Bitter Debate Rages Over Forums vs Email Discussions

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Ah yes, the debate over forums vs discussion lists has been waging since the birth of the internet, and for the most part here at GroupSpaces we take a decidedly Swiss stance and say, “Whatever floats your group’s boat!”  That said, one of the most frequent requests we’ve received as of late is for email notifications to members anytime a new thread is created.  We do have plans to develop a solution that will address this need in the future, but in the meantime, if this is a concern of yours you may find that email discussions are a better choice for your group.

To help you make that choice, we’ll go over the benefits and drawbacks of both here!

The Forums

The Forums live on your GroupSpaces website and are best if you need a space to where members can converse when they want, but be left alone otherwise.  Members need to actively visit the forums in order to start or participate in a thread, otherwise they’ll remain blissfully unaware of the forum’s goings on.  This is particularly handy for very large groups or member lists.

Forums also serve as fantastic references for new members with questions as they are searchable and can be broken into categories by managers.

Pros:

  • Not pushy. They’re there when a member needs them and stay in the background when they don’t.
  • Stronger organization. Managers can create categories in the forums
  • Greater Moderation.  Managers can opt to approve each message posted to the forum before it is published.

Cons:

  • Too passive. if you do want to keep members informed and involved, the lack of notifications may rule the Forums out.
  • Too many barriers.  Members have to visit the forums and login before they can post or reply.

Email Discussions

Discussion lists are are a more direct method of member communication as subscribers receive and send messages to a list from their personal inboxes.  With virtually no barriers to jump into a conversation, This is ideal for smaller groups or mailing lists

Pros:

  • No barriers. Members can contribute with minimal action on their part.  Unlike in the forums, members do not need to visit your site, or even have a registered account to participate – they just need to be included in your database/member list.

Cons:

  • Inbox clutter. Some members may object to the volume of emails they (although they can always unsubscribe or opt into a daily digest instead)
  • Less organization.  While an email discussion archive is available in beta on request (contact us if you’d like it enabled), the Forum’s organized structure does make it a better reference for new members.
  • No moderation. Any member on a discussion list can message the other members on the list, there is no managerial approval necessary.

Ultimately, we envision a super powerful hybrid of both features in GroupSpaces’ future, but until  we reach that goal, you now know the advantages and disadvantages of each and may go hence and make the best decision for your group!  

Which do you prefer to use for your group?

3 thoughts on “Bitter Debate Rages Over Forums vs Email Discussions

  1. Biff

    The login hurdle can be a significant barrier to forum participation. Several of my group members have complained of credential fatigue: too many accounts, too many passwords. It’s great that GroupSpaces supports Facebook connect, but it would be even greater if it supported signing in via other methods, e.g. Google accounts, twitter, etc.

    Reply
  2. Paul

    In my group we’re using the Forum, but sending out a hand-generated “What’s New on the Forum” email each week. This gives us an acceptable compromise between the prettiness of the forums, and the need for timely member notifications. But it adds significant management burden.

    This area is the top of my wish list for enhancements.

    Reply

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