Thursday, August 05, 2004


I'm vaguely involved with a pretty cool project, Gmane. Actually Lars Magne Ingebrigtsen, who rewrote Gnus, did all of the work and deserves all of the credit.

One of my earliest experiences with the internet was when AOL added newsgroups and mailing lists to their content. At the time, I remember being confused because it seemed like two different things that served the same purpose. Both required you to "subscribe", both were for talking with lots of other people and both consisted of threaded messages. AOL also had message boards, which are spiritual ancestors to web boards.

And of course, they do serve the same purpose. But since each one works slightly differently, people develop preferences about which is better. For instance, web boards offer the discussion owner the most control over content and presentation and newsgroups the least. It's possible to line them up in a series of spectra:

Control:         web  mail news
Ease of setup:   web  mail news
Ease of use:     news mail web
Universality:    web  mail news
Commitment:      mail web  news
Spam prevalence: mail news web
Centrality:      web  news mail
Archive:         web  news mail

This isn't set in stone of course and there are some subjective elements to the lists, but you can see how people would have strong preferences for one or the other of these methods. I really like using newsgroups now that I have a good newsreader, which means that when I come across an interesting mailing list or web board, I have to decide if I want to endure the pain of reading discussions that way.

The cool thing about Gmane is that I don't have to decide. Or at least there's a chance that I can read a mailing list with my newsreader. And if I need or want to use a web browser or search archives or avoid spam, I've got that too.

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