28 Nov 2011
Mailing Lists FTW
Part of my job is to interact with third-party developers and help them out when they have issues with the Shopify API. This used to be done on our forums and was, in no uncertain terms, terrible.
The trouble with forums generally is that they’re not designed to push topics to you; You have to go to them to get updates. This is great if you’re a casual user but when you’re an administrator who needs to read everything that gets posted, it’s a hassle. I had to remember to check the forums constantly. It also meant that regular users weren’t engaging one another as much as we wanted: More often than not initial responses were provided by admins rather than other users.
That’s why we ditched the Shopify developer forums and redirected them to a new Google Group for developers. Mailing lists are by design inherently push-based, so now the messages come to me. There are options to reduce or turn off notifications all together but judging by the number of times a community developer comes to the aid of another it seems that they prefer to get notified immediately.
I recently had the opportunity to see things from the other side when I delved into the Dropbox developer forums. It only supports RSS updates (boo!) so once I’d posted I had to remember to go back and check for updates. That took me 3 days. The responses I found on my return were great, but if I had been able to track the thread via email I’d have known a lot sooner. I also find myself with no desire to go back and read through topics to answer them.
Google Groups are fantastic, but they’re not for everyone. The Ottawa Android group that I attend uses Libre List which is a far lighter weight solution. A quick google search reveals many more possibilities.
Thanks for reading! If you like my writing, you may be interested in my book: Healthy Webhook Consumption with Rails
David at 10:00