New Screwfix Forums

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In case anyone hasn't noticed - Screwfix now have online forum where you can ask questions about anything DIY:
http://www.screwfix.com/talk/index.jspa
PoP
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PoP wrote:

tedious to read, compared with newsgroups (using a good newsreader)?
Chris
--
Chris J Dixon Nottingham UK
snipped-for-privacy@cdixon.me.uk
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Chris J Dixon wrote:

slow and clunky.
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On Sun, 28 Sep 2003 08:33:24 -0400, S Viemeister

I suppose it depends. I don't find online forums at all intimidating, and in some ways preferable to usenet. They each have their inherent advantages.
Then again I've got a broadband connection so I can spend all day on the online forums without it costing me extra - wouldn't be an option for a dial-up, which is where usenet scores.
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Really? What ways? I cannot think of any.
--
"The road to Paradise is through Intercourse."
The uk.transport FAQ; http://www.huge.org.uk/transport/FAQ.html
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On 28 Sep 2003 14:06:16 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@ukmisc.org.uk (Huge) wrote:

With online forums anything you post is available immediately to anyone else who happens to be online. Reason being that there's only one database behind the forums, because there is only one web site (unless you are running a microsoft.com server farm - but even then you are talking pretty much real time because the servers are connected together via high bandwidth LANs and you've most likely got very fast servers anyway). Even relatively slow web servers are very capable of managing several thousand concurrent user connections at one time, simply because you throw the HTML (with embedded forum message) at the user connection and go on to the next connection very quickly - the connection manager will pool the data until the connection is able to receive it, meanwhile the server is hundreds of users further on in the queue. Servers can run a heck of a lot faster than the transfer of data across the network. Even a broadband connection cannot swamp a server with requests.
If this sounds a bit too technical, think of it as a large funnel. You dump an enormous amount of liquid into the top of the funnel, but it takes a while to empty because of the restricted aperture of the funnel. If that funnel had a 10cm aperture rather than a 1cm aperture then it would empty a lot quicker - but the aperture for single Internet connections is pretty restricted.
Usenet is based upon an arrangement whereby the databases are multiple, and coordinated amongst each other via a trickle feed arrangement which can often cause messages to be out of sync with each other. The NNTP server is able to support hundreds of connections too, but the request is served at the point where the request was made, any new messages which might arrive and be processed into the local database will have to wait until the next time usenet is requested by that user (it doesn't update in real time for the user).
On a live online forum you can view a forum, then go to another. If you go back to the original forum it could well have some new responses from other users, which you will see immediately. With usenet you have to do another request in order to see those messages.
Example: Even though I'm in the UK I pick up my usenet feeds (and submit articles) via a server in germany, because the NTL servers used by default by my NTL account aren't very good at keeping up with usenet and the german NNTP feed was recommended by many other people. So when I post a response to usenet it goes out to germany before being propogated to the worlds NNTP servers. That can take several hours. I expect the german servers to pump out my submission to the usenet backbone within a couple of seconds, and most probably those updates arrive with other usenet servers fairly quickly - but from that point on (like email) the server will process the usenet feed in a first-come-first-served arrangement - and at very busy times this can take several hours. It depends how loaded those servers are.
An ISP like Demon Internet or NTL carries a substantial number of newsfeeds, and it is well known that the usenet forums aren't updated in real time. They are queued, and the NNTP server will be configured to process a certain number of queued items in parallel (maybe 100 parallel feeds at a time - but there may be thousands of newsfeeds on the server).
It is entirely feasible that if an article appears on usenet, I could respond to it not having seen your response. And yet if you analyse the responses afterwards you might find that my response was made after yours. It's simply the point at which your local usenet server got its database updated to reflect the discussions that are taking place. You may think it is real time - but it isn't. You get a real-time update at the point you request from usenet - but that "real-time" is the database at the time you make the request.
Is this particulary important though? Probably most times not really. But there could be an extreme example where you were desperate for a response from someone (anyone!), and despite checking usenet every 5 minutes for a response you didn't get one for several hours - even though that response was made just a few minutes after the original submission.
You wouldn't run a patient-monitoring system on the back of usenet.
PoP
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This is a bad thing, not good. It does not scale.
[10 lines snipped]

This is not necessarily so. for example, I submit usenet news both to demon and to Berlin Free University. The submission to Berlin always fails because demon has already updated them before I get to it.

I've worked in IT since before you were likely born. There's no need to be patronising.
[7 lines snipped]

This is a good thing, not bad. And your use of the word "trickle" is specious.
All the problems that you see with web forums have already been solved. And the solution is called usenet.

I wouldn't run it on a Microsoft web server, either.
--
"The road to Paradise is through Intercourse."
The uk.transport FAQ; http://www.huge.org.uk/transport/FAQ.html
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On 28 Sep 2003 20:14:28 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@ukmisc.org.uk (Huge) wrote:

I wholeheartedly disagree about your statement "this is a bad thing". I say that having authored functional and technical specifications for web and application servers over many years.
Scalability is not an absolute requirement for any design. The question to be asked about any design (web or otherwise) is "will this application meet the needs of the users today, and be able to do so tomorrow?". If the projected number of users can be handled on a single server with an allocated amount of resources then its scalability requirements are met - end of story. The only time you have to invest money and resource in extra scalability requirements is when the actual or projected load on the server likely exceeds the capacity of that server to perform its duty.
At the time of design and initial implementation you may not actually be aware of future scalability requirements. That's fine - the design may have to be re-engineered some time in the future according to new rules that impose themselves. But that doesn't mean that you have to pay a shedload of money upfront for every single system implemented on the offchance that it might be scaled in the future.
In very general terms there's no problem with scalability with web forums IMHO. The number of active users at any one time on any but the most busy forums (and I can't think of any off the top of my head....) is a pretty low number - as in much less than 200. If you've got to scale a web application due to it being unable to deal with 200 online users then I would suspect that the underlying web or server design is crap.

I did not say that changes would not be immediate in every case. On the larger servers carrying a great many users or newsfeeds there is the possibility of a penalty imposed by the server playing "catch up" mode quite frequently. It might be real-time, it might not.
In fact I was under the impression (mistaken maybe!) that the RFCs for usenet allowed for an NNTP server to go offline for a period of time and then come back up and be updated from its sources as and when? That's certainly not real-time.

My apologies - I wasn't intentionally attempting to be patronising so if that's the way it came across I owe you a beer. I don't expect to be discussing with IT experts in this forum. And as computers weren't really around half a century ago I doubt that you've worked in IT since before I was born, sonny ;)

I think the term "it depends" is worth mentioning here. Multiple databases are not by necessity a good thing - indeed, when you get into replication issues they can be a downright pain in the butt. DBAs earn their money through designing and implementing secure replication with multiple database servers - this isn't a toy factory where the country bumpkins get to throw a couple of switches to make it work.
For a large banking system with tens or hundreds of thousands of customers then you would likely need to manage several databases on the biggest servers that bucks can buy, all replicating in real time with stored procedures and business objects etc. But for uk.d-i-y needs? Come on, there's not that many users and I dare say one server with one database worldwide could most likely manage it no problem.
You can base the latter very simply on the number of messages per day. I think worst case we are probably seeing something like 200 messages a day (give or take a few). Your average Pentium 700 could easily manage to handle that amount of data with lots of time to spare. I could very easily run that NNTP newsgroup here on my server for everyone who wanted to use it - only my broadband upstream connection wouldn't be able to handle the load (this isn't a server problem).

? Not sure I follow you on that one. I was using the term "trickle feed" as meaning that one NNTP server on the Internet will feed another by trickling the messages across as they occur, rather than batch them up every 24 hours. If I'm wrong please feel free to correct me, that's the way I understand it works.

The one spanner fits all nuts approach? ;)
Usenet is fine, but there are other alternatives available which serve a purpose. I happen to use a combination of usenet, online forums and mailing lists as appropriate. If you have a mind-block about anything which isn't usenet that's fine by me.

Ah, I spy a non-Microsoft fan. I claim my five pounds ;)
To be honest I wouldn't use web technology for patient-monitoring on any op-sys. The web is fine for interactive work, but if someones heart monitor stops blipping the last thing I'd want is for a web page to pop up in a browser down the corridor saying "I think you ought to get your arse down to cubicle 3 when you've got a minute to spare". Patient monitoring should be about responsive actions tied in with physical alarms and flashing beacons etc.
PoP
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Huge wrote:

One of the groups I read was being mirrored on a web forum by a guy swapping the posts from one medium to the other (as a means to make his website look like it had more traffic than it did). This wasn't too bad an idea as the web readers and the usenet readers were both kept happy by using their preferred media but what was a problem was the big difference in posting conventions by the 2, that's what gave the game away in the end. The normal usenet posting rules weren't being applied by the web posters and the whole thing ended up as a mess.
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James...
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On Sun, 28 Sep 2003 20:14:28 +0000, Huge wrote:

Crap! Scalability depends on the design and Web based system and usenet based systems could be designed on the same conceptual architecture.
Arguably Web systems could be more scalable since there are more people who know how to write/design powerful web sites than know NNTP at any decent level.
Cheers,
Andy
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On Sun, 28 Sep 2003 18:36:49 +0100, PoP wrote:

Of indeed any server farm (most websites do not run on Microsoft products :-)
Cheers,
Andy
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On Mon, 29 Sep 2003 12:48:19 +0100, "Andy Jeffries"

I can't lay my hands on the statistics right now, but I thought the split was about 50/50?
PoP
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On Mon, 29 Sep 2003 13:28:45 +0100, PoP wrote:

Netcraft.com is the most popular stats place, but they don't directly give you the figures. However, reading around the stats it doesn't look like anywhere near 50/50 (23.70% is one figure I found for sites running 'NT', which I believe to mean the 'NT and based family of products').
Cheers,
Andy
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writes

that fill in gaps or provide better coverage than newsgroups, so I do a read some occasionally. Though this could just as easily be catered by a mailing list.
--
Chris French, Leeds

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On Sun, 28 Sep 2003 19:18:53 +0100, chris French

The general problem with a mailing list is that you don't have any perspective on threading. It makes it kinda hard to review the last message to what the current one is replying.
I don't think there's any right or wrong about any of this, I like usenet for its threading ability, but I use online forums and mailing lists as well.
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On Sun, 28 Sep 2003 21:15:15 +0100, PoP

Then use a threading email client, even Outlook express can do that (view group messages by conversation)
I think email mailing lists are useless for group communication, but threading isn't one of the reasons.
(web forums are just useless.)
Jim.
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PoP wrote:

I use Hamster as a local usenet and mail server but also for it's mail 2 news gateway. I subscribe to several mailing lists and all of them are fed to me by Hamster as a normal newsgroup, threading works properly and my replies appear no different to anyone else's as far as other members are concerned. Mailing lists aren't too bad for low volume but when there's a lot of them I find it easier to deal with newsgroups.
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My newsreader (Turnpike) can do something similar, it can present mail lists to me as if they are a newsgroup, including threading, expiring etc.
Me, I'm all for variety, they all have their place, and people have their own preferences.
I suspect many web users use web forums partly because they have never really heard about or understood what newsgroups are about. Whereas they can find and get to grips with web forums easily enough.
And of course for companies and organisations, web forums are a good idea because they are a draw to get people back to your site.
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<usenetSnob>Thanks Chris - you've reminded me of why Web Fora are aGood Thing, not a Bad Thing: keeps the newbies away from Usenet until their training wheels are off. (And if they never take the training wheels off, all the better for the Rest Of Us ;-) </usenetSnob>
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On Sun, 28 Sep 2003 22:32:09 UTC, chris French

Absolutely. I actually hold no particular affection for web forums, but was disagreeing with huge's rather limited view.
I'd personally be happy for places like Screwfix to run a news server with even just one newsgroup on it; a lot easier, and viewable offline for those who pay for dialup.
I'm not sure how many commonly used newsreaders allow one to subscribe to varied newsgroups from different servers, and view/read them as a whole. Mine does, but I have no knowledge of others apart from things like the text-based UNIX ones, and ANU News (anyone know that?)
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Bob Eager
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