The dumbing down of the web (phpBB perhaps not optimal)

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  • #200826 Reply


    I hope this is received as the constructive criticism it is intended to be.

    A trend in recent years is to replace structured information with well defined access protocols with ad hoc bulletin boards, and it is not *always* the best thing to do.

    An important feature for a bulletin board/forum like application is to be able to browse quickly as the information density is quite low (at least the density of information relevant to you). Web based solutions (such as phpBB) are inherently slow. None of the techniques normally available to news reader to make browsing the posts of an NNTP based forum snappier and more immune to temporary network or server bogdowns are available a web based forum client, since the client is by definition dumb.

    I’d like to see My Eclipse switch to NNTP. It works quite well for Eclipse.org (they also have a web interface for those who couldn’t care about NNTP).

    Secondly, I’d like to see an issue tracking system, such as bugzilla, rather than having to wade through the forums to see if a problem I am experiencing is a known issue, have been resolved or…

    I believe that these two improvements to the support site would enhance the product a lot.


    #200829 Reply

    Scott Anderson

    I hope this is received as the constructive criticism it is intended to be.

    Sure it is, because you present a well articulated and reasoned point of view.

    I’d like to see My Eclipse switch to NNTP.

    One of the problems I have with NNTP is that to search it effectively I have to download the headers AND all the messages. This takes up a considerable amount of space on my (and everyone else’s) hard drives. With a web-based approach, I can use our forum Search capability and quickly go through all posts we’ve ever gotten by either a combination of words or by poster. I find this very fast for finding old threads where I’ve already answered a problem before.

    Secondly, I’d like to see an issue tracking system, such as bugzilla, rather than having to wade through the forums to see if a problem I am experiencing is a known issue, have been resolved or…

    We use bugzilla internally, but limit posting to it to internal people only. In all honesty, this is by design since 90% of the posts we get as bugs are simply configuration problems or enhancement requests. This gives us the opportunity to filter them appopriately so that development doesn’t get inundated with them and end up doing their own support.

    As far as finding bugs go, we tag the threads with [Bug], and [Enhancement] for enhancements. However, the search facility still has a problem isolating them appropriately. We do need to look at a better way of making them easily available as well as close them when the fix has been provided.

    Thanks for the feedback and we’ll certainly consider all these ideas on ways to improve the experience on the portal.

    MyEclipse Support

    #200832 Reply

    Riyad Kalla

    Hey Simon,
    I’m glad you brought this up, here are my views:

    1) Forums actually provide a MUCH richer browsing experience for bug tracking, workarounds, enhancement conversations, etc IF (thjsi is a giant IF) the search functionality of the site is sufficient enough to provide the user with what he or she is looking for. Take the Gentoo forums for example or phpBB forums… these forums have millions up millions of posts. The Gentoo forums themselves have become SUCH a good source of linux material that users from other distros continue to come to the forums just looking for general help.

    2) I totally agree with Scott that NNTP would bring too many limitations if it was the only way. Although supplementing MyEclipse’s services with a NNTP server might be nice.

    3) Public bug tracking: This is trickie… if the support team of ME wasn’t as fast as they are, I would say “open the damn bug base open” but because they are so responsive and understanding, and always add our bugs or enhancements immediately, I don’t personally thinkg opening the bug base would help (at this point). I also see with alot of these open source projects with open bug tracking systems, they get FLOODED with a lot of invalid bugs due to config (like scott said) and now the developers or support need have to wade through them to figure out which one is which. Its also about 10x easier to loose an important bug report in the mess. The way things are now, the only stuff that makes it into bugzilla is BUGS, which is fine by me. That way the developers won’t be tempted to skip over a bug or think they can ignore it because some user put it there.

    I would say that I’m not crazy about this pnphpbb2 system and probably prefer phpBB, but taht’s just because Im used to it. Neither of them have good searching either which is frustrating, but luckily the forums here haven’t hit critical mass yet. Hopefully between now and then we can come up with a better solution.

    Simon, maybe you can point us to a site or project that you feel a more optimal layout or services? We can get ideas from them!


    #200873 Reply


    Scott, Riyad, I think it is possible to mitigate the problems you point at.

    Eclipse is, in my mind, an example of forums and bug reporting done right.

    They use NNTP as the carrier fo their forums, enabling people with news readers (and given the penetration of Outlook Express, that should be most people, actually) to benefit from the asynchronous nature of forums (caching and prefetching is supported by news readers). They also slap a web interface in front of it so that you can browse the forums with a web browser, and more importantly: search. In this way, the benefits of a NNTP solution is not sacrificed to get a web based solution, or vice versa. The whole becomes larger than the parts.

    On using an issue tracking system, there is no way a forum can provide the facilities an issue tracking system can in terms of filtering and sorting the outcome of your searches. If you can’t get high quality searches, the noise level in the forums increase, since people will be discussing, and complaining about bugs that are already known (and it will waste time both for themselves and you).

    There are two avenues to go. Either you do as the Eclipse project and others do: open up the internal bugzilla, or you do as Sun do with its Bug Parade: have a separate public issue tracking system that is somehow coupled to the internal system (or at least, that is how it appears to be). The former works well for Eclipse, probably because its users are all programmers, and reasonably disciplined in using a bug tracking system.


    #200876 Reply

    Scott Anderson


    Good points on the bug tracking issue. To help out right now, I’ve gone and taken all the bugs identified in the forums and marked them as ‘Sticky’ so now they’re at the top of hte Bug forum. We’ll continue this approach as new bugs are identified and close them as they’re resolved.

    MyEclipse Support

    #201770 Reply

    I’d like to second the request for NNTP access to the forums. Using NNTP allows me to read multiple forums from one inteface and easily catch up with what I’ve missed. The speed and responsiveness of the interface is also a big plus.

    Thanks for listening,


    #201774 Reply

    Riyad Kalla

    Hmm not a bad idea… Jim is this a possibility?

    #201791 Reply

    It is possible, but not a trivial project to allow two-way NNTP access.

    We are researching this requirements and will have a better idea about effort and stability in a few weeks.

    Jim K.

    #204338 Reply


    NNTP would be a major problem for many people to access the support forums from the workplace.
    Most companies I’ve worked with over the years block NNTP (in fact, many block everything except HTTP on port 80) on the firewall.
    The only way I can access the Eclipse newsgroups is through the web interface to the archives which is a slow and tedious process.

    Forums like these are an altogether better option.

    It might be possible to code a forum-to-NNTP two-way gateway of course.

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