7 Reasons Why Email Lists (A.K.A. Listservs) Suck And How A Forum Saves The Day

Email lists (also known as “listservs” or “email groups”) are one of the most annoying holdovers from the ancient days of the web. Back in the 1990s, Yahoo Groups, Majordomo, and other mailing list managers provided a convenient way for like-minded people to find one another and communicate. But that was 20 years ago. Much has changed since then.

Here are 7 Reasons why email lists suck:

  1. Too many emails. You might be interested in the answers to your question but you don’t need an email with every post to every other topic. Subscribing to a “daily digest” cuts down on the amount of mail but still requires the user to sift through lots of junk and in the rare case when there is a post that merits a reply it is too late to chime in.
  2. Repeat questions. How many times have you been subscribed to an email list where a newbie pipes up with a question that has already been addressed countless times? This causes longtime members of the community to disconnect and disengage.
  3. Rich media? Forget it. Most mailing list software was designed to handle text only—no images allowed. Most attachments are stripped away from new posts or (at best) are cumbersome to download and access.
  4. No profiles, rep score, or badges. We don’t like to use the word “gameifcation” when we talk about forum software but it’s a helpful way to describe the instinctive need for users to show off their rank and contributions to the community and to say ‘thank you’ to those who have helped them.
  5. Where the $#% is the archive? Typically, the archive for a mailing list is buried on an external site that is difficult to access.
  6. Limited search. The search box should be built into the interface. This simple step would cut down on #2 on this list – Repeat questions – and help solve #5 – Where the $#% is the archive? – but obviously the email-only format makes this virtually impossible to correct.
  7. Harder to create excitement. Without any ability to integrate this content with your URL and brand, the activity is hidden from plain view. An exciting and vibrant community might look stale and boring.

While some forum solutions are stuck in the past alongside email list technology, modern forum software solves the complaints described above.

Easy to manage email alert options make gives control to the user so their inbox is not overcome. An archive that is quickly viewable and searchable cuts down on repeat questions. Support for rich media and engaging user profiles are more and more crucial as users strive to create a persona specifically for their community.

Finally, making new friends and finding like-minded souls is exciting, invigorating, and motivating. The platform that hosts this type of activity should reflect this atmosphere. That’s exactly what we do with Ninja Post.

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