Don’t force me to use your tools [on the Web]
There was an interesting discussion on libreplanet-discuss recently regarding web interfaces. Below is a rather informal off-the-cuff statement regarding the use of Web interfaces (specificlaly Discourse) over my own tools.
I live a huge chunk of my life in my mail client (which happens to be my editor as well). It’s scripted, heavily customized, and integrated with other things. I do task management with Org mode, which integrates simply but well enough with Gnus. I can use my editor keybindings and such when composing messages. The same goes with my IRC client. I never have to leave home, if you will.
Contrast that with websites: if I have to write anything substantial, I often have to write it in my editor first and paste it in.
But I know that many people don’t feel that way. I have coworkers that think I’m crazy (respectfully so). And I think they’re crazy too. ;) Admittedly, using your own tools is a large barrier to entry—my tools are useful because I’ve spent a great deal of time learning and researching and customizing. And now I can reuse them for everything. For your average user looking to get into activism, who may not even be a programmer, that’s a bit different; it’s easier to say “here’s your single tool (Web)—go use it”.
There are systems that allow for a level of integration (e.g. mailing lists and forums). But they’re often treated as fallbacks—as second-class citizens. They might provide a subset of features; it leaves certain members of the community out—those who want to use their own tools.
I haven’t used Discourse. I do see “mailing list support”; maybe that’s a good sign. But one of the phrases at the top of the features page is “[w]e’re reimagining what a modern discussion platform should be”. Many of us don’t want to see it reimagined. That’s the opposite of what many want.
Trying to strike a balance isn’t a bad thing if that’s the audience we’re looking to attract. But it’s difficult, and something I struggle with a great deal.
tl;dr: Asking someone to use an interface on the Web is asking them to use /your/ program instead of their own. Be respectful by using Web standards for accessibility; progressive enhancement; and make use of well-established standards with rich histories, especially if your audience makes use of them (e.g. mailing lists, RSS feeds, federation standards, etc).