Forums vs. Newsgroups Redux

In my last blog comparing forums and newsgroups I compared and contrasted some of the features of both. I have an update to some of the concerns that were voiced about using the Dynamics CRM forums on MSDN. But first you might want to look at the Joe Morel's penultimate post on the subject, Why Web Forums for Support? What Do You Have Against Newsgroups?. He touches on way more than I covered. I'll wait... (imagine Kenny G music here.)

Okay, are you back? CRM MVPs have correctly pointed out that the CRM forums do not have an offline story. They love to download the most current snapshot of the CRM newsgroups to their laptops, jump on a plane and catch up on the traffic. And we have stellar MVPs who answer a lot of customer questions. So I asked the forums team about this and heard back:

Offline Story: The next service pack for the forums is going to include RSS feeds that allow you to completely read a forum and all of its replies offline.  There is no offline reply story yet.  It’d be nice, but given the fact that we’ve been able to attract plenty of super-contributors through the web-only interface and 99.9% of people have never heard of NNTP, it’s not as high of a priority as other features.

Then there was the customer suggestion program which I and my team use to triage CRM customer suggestions. Here is the reply on that from the same source:

Suggestions/Bugs: We are working on integrating the customer bug/suggestion features from directly into the forums and are hoping to roll out the service pack concurrently with our July release.  You’ll be able to set it up for your site to directly pump customer bug/suggestion threads into a Microsoft Product Studio database.

The biggest gain from moving to the forums is that our customers and users love the forums more than the newsgroups. Sure there are a lot of old school experts out their that think the newsgroups are the only way to go. But this is more about getting to new users who have come up in a world of forums and who have probably never heard of newsgroups.

My last team (2005) didn't believe that at first. Within two months of rolling out forums side-by-side with newsgroups, they moved exclusively to the forums. Less than 1% of that audience had any complaints. The team never looked back after the move. It was the right fit for their customers as I think it will be for most of the CRM users.

Comments (9)

  1. Juan T. Llibre says:


    !> there are a lot of old school experts out their that think the newsgroups are the only way to go

    There’s also a lot of "old school experts" who believe that *both*

    NNTP and web forums can be front-ends to the same datastore,

    so that *all* users get to choose their favorite interface.

    I think that limiting the choice to a single interface is, necessarily,

    limiting and that doing that, therefore, would lessen the level of customer service to some customers.


    !> I think it will be for most of the CRM users

    I hope that doesn’t mean you’re willing to lose *some* CRM customers.

    *All* customer preferences must be taken into consideration, especially when such little effort is required to provide a choice of interfaces to those who prefer their favorite.


  2. 365blog says:

    Actually good feedback, but provided using a throw-away account. What’s up with that?

  3. Jim Glass Jr says:

    Great feedback. But this is a zero sum game guys. It’s about maximizing the time of the Microsofties and MVPs who answer the questions in the newsgroups and forums. To a person, they ask for one place to go to monitor the feedback. Maybe that’s not possible but that would allow more people working on the ever increasing discussions.

    The Microsoft participation in the newsgroup has not gone away in total yet. But when a team is looking at making the most of limited resources, we are always looking for ways to improve our level of participation. What does your company/team use? What are their recommendations?

    Now that would be an interesting discussion.  :o)

  4. bevhoward says:

    imho, your blog is only looking at one side of the equation… those users in need of help.

    They have the mix of need, time and motivation to get their problems and needs addressed coupled with a lack of knowledge and experience in using nntp to do so.

    On the other side of the equation, a high percentage of responders are highly skilled people with the ability to clearly and concisely respond which takes almost no additional time to do so under nntp, but with even on the fastest and cleanest web interfaces, significant additional time is required to post, and, while that additional time is not a major factor to those who rarely post, it accumulates significantly for the frequent posters, to the point where just the cumulative time demands can make it impossible to justify participation.

    In addition, each web interface has significant differences in layout, method and quirks, so that those highly skilled in the subject need to spend additional time and effort to learn to work with those differences.

    I am able to scan and review the better part of a thousand nntp posts per day, replying to perhaps 50-100 of those which relate to my skillsets… which would be impossible using web interfaces.

    Very simply, even though those with needs may find the web interfaces easier to use, as a skilled helper, I can’t justify the additional time needed to help them.

    Finally, there are good web to nntp interfaces such as google groups for those infrequent posters which allow them to fully participate without placing a burden on those who know (and therefore prefer) nntp.

    Those nntp posters are the geese laying the golden eggs… so, be careful that you don’t kill them.

    Beverly Howard [MS MVP-Mobile Devices]

  5. bevhoward says:

    "Those nntp posters… "

    should have read

    "Those nntp responders…"

  6. Juan T. Llibre says:

    What "throwaway account" ?

    The system doesn’t publish the email account I *did* furnish when I registered, so as to be able to post comments/provide feedback.

    I think the idea is to reply to *this* blog with your comments about

    the ideas whomever posted, not to reply directly to the poster.

    Isn’t that what forums/nntp newsgroups are all about, anyway ?

  7. Jim Glass Jr says:

    "Isn’t that what forums/nntp newsgroups are all about, anyway?"

    Absolutely, but allow me to grouse about not being able to find out a little more of what you are about. Or just color me curious (aka nosey).  ;o)

  8. Microsoft will soon be rolling out ClaimSpace as part of their Community beta. Right now you can check

  9. This blog post says a lot. A blog quote: “The biggest gain from moving to the forums is that our

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