Fog Creek Software
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What do you want from this forum?

Personally, I'd prefer it if we stick to topics stemming from Joel's articles, such as writing functional specs, UI design, running a software company, interviewing, the software industry, great books, software marketing, project management fundamentals, etc.

Do we really need another how-to resource for specific programming technologies?

Timothy Falconer
Sunday, March 17, 2002

How about "all of the above"? Certainly the number of responses to the specific technology questions seems to suggest that lots of people do find those discussions useful. After all, many of us have given up on Usenet entirely as a gaping suckhole with a very poor rate of return with time invested. So "take it to Usenet" isn't necessarily a useful response.

I suspect a lot of us here could get behind a "forget this topic" function that would enable pruning the list. But when you come right down to it, it's up to Joel to provide the functionality and set the tone here. While he's playing King Log, we're going to get random chatter, homework questions, and technology discussions, as well as Joel-related topics.

Mike Gunderloy
Sunday, March 17, 2002

Good points.  I went looking for an indication from Joel what the scope of this forum should be, and there it was, staring me in the face:

"A public forum for open discussion of topics raised on Joel on Software."

IMO, most of the last seven or so topics don't qualify (visual basic homework problem, what to use for simple copy, how to disable flash, how to write ASP code, what do you think of .NET, etc)

Are they useful to some people?  Sure.  Perhaps he should create another forum for "Practical Programming Advice" so the people who came here for the Joel on Software topics don't have to sift through advice on specific technologies.

Timothy Falconer
Sunday, March 17, 2002

Timothy Falconer wrote:
"What do you want from this forum?"

Good point. I agree that the amount of off topic (read less interesting for the selfish me) posts is slowly growing. My fear is that this ever increasing popularity will make it worse and might even kill these groups, because many posters don't want to look at "how can I program Hello World" posts.

So what's the solution. Here's my proposal: Add multiple topic groups. Like: Discussions about Joel's articles, Software design, Homework questions, whatever, to keep areas on topic. Add moderation to move/edit/delete posts if they go off topic. Allow emails to be sent if somebody responds to your post.

In short: Put up VBulletin to kick this forum in 2nd gear and keep everybody happy. The bad news is that Fogcreek already mentioned that they were not interested in that.

Jan Derk
Sunday, March 17, 2002

Nothing. Sometimes I get some anyway.

Whenever you post a new topic title, do you lose an old one (does an old one scroll off)?

Actually, here's something I want. Has anyone found a way that doesn't involve my installing non-standard s/w, to automatically or semi-automatically archive or keep available to me all messages here?

In a real newsgroup <cough> I use Agent with "purge" switched off.

Christopher Wells
Sunday, March 17, 2002

Actually, I think my last post does qualify. In fact, I could argue that this post is more off topic then mine! This post has nothing to do with software development!

Clearly mine does. In fact, I can site at least 4, or more articles that Joel has written on the very question I asked.

For any of you who just think that I would come here with a question on how to copy a simple are *V E R Y * mistaken. I also did NOT ask for example code, nor ask how to solve the problem in a particular language.

My question is about code dependencies, and the future trends in software development. Please read my response in that thread. The real issue is about code dependencies. Anyone who develops software would see this as issue. Code to copy a file is like breathing is a non issue.

Very much of what this discussion board becomes is what we the readers make of it. Thus, I hope some people read a message and see a larger topic. This means taking some time and effort to think and contemplate what the issues of the day are. If you don’t make an effort, then my question seems dumb. If you do make an effort, then it centers on one of the largest issues we developers are facing today.

Joel has a great style of writing. So, when he says we should all read the book PeopleWare, he also gives a great little story as to how, and where he found that book at Microsoft.

Things I like:

** Problems that developers encounter, and how they were solved.

** Joel’s articles on how Excel ate Lotus 123’s lunch (and thus also how Word ate WordPerfect). It was not marketing, it was not bundling, it was not discounting. At the end of the day Excel and Word ate 123 and WordPerfect due to certain decisions. Learning those decisions was perhaps one the greatest secrets that Joel exposed about Microsoft. It is also a means that I can make my software company better. Anyone who offers articles how they beat the competition are gold (problem is, most don’t write those articles).

** Joel’s Articles on functional specs. Everyone talks about them, but Joel’s articles on this subject are brilliant because they are so dead simple as to be boring and UN-cool. You could read them, and say they lack complete substance. But then you folks would be missing the whole point of the matter.

Joel also made a brilliant observation about the difference between “threaded” discussions boards, and non threaded.  For this type of group, I actually agree with Joel’s decision on this. The reason for this is that the more “trivial” responses and noise is reduced. We are losing some good conversations as a result, but the benefit is reduced noise.

I can only hope that people make a true effort to read posts here, and then make a intelligent response to them. That is the goal we all should shoot for.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Sunday, March 17, 2002

I agree about non-threaded posts.  The best web discussion forum I've ever used is at <a href="">The WELL</a>.

We all have our favorite, I suppose, but I'd love to have more sites that use this interface.

You can try it out in their <a href="">free conference</a>

Timothy Falconer
Sunday, March 17, 2002

More proof that "no one reads anything" (I included HTML tags).

here are the links again:

free conference:

Timothy Falconer
Sunday, March 17, 2002


I can see your point, but I would not want to limit this forum to just items related to what Joel has to say. Someone may ask a progamming question, but the spin-off discussions on the management of that problem are often more interesting that the programming solution.

I hope you can see my point.

James Ladd
Sunday, March 17, 2002

This forum has turned in to, for better or for worse "Tapping the brains of people who read Joel on Software and like posting to message boards." This board appeals to a certain demographic, and this is the stuff that some of the people in that demographic want to discuss. (Why I never got into marketing, I'll never know.)

As Joel gets more popular, the group is going to expand, and 'old timers' are going to be upset about the group losing focus, etc. etc.  I think this happens everywhere. Every newsgroup I read (I started reading them circa 1993) has had a thread like this that seems to be running since it's inception. I think they occur in even years. "You know the sixth guy in this group is beginning to post sleightly off topic stuff." These are simple growing pains.

The way I see it, this thread is a sophisticated "us v. them" where the 'old timers' are complaining about the 'newbies' (who else would be posting useless questions?).

Why don't you become a project management/usability guru, start a blog and create your own message group. Then you can control it any way you want.

Mark W
Sunday, March 17, 2002

In all successful forums I've participated in (going back to 1981 or so), there's either been a self-regulating group of folks that kept topic drift to a minimum, or there's been a moderator that does the same.  Slashdot of course is a third option.

This *really* works on the WELL.  They've been doing it right since the mid-80s.  Of course, $10/mo keeps most people out, which helps.

I just starting reading posts here a week ago, so I hardly qualify as an old-timer complaining.  My question in the topic title is sincere... what do others want?

If the answer is "a little technology-specific talk in with the rest", then that's fine.  I still believe there's value in someone raising the question.

As for your challenge... write a series of articles on software & life, start a forum ... sounds like a good idea.

Timothy Falconer
Monday, March 18, 2002

Personally, I find about half of the threads raised in the forum interesting and the other half does not bother me. I think this is a pretty good quota.

I find the threads sharing experience (like "What books do you read?", "What tools do you use?" etc) most helpful. I also like the threads which just give inside in other people's working conditions, motivations and the like. Not so much to learn from them, but just because I am curious. 

I normally skip the threads on specific technologies, because many of the things discussed there have little to do with my everyday work or my private interests (even though I try to stay open for new technologies and other fields of work, but you just cannot read up on anything, I guess).

Sometimes I follow a thread even though the topic seems not that interesting to me at first, just because the opinions shared there are presented and argued well.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Monday, March 18, 2002

One of the reasons for topic drift is because Joel hasn't had much to say recently.  This is understandable - he does have a job after all.

If the board was limited to just Joel's discussions, then there wouldn't be anything new for long stretches.

With that people would stop checking for discussion on a regular basis and a lot of the energy will be lost.

Ged Byrne
Monday, March 18, 2002

flames are in my opinion the true bane of message boards, not off topic posts.  one can easily ignore off topic posts as long as you find stuff you're interested in.  but flames discourage a lot of people from posting-and a larger and larger portion of the posters will be recreational flamers, feeding the cycle and strangling polite discussion.  at least that seems to be what happens when an un-moderated board reaches a critical mass and you have enough bad apples to spoil the batch....

thankfully, i think we're a good distance from that on this board.  i came here from a link from slashdot.  if slashdot links again, and again...then maybe we'll start to see enough traffic to spoil it.

razib khan
Monday, March 18, 2002

As on old-time WELL user myself, I just had to post a big horse laugh about the notion of the WELL as a system where the moderators keep things  on-topic. Or, as they say over there, YMMV. Yeah, there are some conferences where things stay on-topic, but not most of the ones that I ever visited. Then again, I ended up dropping the WELL when the newbies took over :)

I do suspect further changes in the tone of this place are inevitable as it becomes more popular. I'm trying hard not to see those changes as deterioration. My own experience has been that only closed, invitation-only fora stay on topic -- and that, of course, would be self-defeating for a place whose main purpose is to help market Joel's brand.

Mike Gunderloy
Monday, March 18, 2002

I've given this a little (think: wee) bit of thought. I was part of a Bass Player's e-mail list (The Bottom Line). It was excellent when I first discovered it a few years ago and I became a very active participant. Posting somehow got up to a fevered pitch and they'd release 3-4 digests a day, each with 10-15 posts. (You can only subscribe in digest format.)

I left about that time overwhelmed by the number of posts. I would have to dedicate at least an hour a day reading it if I were to stay on top, and since I tend to be a bad skimmer... The posts were 95% relevant and interesting, some about the very techical aspects of amplifier configuration and sonic properties of this or that, others more philosophical, others practical, all about playing bass.

I recently re-joined and I found that the digest comes out now only once a day. Each digest is still around 10-15 e-mails, but there's only one a day. This makes it much more easily digested, and forces people to be more concise and at the same time thorough - it'll be 24 hours before they get a reply and another 24 before their post will appear.

I don't suggest Joel On Software adopt that format, but the relatively low barrier to entry (click reply, no registration, post appears instantly, not even a preview) contributes to the 'off the cuff' feel. IMHO. YMMV.

Mark W
Monday, March 18, 2002

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