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Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell

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Hybrid Web/NNTP Discussion Systems

Newsgroups are nifty, and people who appreciate their value tend to prefer them to web-based alternatives. But there’s no point in being a newsgroup snob, either. Many people really would rather converse using a browser. Fortunately this doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. Make everyone happy, and run a discussion system that plays to both audiences at the same time. I did that with my BYTE newsgroups, mirroring news messages into a parallel web archive. Some commercial news servers, such as NetWin’s DNEWS, include web gateways that do the same thing. Conversely some commercial web-conferencing systems, including WebCrossing and WebBoard, offer NNTP interfaces so newsreaders can hook into them.

This hybrid approach isn’t so important in an intranet setting, where it’s easier to expect everyone to use a single method of access. But public newsgroups should reach out to the widest possible audience, excluding no one unnecessarily. Remember: it’s all about getting to critical mass. Don’t turn away anyone who can help you get there. Note that for some people, a web interface isn’t merely a preference, it’s the only possible mode of access. Not all corporate firewalls allow users to attach to external news servers. For these users, the Web may be the only way to use your discussions.

There’s another very important reason to create an HTML interface to your public discussions, regardless of whether the underlying engine is web- or NNTP-based. ...

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