Online Focus Groups in Action

Let’s look at how this works today at Microsoft’s site. Suppose you’re interested in Extensible Markup Language (XML), and you land on Microsoft’s XML home page (Figure 2.1).

Microsoft’s XML home page

Figure 2-1. Microsoft’s XML home page

Note how the third paragraph in the right hand frame includes a link labeled microsoft.public.xml. Although it looks like a normal http:// link that leads to a web page, it isn’t. Instead it’s a news:// link that leads to an NNTP newsgroup hosted on Microsoft’s news server, When you click the link, your newsreader starts up.[3] If you’ve never visited this news server before, it’s automatically added to the list of servers tracked by your newsreader, and you’re automatically subscribed to the newsgroup whose name was encoded in the link’s address. As we’ll see again in Chapter 13, this shortcut is a terrific way to catapult visitors into the midst of a discussion. The alternative procedure, which involves manually attaching to the news server, viewing its list of available groups, and subscribing to one or more groups, is cumbersome and hard to explain to visitors not already familiar with NNTP conferencing.

What is a newsreader? It’s a client application that connects to news servers, retrieves lists of newsgroups, reads and posts articles (messages), and displays messages in several ways. Like the mail and web components ...

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