[opensource] Mailing list vs contact form

Brian Swaney swaneybr at opensource.osu.edu
Fri Mar 4 10:37:05 EST 2011

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Here is a problem I am kind of stuck on, and hoping somebody here can
help out with it. There is an increasing trend of people asking their
general questions using the contact form at
https://opensource.cse.ohio-state.edu/contact . What usually happens
is that someone somewhere asks a question somewhere else (e.g. 8-HELP)
about open source software, and they get referred to our website.
Admittedly, this is much better than the IT staff's past attitude
about "unsupported software," but end-users seem to assume that the
contact form is where they should submit their problem tickets. Our
contact form is intended for something like if ACM-W wants to invite
us to another quiz bowl, if Northrop Grumman wants to present before
our meeting again, or for some other reason (e.g. website/registration
problems) someone wants to privately contact a small subset of the
current Open Source Club administration without speaking to the club
as a whole.

While I don't have a problem personally answering people's questions,
there are not a lot of people who get copied on things sent through
our contact form, by design. It is not a support forum, and therefore
what often happens is nobody included in the Open Source Club
administration is able to answer the question, and at best the user
gets a response that "we don't know, ask somewhere else (mailing
list)" which they never do. Lately, the only things on the mailing
list are meeting announcements for the Open Source Club and other
people's tech events around Columbus, while the contact form seems to
get all the people asking for support.

On the contact form, there are 4 options, and each of them is, I
thought, spelled out pretty clearly. It also explicitly says if you
are looking for support that you should use the mailing list. As an
anti-spam measure, the mailing list requires registration, so I can't
effectively link the contact form to it. As a compromise to this
policy, anonymous messages can be sent by anonymously posting on our
website, and they will be sent to a moderation queue. If we turned off
the registration requirement, then everyone here will wind up with a
LOT of spam. Does anyone have any suggestions? Is it possible the
contact form is not worded clearly? Are people intimidated by using a
public forum to ask questions about open source software? Am I just
incoherently ranting about nonsense nobody else cares about?

- -------- Original Message --------
Subject:     Re: [General inquiries] Open Source Music
Date:     Wed, 02 Mar 2011 19:02:50 -0500
From:     Matt Meinwald <meinwald at opensource.osu.edu>
To:     Brian Swaney <swaneybr at opensource.osu.edu>
CC:     info at opensource.osu.edu

My suggestion would be to reply *and* forward the question to the
mailing list,
telling him you are doing so. Let me know if you'd like me to do this.

On 03/02/2011 05:20 PM, Brian Swaney wrote:
> I would ordinarily suggest this user check the creative commons or
> something, but this is really the kind of thing which should be
> asked on the mailing list. I don't want to turn someone down, but
> what seems to be happening is that every time someone gets
> referred to us, and they find the contact form, they use that and
> completely disregard everything about our mailing list. I don't
> want to scorn these guests, or refuse help for failure to follow
> instructions, but they're just looking for a quick answer to a
> question. It just seems like the only thing the mailing list is
> used for anymore is announcements for a bunch of other people's
> meetings/events.
> To be clear, I am not in any way frustrated by getting questions
> like this, but I'm frustrated in that I'm one of the only people
> who actually GETS the opportunity to answer, and in many cases the
> question is specific to something else I am not familiar with or I
> just lack the expertise, and am unable to help (along with the
> rest of our administration). I would really like if
> questions/comments on our contact form were limited to things that
> could only be addressed by the club administration, and for
> anything other kind of issue the whole club gets a chance to
> answer. On the contact form, I have clearly spelled out what each
> option is for, and that anything not aimed at the leadership (e.g.
> proposal for a presentation) should be sent to the mailing list,
> but I've seen half a dozen of these and nothing close to them on
> the list.
> Any suggestions? Should I ask THIS question in the mailing list? Is
> this just my own personal opinion that nobody else is bothered by?
> Did I word the description on the contact form badly?
> On Wed, March 2, 2011 12:51 pm, <snip> wrote:
>> <snip> sent a message using the contact form at
>> https://opensource.cse.ohio-state.edu/contact.
>> I'm looking for open source music. Sort of stock music which
>> could be used in a student production as background music (no
>> vocals). I talked with the digital union and they suggest I ask
>> you.
>> Thanks, <snip>
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