RARA-AVIS: Golly Gee! Emoticons! (Was: Forum Format)

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 21 Feb 2008

On Feb 18, Mark wrote:

> I seriously propose that rara-avis-l consider migrating from the now
> quite antiquated Yahoo Groups format to vBulletin or another similar
> system that allows for far wider functionality,

That sounds good, on the surface, but...

> including choosing the
> threads one wishes to subscribe to

I already do. It's a big thread called "Rara-Avis." Of course not everything posted interests me here, but that's why there are delete and scroll buttons on computers. And even with Bill MIA, this is still a very well moderated list.

> having user profiles and avatars,

!!!! And golly gee, could we have emoticons too? Nothing makes a post seem more well-thought-out and poignant than a little yellow smiley face with a baseball cap on. Maybe we could sprinkle some pictures of the Jonas Brothers around too.

Seriously, though, I don't really need photos and bios to know who you guys are. You are what you write.

> offering basic HTML coding for bold, italic, etc., offering emoticons,
> etc., etc.

Ooops. I spoke too soon. Having survived the first sweep of desktop publishing, I've seen what the use of formatting in the hands of self- indulgent "creative" types can do.

If your words need all those bells and whistles for emphasis, you probably don't write very well or have nothing much to say in the first place. The obvious example is TV news. They have graphs, pie charts, flying pie charts, maps, sky cams, magic pointers, etc., etc... and yet they're actually telling us less and less.

Besides, some of use don't read Rara online. We still mostly use e- mail programs. How much of that superfluous formatting will get lost in the shuffle?

In your brave new world, are you proposing we e-mailers drop off the list? Or be forced to access it only through the web?

> Yahoo Groups has in my observation deteriorated to a format
> for the clueless, with a very low signal-to-noise ratio in most
> groups. Ours is an exception, but I think it's time we got out of
> here.

So, it's not broke, but let's fix it anyway?

> I should add: one would also have the ability to edit one's own posts
> (how many times have you wished to do that, bothered by a mis-spelling
> or a mis-statement of fact?);

Or we learn to spell and double-check our facts before posting? I'm not sure that in a forum where tempers sometimes rise, that the ability to rewrite your posts after the fact -- and possibly deny what you actually said -- is something to which we should aspire. I mean, what are we? Politicians?

> to send private messages through the
> board itself;

Huh? I can do that already. On the bottom of every post there's a
"Reply to Sender" link.

> to do advanced searches

Better search functions might be the first real advantage you've come up with. But there's so much unmoderated fluff on most of those on- line forums that I rarely feel the need to actually search through them. Fluff is fluff.

Like it or not, we've ever been really cutting edge. But despite that, we've become the New York Times of hard-boiled lists; the list of record, venerable and respected, proudly black-and-white in a world of bright shiny colours. People come here because of the content.

I don't think becoming some loud, winking blinking cross between WIRED and TIGER BEAT is what most of us want to become.

> to have "buddy" and "ignore"
> lists; and so on.

I tell you, you ought to get one of these new-fangled computers with delete and scroll buttons. They're great.

Or are you so convinced some people have absolutely nothing to say that you want to permanently ignore them? Why, even I once said something that was accidentally worth hearing (it might have been a typo, though).

And, hey, I have buddies in real life.

> ...add tags; calendar events; post images; quote only those bits of
> others' posts you wish to respond to...

Have beautiful women rub my feet while I write, a better job, free beer, a faster car, a home for the family of man, etc., etc.

As for quotes, while you're shopping for a new computer, get one that allows you to cut-and-paste.

I hear Macs are very good.

> I keep thinking of more functionalities those other services offer.
> But you get my drift. I'm sure some of you belong to boards like that.

I've seen a few. Most of them, though, are ranters and ravers who behave like a bunch of schoolchildren.


> Not meaning to be belligerent about this :), but with other web-based
> formats that are more advanced than the rather primitive Yahoo
> Groups, you
> can have the very broad range of personalized functionalities I have
> described, including the ability to receive emails but **only** the
> emails
> you want to receive. Let me put it this way: if formats exist (as they
> clearly do) that would allow rara-avis-l members to do all that, what
> argument is there for us not availing ourselves of them? I'm just not
> getting it.

Obviously. Most of us are here to discuss hard-boiled literature, not wave around emoticons and embed photos and sound files and the like. Formatting adds nothing to the discussion. And most online forums of the type you describe are large, sprawling messes. A million threads, sub-threads, and sub-sub-threads all leading nowhere.

A well-moderated forum comprised of adults passionate and knowledgeable about a topic beats all the avatars and emoticons in the world.

> I disagree quite strongly with respect to "efficiency," and I would be
> interested in hearing other viewpoints.

You have. And it looks like you've failed to convince most of us.

> This shouldn't turn into a standoff
> between you and me; something very important is at stake here, and
> members
> should have their say. I would be particularly interested in hearing
> from
> those (who are surely out there) who belong to groups such as those
> I have
> been describing. My experience with such forums has been delightfully
> positive, and inspired me to put this proposal in front of rara-avis-
> l. I
> think it is quite wrong to suggest that such groups are necessarily
> "facebookish," which has a pejorative, scornful-of-youth sound.
> Believe me,
> there are many such boards that deal with very mature topics in a very
> mature way!

We already do that. And whether you like the connotations or not, what you propose IS very "facebookish." I mean, avatars? Emoticons?

> Evolution happens.

This isn't evolution. This is someone pounding the drum for technology for technology's sake. Just because the technology exists doesn't make it necessary. Or even desirable. Or likely to be accepted.

> But I'll get off my soapbox now. Here's a prediction: within two
> years from
> today (one year is more likely), the group will either have migrated
> to the
> sort of format I describe, or been significantly rivaled by a group
> that
> does.

Yeah, and we'll all have flying cars, just like the Jetsons. And everyone will self-publish. And everyone will be reading e-books. And the war in Iraq will be over. But all of those things were supposed to have happened already. Years ago, in fact.

This list isn't broken. If it comes to some sort of vote, I propose we don't screw it up.

Because, bottom line, it's what we say that matters, not how many extra toys we can graft onto it.

People get annoyed here when someone posts in all caps.

Imagine how well a post set in 12/14 fuchsia-coloured Old English bold italic, with selected text in 18 pt. lime green Stencil, in outline and drop-shadowed for emphasis, flush right, and embedded with 47 emoticons and an animated avatar will go over.

It's not that we're Luddites. It's that we're got a low-tolerance for sham.

Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 21 Feb 2008 EST