strathspey Archive: Antediluvian?

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Message 58552 · Anselm Lingnau · 4 May 2010 00:33:55 · Top

[I'm Cc:ing this to the Strathspey list because it touches matters of general
interest. - A.]

Hamish Dewar wrote:

> (Not even sulphurous rain. Strathspey followers are a courteous
> good-natured bunch).

They're Scottish country dancers -- what do you expect? Abuse is next door :^)

> Correct me if the following is wrong:
> If I have browsed recent archives and want to comment on what someone else
> has said, I must fire up my email and try to locate the message I want to
> respond to.
> It would be much simpler if there was a 'Reply' button in the original
> message, but this is a mailing list so that is not possible.

This makes sense (see below).

> As a result, we are at the mercy of the email preferences of the
> contributors, such as incorporating earlier posts ad infinitum.

I would love for people to stop doing that but as I said in another thread,
we're more likely to see lasting peace in the Middle East before that will
happen. This is probably the single advantage that web forums have over
mailing lists: full quotes of previous messages are more difficult (although
not at all unheard of).

> You rightly take me to task for being critical but not making constructive
> suggestions.
> I wish I could point to another single site as an ideal model, but I can't.
> However features I like in a site include (in no particular order):
> the site should be visually appealing with good graphics and typography;
> options should be clearly presented so that navigation is intuitive;
> it should be easy to browse what's new, skip over what is not;
> the posts should be able to include links, pictures, audio and video;
> above all, the site should be interactive.
> [...]
> Just saying, I don't think the mailing-list model scales up once it goes
> beyond a certain number.

Well, the mailing list model has served us well for almost 17 years and nearly
60.000 messages now. It is probably just as well to remember that the
Strathspey list predates the widespread availability of the World-Wide Web,
let alone web forums. (I can still remember reading some Strathspey mail -- or
something -- in my office at the University when one of the physicists from
two stories above popped in to tell me to come up and look at that nifty piece
of software he'd just installed called a »web browser«, where you could look
at cool stuff from CERN. Also a couple of years after the Strathspey list got
started, there seemed to be this great innovation on the Web called the »guest
book«, where you could actually type in stuff that would eventually show up on
the other person's site.)

Anyway, having said that, I can see where you're coming from, and I would be
the first person to agree that it would probably make sense, these days, to
allow people to use the Web for posting to the list. However, as you can gauge
from the reaction of most if not all of the other people, they don't really
want to give up the e-mail-based list. Of course this is a self-selected
sample -- everybody else who, like you (apparently), would much rather see
something like a web forum, having left in disgust ages ago --, but these are
the people for whom Strathspey has provided an important service (or so they
lead me to believe) for almost two decades, and I'm not about to pull the rug
from under them in order to embrace a newfangled fad like a web forum.

Personally I'm not too enthusiastic about the current breed of web forum
software in any case (I think the idea of a web forum pretty much sucks in the
first place, but that would be a different, very long posting), so a wholesale
migration to something like phpBB is Simply Not In The Cards. However, I could
imagine letting registered users of the Strathspey site post messages through
the web frontend. This would essentially mean an upgrade to the archive
software to display the »X most recent messages« more prominently (the »X most
recent threads« would probably make more sense in this context), a »Start new
thread« button, and a »Reply to this message« button near every message in the
archive. People would have to be logged in for these buttons to be
operational, and the web site would basically create an e-mail message
equivalent to one that the person might have sent in the first place, for
distribution to the e-mail subscribers and also to the web-based archive. This
should take care of the »do I really need to send e-mail to participate«

I would also agree that a makeover of the site's appearance would be a good
idea; however I'm not a great visual artist, nor does Strathspey bring in
enough revenue for me to hire one, so unless somebody qualified volunteers
their time we'll be stuck with what we have for the time being (I have bigger
fish to fry at the moment as far as the site is concerned). The Society
managed to hang in there for years with a succession of visually truly
abominable sites so at least we're in good company here.

As far as the posting of audio-visual material is concerned, the policy has
always been that the Strathspey list is for SCD-related *discussion*, not for
wholesale swapping of possibly-copyrighted-by-third-parties material (if one
wanted to do that there are other places on the Net, I'm told). The policy has
also always been that whenever someone wanted to share something that they
couldn't post to the list in an e-mail message they could send it to me for
incorporation into the Strathspey site. There is a long-standing plan to allow
people to post stuff to the site (similar to what I'm doing
on, but while this is essentially working in
the context of various SCD group sites that I host, the general availability
still needs some kinks ironed out (remember what I said about the bigger

Finally, the restriction to plain text only and no attachments ensures that
the Strathspey list remains free of viruses and other nasty things that
subscribers would much rather not receive in their e-mail. As I said, we're up
to nearly 60.000 messages now, and not a single one of those has been spam or
infested with malware. This is something that the subscribers value, and I
intend to keep things that way.

> Alright, I'll go quietly before I'm thrown out.

I don't throw people out unless they are *way* out of line and trust me, you
haven't even got as far as being able to see the line in the distance (from
the inside). You will have to exert yourself rather more before you run the
slightest danger of being thrown out as far as I am concerned.

I'm all in favour of people telling me what they don't like about the site. I
do get a reasonable amount of e-mail from people who say that they like the
site, which is of course great -- so do keep those mails coming --, but
finding out where the site can be improved is important to me. As you all know
this is a hobby project and I would love to be able to devote more time to it
as long as I can do enough honest work to pay the rent and food, keep the
trophy wife in style, and attend the odd dance event every so often, but I do
have a priority list of things to change or add that I'd like to tackle. If
you never tell me about what you'd like to see, well then it will probably
never show up on that list, and hence never get done at all! So no hard
feelings, Hamish; if you feel you must go away then do check back every so
often on the off-chance -- who knows but some of your concerns may have been
addressed at some point in the future. (If you want to stick around in the
meantime then by all means do so, too.)

Anselm Lingnau, Friedberg, Germany .....................
Wait ... did a priest of one weird cult full of bizarre ideas just claim that
another weird cult was full of bizarre ideas?
-- PZ Myers on the Vatican opposition to creationism

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