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Group communication on the Internet

Where on the internet to ask people for help to solve your problem, to discuss current events or to share knowledge or news? Basically there are three slow-but-thorough ways:

The traditional two are mailing lists and news groups which each have their advantages and disadvantages and each have hardened protagonists (fans) and antaganists (anti-fans). The advent of WWW based forums is relatively new. It has the big advantage that there is no problem to subscribe/set it up. Subscribing to a mailing list is a bit more difficult and understanding the mailing list concept even a bit more difficult. Setting up a news groups reader program is the most difficult, but luckily browsers like Netscape now come with an inbuilt news group reader, which helps a lot. When you are still paying for internet-access by duration then it's best to be able to handle your messages off-line. A mailing list is ideal I think, but a program like Free Agent can help read news groups off-line. WWW-based forums can only be read on-line of course. Another problem with forums is that they all operate differently and often very unergonomically. The advantage of a mailing list over the other two is that the people that are on it stay longer on it, read 'everything' and are more experienced and you're more likely to get a good answer (although some of the news:sci.electronics.* veterans are also quite 'old' in the mean time). The advantage of the news groups is that much more people will read your message.

I have never seen any fast-but-not-thorough (=chat) channels work, but let me know if you find anything. The most important media are: IRC, ICQ, AOL-chat and dedicated WWW based chat servers could work.

Modern mailing lists (like those on Yahoogroups) have an interactively accessable archive which you can access as a forum, so it's a kind of combination of the both.


Forums

WWW based forums:
www.industrycommunity.com/ee/ Several about electrical engineering
www.industrycommunity.com/manufacture/ Several about manufacturing

Mailing lists

Electronics mailing lists.

News groups

news:alt.comp.hardware.homebuilt
news:alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt Home-assembled PC's
news:alt.engineering.electrical
news:comp.answers
news:comp.arch
news:comp.arch.arithmetic
news:comp.arch.bus.vmebus
news:comp.arch.embedded
news:comp.arch.fpga
news:comp.arch.storage
news:comp.cad.cadence
news:comp.compilers
news:comp.compilers.tools.pccts
news:comp.doc.techreports
news:comp.dsp
news:comp.emulators
news:comp.emulators.announce
news:comp.emulators.apple2
news:comp.emulators.cbm
news:comp.emulators.misc
news:comp.emulators.ms-windows.wine
news:comp.lang.forth
news:comp.lang.verilog
news:comp.lang.vhdl
news:comp.lsi
news:comp.lsi.cad
news:comp.lsi.testing
news:comp.misc
news:comp.periphs
news:comp.periphs.printers
news:comp.periphs.scsi
news:comp.realtime
news:comp.robotics
news:comp.robotics.misc
news:comp.robotics.research
news:comp.simulation
news:comp.sys.arm
news:comp.sys.dec
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.cd-rom CD-ROM drives and interfaces for the PC
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.chips Processor, cache, memory chips, etc.
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.comm Modems and communication cards for the PC
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.misc Miscellaneous PC hardware topics
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.networking Network hardware and equipment for the PC
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage Hard drives and other PC storage devices
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.systems Whole IBM PC computer and clone systems
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.video Video cards and monitors for the PC
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.soundcard.tech Technical questions about pc soundcards
news:comp.sys.intel
news:comp.sys.laptops Laptop (portable) computers
news:comp.sys.m6809
news:comp.sys.m68k
news:comp.sys.mac.hardware
news:comp.sys.mips
news:comp.sys.misc
news:comp.sys.nsc.32k
news:comp.sys.powerpc
news:comp.sys.sun.hardware
news:ieee.announce
news:ieee.config
news:ieee.general
news:misc.industry.electronics.marketplace
news:news.answers
news:sci.answers
news:sci.electronics.basic
news:sci.electronics.cad
news:sci.electronics.components
news:sci.electronics.design
news:sci.electronics.equipment
news:sci.electronics.misc formerly sci.electronics
news:sci.electronics.repair
news:sci.engr.control
news:sci.engr.semiconductors
news:sci.engr.television.advanced
news:sci.engr.television.broadcast

It's now also possible to read news groups via email using www.deja.com/. I have tried it and it works great. You can even respond to messages just as if you're replying to a mailing list.

To search in these news groups for specific subjects:

www.altavista.com/
www.dejanews.com/
www.reference.com/

Using these services is also a great way to read news as normal HTML pages without the need of a special newsreader. But only the latter two allow you to reply to the messages directly.

cs.intel.com/ Intel's own news group system

The two major WWW browsers come with a standard newsreader, but you will need to stay on-line while reading the news. As an off-line newsreader you can use Free Agent (see www.tucows.com for example), but it's not easy to use, because you first need to select the messages you want to read (by subject line only) and then download them in a second pass...
Before I had ADSL I prefered to read mailing lists.

Some 'Please Fix my PC' news groups

news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.cd-rom CD-ROM drives and interfaces for the PC
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.chips Processor, cache, memory chips, etc.
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.comm Modems and communication cards for the PC
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.misc Miscellaneous PC hardware topics
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.networking Network hardware and equipment for the PC
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage Hard drives and other PC storage devices
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.systems Whole IBM PC computer and clone systems
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.video Video cards and monitors for the PC
news:comp.sys.ibm.pc.soundcard.tech Technical questions about PC soundcards
news:comp.sys.laptops Laptop (portable) computers

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