Over the past year or so, I’ve been exposed to a number of collaborative team communication tools - all designed to make it easier for a project team to stay on track. My question is a simple one - What’s wrong with newsgroups?

All the collaborative tools that I’ve seen provide a shared environment in which the project team can discuss progress, brainstorm solutions to issues and generally ensure that everyone is on the same page of the playbook.

This kind of tool is very valuable - people spend less time staying up to date than calling a team meeting every day, and the results are persistent, preventing (well, reducing) the amount of re-litigation that cripples some projects.

Some of these tools are expensive - some very expensive - and (speaking from experience) they all seem to work very well.

BUT:

I have not yet seen one of these tools that works better than a set of newsgroups on related topics.

So, what gives?

As near as I can see, the possible answers fall into these groups:

  • Ignorance of newsgroups;
  • “Not Invented Here” syndrome;
  • I’m missing something and the new tools really are better; or
  • Something else …

While #1 is possible, I don’t think it can explain the sheer number of commercial collaboration tools I’ve seen recently (not counting the freeware/open source ones). #2 is all to common a motivation, and I have to allow #3 even though I’ve looked at the problem a lot.

So, what am I missing?

Update, June 2019: In the (nearly) fifteen years since this blog post, tools like Slack and Teams have risen to promenance, with newsgroup usage largely dying out. Partly I think this is due to the SAAS model removing the need for dedicated servers.

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