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unwieldy discussion mechanisms

Luke Breuer
0001-01-01 05:00 UTC

discussion of ideas
I use the following methods to discuss ideas and they all have weaknesses which I think are technically unecessary:
  • email
  • online forums/newsgroups
  • instant messaging and 3+ person chat (e.g. IRC)
  • wikis for discussion (like Wikipedia talk pages; example)

My problem with the above methods is threefold:
  1. they do not scale: while good for short discussions, longer, more detailed ones get unwieldy
  2. they are noisy: searching them for desired information can be time-intensive
  3. it is hard to link to them: it's either impossible or hard to refer to a small section of one of the above media
email
  • being restricted to plaintext is onerous
    • unless one is well-versed in doing so and has an editor that makes it easy to keep lines of text below a certain length
    • even so, there's the most-annoying problem where text looks like this:
      > > > Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod
      > tempor incididunt
      > > > ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud
      > exercitation
      
  • different email clients tend not to play well together when using HTML email
  • MS Outlook doesn't thread conversations like Gmail does (how many clients thread emails nicely?)
forums/newsgroups
forums:
  • search is often subpar or nonexistent
  • in many forums, the amount of non-post noise (like signatures and avatars) is annoying
  • there's a lot of low-quality posting

blog comments, newsgroups, and really crappy forums:
  • the quoting mechanisms are nonexistent or often leave a lot of noise
  • the indentation in code is often lost, which leaves it a mess
instant messaging and chat (like IRC)
  • multiple topics will often be discussed simultaneously, but there's no way to nicely thread them
  • most discussion is stream-of-consciousness, which is very noisy
wiki discussions (example)
  • requires trusting people to only edit "their" sections
  • requires people to manually maintain a threaded discussion