Fora

posted 5 years ago by Ben Cordero

I REALLY hate forums.

Give me an RSS feed or a blog post/wiki page with comment threads any day. But when you combine the two and treat announcements and facts as equal to comments and praise then things get messy.

Order

Forums are organized by project (usually by domain, which are intentionally designed to be narrow Google searches). Categories within are separated at obvious sharding points, for navigation purposes. Threads are ordered using a non-relevant metric such as alphabetically, or by date. Yes, there is pinning, but nothing more than a stop-gap.

The threads themselves are time ordered comments with pretty pictures that take the left third of the screen with metrics about how much time a uses wastes in a forum. Sorry, I mean avatars and those "member since" and "member level" ratings.

And what's up with [Updated] marks, that just screws with anyone following the thread to go back and re-read everything.

In general, the only useful post in a forum is the first of a thread. That's the one that is indexed, and serves the single purpose of announcing that someone, somewhere has hit the same problem you have. Don't even get me started on [Solved] semantics.

A typical forum thread starts with the proposition, then there is usually a list of other posts verifying that in a vain attempt of one-up-manship. If you're lucky, there might be a post that has an answer, usually starred and differently coloured depending on the forum engine. Then more posts below congratulating and/or denying that the solution works.

Then I check the date, and it's listed two years ago. The software has probably moved on since then, this thread should be nuked.

Pagination

Some threads go on for a really long time. Does anyone follow it? How is any passer-by supposed to know the full context of the latest post without scanning the entire thread? Top-posting and inline replies just make the mess worse.

Of course, the solution to multiple pages of pages of aimless crap is to add a search bar. But that's less than useful since Google has already indexed it, how else did you get there in the first place. Search will also not help to tell you if you really are the first person to encounter this new problem.

Hardly an environment for innovation.

Instinctual

A wiki page will be refined over time and hopefully kept up-to-date. There's even a culture of maintaining references.

Blog posts are written by individuals who have sat down long enough to think about what's going on. Long enough to write a mini-essay on the issue.

Threads within are started by users asking questions, usually the same questions that rarely add to the pool of knowledge. The consequence is that the people generating content are those that don't have anything to add to the pool of knowledge. Replies within the thread just mull it over and give first instinct answers. Not thought out, single minded, well referenced directives.

Serendipity

I'm not saying that there isn't a place for people too lazy to figure out the answer themselves. Reading the solution is much quicker than working it out.

What I am saying is that there are better ways to ask questions. Preferably ways that don't muddle my Googling.

Now the reason that I've been resorting to forums recently is for the Android community. There are a lot of interested people out there making rootkits and mods. Typically from the CM world.

But besides xda-forums, where else does one go to get new builds? The Android community is very dispersed. But that's no excuse to have a forum be your relese-engineering method. These problems have been solved in the Opensource world.

Is it that hard to ask for a blessed code repository, a single build script and a http link to the latest stable/dev download?

In the android world, I need to discover that for my HTC Desire Z, the best modder group is a fork of CyanogenMod known as Andromadus. The most recent thread I can find is this, dated two months ago.

Open it up in a new window and let's read the first post together.

What is it telling us? Well, one of the Andromadus team is going back to the source code roots, and compiling yet another build Android from source. It's quite admirable and I would always encourage those who know how to do this to do this.

But now, we discover that these builds are related to, but not quite the Andromadus builds. Since this references the Audicity sequence, I assume that Mimicry superceeds.

What else do we have here? Oh, hold on, the big dates that draw the attention are after the post's marked date. There has been an update two weeks ago due to a revbump.

This is probably symptomatic of one of the fundamental problems I listed above about forums. The lack of linearity means that the most effective way to declare a progression, is to hijack a previous thread, and declare half of the comments obsolete because the concerns are no longer valid in the new version.

No No No No No!

Has nobody in the android community heard of dashboarding? or RSS feeds, or blogospheric planets?
Here is an example of how to tell your community that there is a new tagged release.

http://kernel.org/

Good try with andromadus, but it would be nice if it was kept up-to-date. I would really like to stop looking up the authors latest postings and getting redirected back to xda-developers It's messy, inaccurate and I probably missed something.

Sorry about the lack of formatting, but I have to hit publish before I calm down and delete/archive the draft.

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