“Statistically speaking there is research that supports the fact that list subscribers worldwide, in comparison to the largest online communities such as FaceBook far outnumber all social network users” 

The first computer  Chat System was introduced in 1974.  Did you know that CompuServe offered the first online chat room (a CB Simulator) in 1980?  Chat allowed real-time conversations to take place between many computer users; so popular at its inception, 30 years later it’s still widely used.  It seems people enjoy real-time online conversations, and spontaneous discussions having the option to “chat” under an alias name and avatar.  

Unlike Chat, forums have been around about 10 years longer, evolving from the computerized bulletin board (BBS) which has an interesting ongoing history in itself.  Forums can be considered a messaging system for a community.  When someone posts a message in a forum their message is normally posted under a specific “Forum Topic”.  Messages can then be viewed at a future date, read, skipped or answered.  Some forums, like Chat rooms, email the ongoing conversations to their members: pretty handy.

Both Chat rooms and forums normally focus on a central theme such as a hobby or a like interest such as hiking.  If allowed, Chat room conversations can go in many directions while forums are a bit more structured.  For example, typical forum discussion (i.e. yahoo groups) allows members to select a topic they wish to read and respond to.

Similar to the forum is the discussion list, used extensively throughout the internet.  Organizations, such as IBM Rational Software has an SQA User group discussion list that requires ongoing searchable-recorded conversations; part of the discussion list structure.  This makes the discussion list more suited for their needs and more appealing than a forum because  it could be that:

  1. There’s only so much time in a day.
  2. Aside from the learning curves as different forums have dissimilar settings, quirks, and rules, forums require you to go to a specific place to log in.
  3. What are you looking for; new topics, new posts or your posts? 
  4. Newbies posting more frequently than the season members on subjects that have been covered. 
  5. Some forums are not as spam free as they believe they are. 

The truth is most of us would rather receive information in our inbox rather than go find it.  Discussion list subscribers seem to prefer receiving email rather than frequenting a URL, login and search for new conversations or information. 

They aren’t lazy they’re just practical and saving time.

Discussion lists can be used by everyone. They support the exchange of ideas and cooperation among people who can be:

  1. Young or old
  2. Savvy or not
  3. A dial-up user or broadband consumer
  4. Mobile or Touch Screen
  5. Reading Online or reading offline
  6. Traveling or sitting at home

Discussion lists are regularly used to foster community-building efforts, share information within an organization and facilitate conversation with customers. They are an inexpensive yet priceless marketing tool. They are an excellent way of meeting goals because they easily handle:

  1. Everyday tasks
  2. Scheduling
  3. Notifications
  4. Group participation
  5. Feedback

Discussion List Features allow them to be:

  1. Straightforward and simple
  2. Complex running sophisticated applications
  3. Private with expiration dates on membership
  4. Administrated by one, many or no one.
  5. Public or not, set up as a private online community forum
  6. Searchable by archives using the subject, date or author
  7. Flexible, where the list administrator can allow users to set their own preferences
  8. Customized and branded
  9. An easy way to integrate subscriber information with other platforms

What’s out there?

There’s free discussion list hosting using ad-supported platforms. However free usually means you’ll be advertising for their vendors and partners. Running banner ads regardless of where they are placed on the web page or in the email you’re reading, distract from messages, are unprofessional and in most cases appear as if your group is recommending the advertiser. Free means you cannot customize the look of your forums, nor have total list control over your members, and there is virtually no support for substantial integration with other platforms.

Then there are paid hosting plans. Before deciding which to use, consider the features and benefits you need and will need for future growth. Consider all your requirements; do you need a branded discussion list, more than one list, several or one administrators, training for your staff, custom HTML skins, survey capabilities, searchable archives, moderated, secure from hackers, 24/7 support and total control of your members? If so, try a no cost no obligation evaluation list with Dundee Internet Services, and start talking.


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