Mailing lists are a great thing!
When I started to get on internet (we still did not browse it), I used to read on newsgroups. For some reason I have never had a good feeling with newsgroups, I always felt like it was hard to communicate and so as soon as I could I left them (as soon as I found other resources).
Mailing lists are my favourites (or favorites, as you like it better). I have to admit that from a user perspective the mailing list is not SO different from a newsgroup, you still use an e-mail client, your reply gets “propagated” to all the other subscribers and everyone can read and reply. Both newsgroups and mailing lists may or may not be moderated. Don’t ask me why, but I have always felt more comfortable with mailing lists.
Forums are a great thing. I have to say that the UI is MUCH better, contents are generally grouped by argument in sub-forums and all threads are grouped all together. When you find what you were looking for, you can follow the original thread and maybe reply (and quote). Modern forums (or bulletin boards) are very powerful.
On the other side, the mailing list arrives in your mailbox. Even if you can filter emails and maybe move them into specific mailboxes, you will always see a little number or something that reminds you that a mailing list you’re subscribed to is waiting for your replies. Considering my habits and my memory, this is of great help! I generally end up not reading forums or maybe visit them occasionally.
Now, what I DON’T LIKE about mailing lists?
This is actually not specific of mailing lists, I see it happen often in forums too, but anyway… I don’t like repeated questions.
If you have been on a mailing list for months or maybe years, you will notice that questions are often the same or similar. I personally don’t like to answer “STFW” or similar, I always try to give good pointers, but basic question are always repeated.
Unfortunately, as a new user on my mailing lists, I am sure I have asked those very basic, already seen, questions more than ones ( I feel so bad when someone answers “look at this message or thread” and I find the exact same question). So what I’m saying is not that I am pissed with people writing stupid questions, because I found myself in the same situation. I learnt to search in the archive, but sometimes it seems like I can’t find that specific question even if it was there.
I wonder there could be better search engines, but I alwso think that if they are not in place, yet, maybe they just could not find a way to make it work properly.
Sometimes I searched on Google’s newsgroups, but I never really found what I was looking for (and maybe my bad feeling about newsgroups did not let me search enough).
Did you ever try the search on Yahoo! groups? That is really bad. They should seriously work on that to make ti more usable. It’s 2005, we are approaching 2006, you can’t still have the “one word search” inherited from eGroups. How long ago did Yahoo! buy those mailing lists? And they never had a week or two to make it nicer?
Final words are that I don’t have an answer, but if you are working on anything to solve this (and I don’t mean writing a FAQ), please let me know and I’ll support you! 😀