My thoughts on news vs. mail

Steve Eisner (
Thu, 7 Mar 1996 17:42:13 -0800

You know, there aren't really a whole lot of differences between a
mailing list and a newsgroup any more.

* Mail programs and news browsers are converging: things like "inbox
filters" that are just getting added to mail clients are simply
conversions of the threads, kill-files, heirarchies, and whatnot that
newsreaders have had for years... though these features are still much
easier to use in a newsreader, in my opinion.

* Web searches make it easy to find an introduction page, so mailing
lists aren't "secret" any longer; though a newsgroup is still probably
easier to find.

* Both newsgroups and mailing lists can be archived for those who want
to perform casual browsing once a week, find old topics, etc... though
you'll find automatic archiving & search facilities are more common for

* As the list gets bigger, we're seeing all of the "cliches" that have
always been associated with newsgroups: cross-posts, advertiser spams,
flame wars, off-topic posts, etc... and without mail client tools as
mentioned in * #1, these are going to be harder to handle than if we
were in a newsgroup.

So if anything, each point seems to indicate the advantages of moving to
a newsgroup...

*** That having been said, I'm NOT in favor of doing it. ***

Why? Entirely a matter of the "feel" of things as they are - I think
someone put it best when they described it as "coziness". For all the
superficial similarities between newsgroups and mailing lists, I think
the participants are still of two different mindsets. There's something
about knowing that each message you write is going straight into the
inboxes of hundreds of other participants that hopefully makes you think
a little more about your posts. For that matter, maybe it's just that
other people's flame wars are going to fill _your_ inbox which makes you
a little more willing to end your own wars. The coziness of the list is
what lets our DJs offer free copies of new mixed tapes or promoters
offer guest listing, without being flooded by folks they've never seen
before. It's what lets people refer to members by first name, and
assume we know who they mean - or to past threads and assume that we've
actually read them. Newsgroup readers just don't contend with this and
noise comes that much quicker.

So I'm in favor of staying cozy. Sure, I wish we all had tools to make
subscription / unsubscription painless, or help us individually avoid
topic threads (and listmembers ;)) we're sick of. But I don't think
that getting these conveniences would be worth the lower signal:noise
ratio you inevitably find in newsgroups.

Sorry it was so long -