Discussion List: Early Experiences in Online Customer Communications

“People want to discuss your product or service online. If you don’t give them a way to do it, someone else will.”
User to User Support by Derek M. Powazek – on WebTechniques

The Adaptec discussion list was created in about 1996 as a way for users of Adaptec CD-R software to help each other. It was actively moderated, meaning that every message was approved by a moderator (initially, me) before being posted to the whole list. This took a lot of time, but spared the community some of the worst aspects of the Usenet (trolls, flamers, spammers, obscenity), and ensured that discussion stayed on topic and didn’t get personal. There were clearly delineated policies about what would and would not be posted. There were complaints from time to time about “censorship,” but these always simmered down with the clearly expressed majority opinion that active moderation was desirable for the list. We actually censored very little, allowing all comments, no matter how negative, about the company and its policies and products. As long as people didn’t rant on repetitively or attack each other, we let them post – if anything, we erred on the side of leniency, and other list participants would let us know when they had had enough of a ranter.

The list was widely held to be an extremely useful forum for help and support with all aspects of CD recording. However, in email-only format and with a high level of activity (up to 75 messages a day!),  it could be a bit much for ordinary mortals. So people began to request a weekly newsletter as an alternative – and they loved it.

In 2002, Roxio replaced the email-format discussion list with Web-based discussion groups.

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