UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Blogs or Email for Discussions?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 Feb 2007

I recently sent an email about a bug in the Feed Validator software hosted at W3C. The bug was quickly identified. This was great, but made me think about the QA process for the software and the faith which is placed on validators – issues which I addressed in a recent posting.

A discussion continued on the QA list, with Olivier posted his thoughts on the W3C QA blog. Some concerns were raised, however, regarding the fragmentation of the discussion:

> Seeing as everyone is commenting on weblogs…

No, I don’t have one of those. Anyway, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Three people have put comments on this topic on to their separate blogs.
And there is no linking between them (as far as I can see) except for this mailing list.

Subsequently I’ve found that Sam Ruby has posted a response on his blog and the Crossnet blog has a posting on RSS Validator in the Spotlight.

Is Barry right to be concerned about such fragmentation? I would argue that fragmentation can provide benefits: in this case the discussion is not locked within the minority world of the W3C WWW-QA list, but has been opened up to other communities who may have other perspectives (e.g. the Crossnet blog will be seen by members of the publishing community many of whom won’t be interested in discussion on the WWW-QA list). In addition this diversity also enables differing perspectives to be raised – the posting on the Crossnet blog, for example, has provided an opportunity to highlight the robustness of the core RSS spec and to address the issues concerning the importance of test cases to standards, such as PRISM, of particular interest to the publishers:

Good point, anyway about contributing test cases. I guess we should really submit a PRISM test case. And yes, the Validator is somewhat buggy as some recent testing confirms. On which more later.

I would argue that such diversity outweighs the dangers of fragmenting the discussion – and that it is possible to pull together related discussions by, as I’ve done here, linking to them.

Is possible splintering of discussions on email lists a legitimate reason to have a downer on blogs? What do other think?

2 Responses to “Blogs or Email for Discussions?”

  1. Where is the source for your first quote?

    I’d also strongly point out that just like you, Sam did actually link to his blog post *on* the email list.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the fragmentation allows the mailing list to stay on topic whilst also allowing other, related but possibly tangential details to be discussed on blogs, other mailing lists etc.

  2. Hi Phil – the message I quoted wasn’t in the Web archive when I composed the posting. I had intended to add the link but got dragged away – I’ve added the link now.
    BTW Scott Wilson has picked up this post and linked to previous discussions he’s had on the topic.

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