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Tools used in communities and their roles

August 6, 2009

Tools and Their Roles
Community-building tools include email, newsgroups, chat, message boards. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of tool.
Email:
An Email list, sometimes called Listserv and this software is usually used to run email list.
There is one central address to which everyone sends message for a group, and from there the email is sendt to all the users in the group. Thus the one who getting the email has the option to reply individually to the sender or can send to all the users in the list.
Some web based community building system includes email tools to mail everyone in your group, as well as the ability to create sub-group lists and sends newsletters.
Advantages:
It¬タルs a ¬タリpush¬タル technology: you don¬タルt have to remember to go check it, it comes to your email box.
It¬タルs inexpensive for the people with high access costs ¬タモ message can be composed and read offline.
You can reach virtually anyone who¬タルs online.

Disadvantages:

Messages sometimes come out of order
Archiving is not always used. If a list¬タルs messages are archived they are sometimes difficult to retrieve.
¬タワSpammers¬タ? can send messages to the list and gather email address for advertising purposes.
Often a talkative group can quickly produce scary number of messages.

Other Roles for Email:
Some community software has a feature called “topic subscription” which allows people to participate in conferencing via email.
They receive the posts in their mailbox rather than signing onto a website. You might suggest to users with expensive online costs that they subscribe and participate in that way.
Email can also be used as an link to your other community tools.
You can send newsletters to keep in touch with those who don’t visit your community regularly. A newsletter can help you keep these people in touch with what’s new
Email is also a good tool for you, as host, to keep in touch with members individually.
Newsgroups:
Newsgroups are like a cross between public message boards and an email list.
You have to subscribe to a newsgroup, and sometimes only subscribers can post a message.
They are usually not moderated, and it’s not unusual for newsgroups to get quite contentious.
To read newsgroup messages, you need a newsgroup reader. Often these come with your browser (like Netscape Messenger) or your email software (Microsoft Outlook).
The advantages and disadvantages are similar to email, with two differences:
Newsgroups are not “push” technology – you still have to remember to go check them. And with news readers, you can download just the titles (“headers”) of messages and avoid downloading the entire message if, based on the title, you don’t want to read it.

Chat:
Chat is simultaneous communication by people who are online at the same time and typing messages to each other.
Chat can be done in public rooms, open to anyone, or private rooms where only those of the community can enter.
Chat is usually, but not always, a many-to-many communication mode – in other words, there are a group of people in a room at once, conversing.
It can also be used for one-to-one meetings, brainstorm sessions and other work-oriented applications. So don’t think of it as just a casual social tool.
It’s also possible online to use software to send “live” or “instant” messages to one particular user.
This is a one-to-one communication. On some systems you can use built-in “live message” features to do this.
Advantages:
Good for meetings where you want to come to a conclusion with everyone there
Can have a real-time discussion
Can have a guest speaker to answer questions
Can log the transcript to be posted later
Disadvantages:

Difficult to schedule a time if you have users around the globe

Sometimes inexperienced chatters have difficulty keeping up with the pace

On the web, sometimes access issues make it difficult to build a room which will accommodate everyone (Java is often used to power chat rooms, and some operating systems and browsers have difficulty with Java.)

Some online community system’s chat is based on IRC, which allows more or less universal access, in case the person’s computer is unable to use the usual Java interface.
Message Boards/Conferencing:
Message board software online is much like a message board in an office or school: you post a message on the board and come back an hour, a day, or a week later to see
if anyone has responded to it. Therefore, message board communication is asynchronous – all participants don’t have to be online at the same time. Message boards are also sometimes called “forums” or “conferencing.”
There are two ways to organize messages in a message board system: threaded and linear. Some software allows you to choose which way you want to present the material.
Threaded:
With a threaded system, messages are arranged into “threads,” or topics. A message will be attached to the message to which it’s replying, whether or not it appears in chronological order. Often you’ll see only one message per HTML page.
Advantages of threaded boards:

+ Good for technical information where people need to be able to find answers to a particular question easily
+ Keeps topics neatly organized

Disadvantages of threaded boards:

+ Sometimes is more organized than people are – i.e. difficult to hold a conversation because real conversations drift…. if the drift creates a new topic, you’ll lose track of where it went because it’s categorized under the thread from which it originated.
+ Less conducive to social communities
+ Often have to load a new HTML page to see the next message

Linear:
With a linear system, each post in a given topic arrives in chronological order. The result is more like a real conversation. Often with a linear system you can read more than one post per HTML page, which speeds things up when you’re reading. Linear message boards are sometimes called “Conferencing,”.
Advantages of linear boards:

o Great for social conversation and in-depth discussion of important issues
o More conducive to displaying conversation the way people really talk
o Often can see a number of messages on one HTML page

Disadvantages of linear boards:

o Difficult to come to some kind of resolution or conclusion
o Hard to find specific information again if you want or need to later

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