!!")

Yes, I've already implemented some mailing list software. Personally, I prefer pushing content to the user (assuming there is no associated

*cost*) to ensure it's *there* when he/she opts to view it. But, this can tax most mail readers unprepared for big messages, high volumes, etc.

It also requires a bit more discipline among the participants (e.g., folks who know how to quote properly -- and don't just report all of the original post FOLLOWED by a few comments).

And, "push" approaches tend to lend themselves to simpler content filtering solutions (e.g., you can't "spam filter" USENET unless you download every post)

I've seen the same thing happen in web forums -- newbies hijacking threads, responding to threads that died off years earlier, etc. "Oh, is this where everyone is actively talking? Great, let me inject MY question, here!!!"

The issue with USENET is that (unless moderated), groups can quickly degrade/lose value. And, the cost of moderating can be high (time wise). This was the issue I tried to address with my mailing list implementation: encourage moderation by "anyone who wants to do so" -- yet prevent overzealous moderation (i.e., be able to moderate the moderators). AFAICT, this is only possible with a closed membership list (piss enough people off, and you lose access!)

I notice there are very few "alt.liebermann.products" USENET groups! :>

Reply to
Don Y

Wound up in Indian gold-trading backroom--^

Reply to
Robert Baer

I was about to post something of that sort but you had already done it :-).

Typically I do not post at all to places where someone is allowed to delete/move/edit my posts in the way they can do at fora etc. I have done it - and once I actively participated for a few years in a forum (until they tampered with one of my posts)- but I avoid doing it. Generally if I allow someone to mess with my output I'd rather not do it for free, if that.

What facebook and twitter got right is exactly the feeling of not being censored too much for the users I suppose, hence the success. Not getting me on board though - I barely use my accounts. I do use flickr though, hunting with the camera being my main recreational activity....

Dimiter

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Reply to
Dimiter_Popoff

Amen to all of that.

I pay all of $13 (10 Euros) per year for the news server. For that I do not need to run any kind of filtering because they already take care of hosing off spam. When I still had AT&T I filtered out google mail and that took care of most spam. It's easy.

--
Regards, Joerg 

http://www.analogconsultants.com/
Reply to
Joerg

But that's not a *SUPPORT* forum. Rather, it's a place where folks gather to discuss a particular subject matter (electronics, metalurgy, religion, etc.). There are scant few newsgroups that could marginally be considered "support groups": notable exceptions being the adobe.* groups and the various alt.*.os.* groups. There are a smattering of "autos" groups, and game consoles, etc.

But, you don't see an alt.tgi.netmce group :>

I.e., do *you* sponsor/endorse any "venues" (mailing lists, newsgroups, portals, etc.) for your customers to discuss problems/features with your products? If *not*, is this because there is no demand for it (i.e., perhaps customers don't want to disclose publicly to others how they are using your kit -- competition; or, perhaps, their needs are met with one-on-one email/phone exchanges?)

Said another way, what sorts of "support venues" would you consider appropriate for *your* products -- and *why* (esp why *not*!).

AFAICT, social media "venues" are advertising and griping opportunities. I'd not place much stock in a "recommendation" (nor a *warning*) posted on the like: "Who is this guy and why should I take *his* comments as Truth?" (i.e., he may be an idiot and hence complaining about his own ineptitude with the product; or, he may be a shill effectively pushing a product for some other reason!)

Reply to
Don Y

No, of course it is not.

Our customers are not that many, I wish they were in the thousands so I had to organize something like that. Then our devices are typically used by end users, not developers - where the user manual tends to do a good enough job. For the few cases when people have some issue usually it can be resolved one on one over the net, being able to see the *same* screen at both sides (the netMCA working over RFB/VNC) makes things quite easy.

I did actually make a "TGI official twitter account" which is active but remains unused. From time to time twitter email me with what I might find interesting :D . I have a new tiny auxilary HV source to announce, may be I'll use it for that - once its webpage is ready.

If I have to do a serious developer support group it would be via a mailing list. Just let the people who actually have something to do with it join, then leave the thing alone. Archive the messages in a way convenient enough to access - what more does one need. By controlling the population on the list one can afford to allow all sorts of attachments etc. etc.

Well that's what they are generally used for but isn't that with all mass media. Nothing should stop you from using a facebook or twitter profile as a mailing list - if you have to not use a real mailing list, that is.

Dimiter

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Reply to
Dimiter_Popoff

I have no idea. It's all content-free personal daily affirmation stuff, so far as I can tell.

Facebook was initially designed as an assortative mating site for Harvard kids.

I have kids on there and there are a few people who used to be on Usenet on there. That last part is fading.

Facebook might have replaced Usenet because of corporate traffic filtering and port blocking. I dunno. Seems ridiculous that something as bandwidth-inefficient as Facebook would be tolerable. I don't surf at work so I don't know.

But in general, people have little or no use for actual information.

--
Les Cargill
Reply to
Les Cargill

No more than the local bar where the geeks (or bikers) hang out would be considered a support forum (for whatever they opt to discuss, there)

Understood. I was *going* to conclude that the "quality" of user probably plays a role in the extent to which "support" is required (wrt the level of familiarity with the topics -- newbies can get by with folks who know where the POWER switch is located! :-/ ).

Along that line, I was thinking that more sophisticated users would tend to need *less* support. But, on second thought, this may not be true. They may need *different* (types of) support and their "problems/issues" may be considerably more challenging -- e.g., asking the Instrument to do something that it *could*, perhaps, do... but may not have originally been INTENDED in the Instrument's design! In that case, someone with first-hand experience doing same *or* intimate knowledge of the Instrument would be needed to advise.

And that's along the lines of my "advertising" comment.

You could *conceivably* use it to announce an upgrade (software). Or, alert vigilant users to a nasty bug that they might want to catch before it screws them over. Folks who aren't actively tracking your "posts" (tweets) have self-selected themselves OUT of that pool.

Exactly. That was my original thinking.

But, I've received some feedback suggesting some folks are grumbling about the format/medium. Turns out, they check their email on their

*phones* and it's really not convenient for viewing certain types of "non text".

So, eliminate those media types? and tell the users to use a real mail client? Extract the attachments and post them on a web site (but, then someone has to own/maintain that site!) using just URL's in the mail messages (I think this is clumsy for folks who are actually interested in the content as it adds another step to the UX).

The big advantage of a mailing list is that you can "run" it (as in "implement it") damn near anywhere! Even *on* a phone, if you want. Web portals require a fixed server, ownership, maintenance, etc. That suggests costs to operate that would encourage sponsorship (censorship?) and advertisement... :<

Back to my "year end" upgrades/discards. Still have another couple of carloads of stuff to get out of here... cripes, I *know* we don't have a basement (nor an attic!), yet the stuff just seems to be without end!!

Keep warm. We harvested the Navel oranges a few days ago (weather turned cold enough to put the fruit at jeopardy). Thankfully (?) a small crop (in terms of NUMBERS). But, they're all *huge* -- at least a pound (500g) each! So, they effectively take up a lot of space regardless...

--don

Reply to
Don Y

I've been playing on stack exchange which is user modrated, and strictly problem-solution focussed, so there's little scope for bragging, discussing politics, cycling, cooking, or conspiracy (unless on-topic). they have an electronics forum which seems to have be mostly at the sci.electronics.basics level, although there are some interesting problems.

--
umop apisdn
Reply to
Jasen Betts

Uhm, with some luck you might get there what you have been chasing in vain for years... :-).

The quality of our users is typically fairly high, those are people who have been dealing with systems a lot less friendly than ours. Some (many?) of them have no basic networking knowledge so the main obstacle we had initially was until their unit would come online..... Since we started to supply a router with it, prepared such they could have a "quick start" - just plug things and have them running (e.g. the router would assign their device a known IP address, would forward ports it has to forward so whatever server part on the device is running will be accessible from the outside etc.) this problem largely disappeared.

Oh come on, this is a non-issue. If the browser on a phone cannot deal with what is going to be posted on the list then what will they use. Have them use a webmail client if whatever else is not working and be done with it, nobody needs all sorts of formats known to humanity in one place to provide technical support. GIF, JPEG, PDF, text, html - they will be able to view this right away on practically everything, just the amount of swearing it will take will vary between platforms (sometimes dramatically, you should see me using the cheap android tablet I have for bed use....). The rest can go as application/octet-stream, would go this way whatever format you choose anyway.

Whoa, half a ton oranges :D :D (well, kilogram but sounds pretty huge to me :-) ). We had just a few apples this year - the apple trees (here at least) give plenty of apples every other year only. So we left the few apples untouched, some are still on the tree - and they did find some good use:

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Dimiter

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Reply to
Dimiter_Popoff

On the plus side significantly better SNR and moderation to keep the whole thing on topic. Experts that have been driven away from Usenet still reside in various specialist forums or mailing lists.

On the minus side you end up with yet another password and userid for each and every forum and you have to remember to go and look at it.

Disadvantage of corporate sponsored ones is that posts criticising defects in their products won't appear or if they do won't last long.

There have to be enough people reading it for it to work at all.

--
Regards, 
Martin Brown
Reply to
Martin Brown
[attrs elided]

Makes sense. The effort (on your part) to provide that "up front" is probably saved many times over vs. trying to talk them through the process when they have problems.

When they ultimately contact you for an issue, is it something that you can quickly resolve: "Click here, type this in there, then set the detector..." or is it a "problem solving" experience for you, as well?

Agreed. I suspect there is some other motivation for pestering me about this (perhaps trying to drag me back onto the payroll?).

I've declined to take on the work. As a "compromise", decided to put together a summary of OTHER options they have to address their support desires. But, mailing lists are the only "cheap" solution (doesn't require setting up a server or maintaining a portal, etc.).

So, more "corporate involvement". Hence my question re: more direct corporate involvement in that "forum"...

Current implementation is reasonably clever. E.g., I resample JPEG attachments to ensure they're a more manageable size (easier than having to educate everyone who submits them to do this; *or*, reject too many messages because of 10MB JPEG attachments, etc.). This saves the folks who submit them from having to take that deliberate step before posting... (and cuts down on grumbling from folks who have to "pay" to receive huge "irrelevant" pictures).

Yeah, they're pretty big. Lemons were big as well -- 60 pounds off the little 3 ft tree! No idea what we'll do with all the juice when it "grows up"!

Sadly, not cold enough for apples, here. And, the variety that I like is not sold in stores (apparently doesn't travel well).

Keep warm! :>

Reply to
Don Y

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