Email to IXDA

24 Jan 2012 - 10:59am
2 years ago
11 replies
613 reads
DrWex
2006

Are you serious? Are you completely mental?

> One of the main sticking points for maintaining the IxDA.org platform has > been posting to the discussions via email. Email posting has caused > discussion threading issues, moderation issues, performance problems, and > often breaks and overloads the system. For all these reasons we've decided > to discontinue the ability to post to the forum via email and move to web > based posting only.

So rather than fix email, we'll just break it further so hey, come to our zippity do dah new Web site where you can post! Boy, that's the kind of user experience I'm looking forward to!

Please try to understand that this is not a new technology, and not a new technical problem. It's a problem that has been solved thousands of times all over the world. Why IXDA can't get it right is probably fodder for an epic documentary but mostly I want to know why you think it's OK to break decades-old working technology in favor of your pet new whizbang whateverthehellitis.

Signed, Some Grumpy Old Fart Who Isn't A Cool Young Rock-Star Designer And Therefore Clearly Not An Important IXDA User

Comments

24 Jan 2012 - 11:10am
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

Hi,

Please refrain from calling me/us "mental," it's highly offensive and doens't contribute to the conversation at all.

When the new site launched there were technology choices made that have made it very hard to support this feature. We've had ongoing problems and not enough resources to fix Drupal to support this. Making email posting work properly would mean an entirely new technology platform again, something that's not a good option at this time.

Your tone in this message is uncalled for. If this is important to you, which is clearly is, then please help us make the right choices rather than just make everybody uncomfortable and upset.

If you're interested in helping to fix this problem, rather than just call names, feel free to contact us civily and offer some support.

24 Jan 2012 - 12:30pm
netwiz
2010

My suggested solution is to switch to using Yahoo groups. It would solve the problem, rather than sticking with what is admitted to be a less than satisfactory solution. I have suggested it before, but never heard a reason whiy it shouldn't be done.

thanks

Nick Gassman
UX http://ba.com

24 Jan 2012 - 12:33pm
Adrian Howard
2005

(for those who aren't following the comments on the original announcement :-)

For anybody who prefers email to web forums - I've just setup a google group

http://groups.google.com/group/ixda-heretics

It won't sync with the ixda site forums of course, but might be useful if some folk want to stick with mailing lists.

Cheers,

Adrian

24 Jan 2012 - 12:31pm
E. Miller
2006

 

When the new site launched there were technology choices made that have made it very hard to support this feature.

Then those were bad technology choices, and they should be unmade.  Like, now-ish.

I'd daresay that IxDA reaches a substantial proportion of subscribers solely as an email list, so it should support basic email list functionality.  While the tone of the 'mental' email was certainly snarky, that doesn't detract from the truth of the message.

 

24 Jan 2012 - 2:28pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

We are trying to fix the issues with the technology choices, but it takes time and some tough decisions. Moving a community of this size to an entirely new platform isn't something that can happen overnight, and if the new platform is chosen in haste we'll be in the same position. The choice we made for the current change is one that was meant to balance ongoing issues, improvements, costs, effort, and impact. There were sacrifices for sure, but ones we considered and weighed.

 

24 Jan 2012 - 1:59pm
msweeny
2006

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Matt's point is well taken that this was not an arbitrary decision rather one made in context of the site redesign project that we all had an opportunity to participate in/contribute to and declined (for lots of good reasons to be sure). It seems imprudent to criticize the new methodology without trying it first. It may be more cumbersome and, if that is the case, those who find it so would be able contribute technology solutions or workarounds.

25 Jan 2012 - 7:41am
netwiz
2010

Actually you pretty much can migrate a group like this overnight, if you move to a pre-made site that already has the functionality you're looking for. I have aboslutely no stake in Yahoo groups, or Google groups, or anything, but they work, and whilst you wouldn't have the same branding, navigation etc they could work for this community. At the very least, they could work until a better solution is in place. For the forum, isn't it possible just to plug in a bulletin board?

I wonder though if it's reasonable to ask of presumably busy volunteers that they design, build, implement and maintain a fully-featured and highly usable custom site.

Look, I appreciate the efforts that many people have made to set up this site and organisation. So A+ for effort, no question. I think the clear feedback (from those who have expressed an opinion) is that certain key elements don't work very well. The ability to participate in a forum by email is just a given these days, and I really find much of the navigation and function on the site to be obscure and difficult - and that's nothing to do with the technology. The job system is still entirely US-centric.

Clearly the thing can plug away as it is - but some people are leaving, some setting up alternative discussions, and that's really not what we want. We have heard that there are others who would participate in the discussion, but are put off by the hurdles. I know it's easy for me to say, as I haven't put in all the hard work, but sometimes you just need to acknowledge what's not working, and start again.

thanks for listening
Nick Gassman
UX http://ba.com

 

25 Jan 2012 - 8:21am
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

I hear you, and all these things are being, and have been, considered. I totally agree about the strain on volunteers to manage a custom system, and we're moving towards something that will be easier to manage. That's actually part of this current move. We all have an ideal state in mind, but we need to take steps to get there. In order for out volunteers to think about how to really address these issues we need to move our current system to a plcae where it doesn't take up 100% of our time to just keep it up and running. That's what we're doing now. Once that's done we will have the time to consider larger changes, other tech options, etc.

You mentioned pluggin in a bulletin board. That's exactly what this is, it's Drupal's forums module with a few customizations. However, most plug-in forum software that I've seen doesn't allow posting by email, most send out email notifications and you have to click on a link. A few will accept replies, but so far I haven't seen any that allow new threads by email. (by the way, this is something we're looking into for this site).

If, as I've heard from a number of people, this isn't that hard then please volunteer to help us. There will be a call for a couple website related volunteer positions within the next few days, I really hope some of you will consider helping out. The best way to fix decisions you don't like is to volunteer to make new choices youself.

25 Jan 2012 - 11:45am
Jeff Kraemer
2009

A few quick points:

  • Let's keep it clean. Personal attacks have no place here.
  • Migrating to Google Groups or Yahoo Groups might make for easy emailing, but in turn we lose the rich archive of past questions and answers we have on this site. Answering the same question over and over is not a great user experience either, I think.
  • In my view, splitting the discussion from the other aspects of the IxDA (see the global nav) isn't worth it just for the ability to reply to an email thread (which Matt says is a little-used feature).
  • Matt and the other IxDA volunteers are smart, hard-working people. They obviously didn't make this decision lightly. Matt clearly explained the rationale, and it makes sense in the short term. Have we not all worked on projects where we needed to compromise, or at least prioritize? Where technology was a constraint? Am I the only one who's worked on a platform where things that would seem to be easy are, in fact, really thorny?
  • Thanks to Matt and company for doing the hard work and taking the hits. Others--feel free to volunteer or donate. Or at least be grateful to those who do. Or at least be sympathetic.

 

Yes, we all know this site has been troublesome. It's a long way from perfect. But there is no magic wand. Just a handful of volunteers doing the work, which takes time.

 

25 Jan 2012 - 12:33pm
bjminihan
2010

FWIW, this particular discussion was beat vigorously last year around this time.

I applaud Matt's patience and persistence in sticking with this "project"  (projects are typically *funded* and *staffed*, aren't they?) over the years.

Remember that it's more difficult to volunteer to help with the technology here, even if you know the technology at-hand.  This is a big group, with high expectations and a long history (really?), so you can't expect to just step in, tweak the code, and deliver a completed solution back for Matt to integrate and deploy.  Matt & the team have to keep the entire system up to par, and really don't have time to hand it all over to a prima-donna's preferred environment. 

I would personally love to help (and am pretty confident that I could), but if I can't spare the time they NEED me to dedicate to the project, then I might as well not raise my hand.

And that's why I will support Matt and the team's decisions, and adjust my behavior accordingly.  Email submission has been problematic for years, so I've become more of a lurker than a poster.  However, I still feel connected to the "industry" through the email feed, and am happy to hop onto the site to post on the rare occasions I can add value.

Email listservs are ancient by now, but I assume there is good reason why they aren't the de facto discussion-forum standard for every organization.  I think it's unreasonable to expect an all-VOLUNTEER organization of this size and maturity to simultaneously deliver a technology designed for small, niche topic interests, while meeting the dozens of expectaions for a large (and growing) diverse audience (most of which are unrelated to emailing submissions).

If a better "emailable, brandable, multi-purpose portal environment" existed, I trust Matt would have found it by now, and we would be using it.  Personally, I've been working in this area for a dozen years or more, and I can't think of anything that meets those expectations equally well...can you?

Bryan

25 Jan 2012 - 12:39pm
bjminihan
2010

I forgot to mention, the system must be scalable, manageable, and free.

Also, on the volunteering front.  The most difficult issue in troubleshooting and solving an email configuration problem is replicating the environment so you can repeat the error.  If you can't replicate the entire thing at home, then you have to work in the main system's space (test or otherwise).  That requires a lot of Trust on Matt's part, so you'd have to be willing to commit to a high degree of collaboration to avoid breaking china.

Again, it's not as easy as it looks.

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