I get a lot of direct email with questions about Eclipse. Now that I’m being copied on mail sent to emo@, I’m getting a lot more.
I actually enjoy these emails. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn about how Eclipse is being used, and what people outside our relatively tight committer community think. I generally try to provide as much help as I reasonably can when folks ask me questions, but I always point them to the newsgroups. In some cases, I point them to the newsgroups multiple times. Ultimately, I may be able to answer a few questions, but the truth of the matter is that you are more likely to get better and more thorough answers from the larger community through the newsgroup. That is, while it may seem convenient to send me a note, it’s actually in your own selfish best interests to post your question on the newsgroup where a larger number of folks with far deeper knowledge than I possess can help.
Newsgroups are the preferred mechanism for the user community to interact with the committer community. The problem is that it’s relatively hard to get started with newsgroups. To start, while you can certainly browse newsgroup archives without specialized software, you really do need specialized software to post (or is there some good web-based newsgroup software that I haven’t searched hard enough for?). Then, before you can post a question, you have to get an id/password; for this you need to create an Eclipse Bugzilla account (unfortunately, when we turn off the password protection, the spam levels get unmanageable). Once you have the account, and your newsreader/poster is all configured, then you need to figure out what group to post to. Of course, we have some very talented and dedicated people who monitor eclipse.newcomer and will point you in the right direction.
In short, posting that first question on an Eclipse newsgroup is a pain in the arse.
So. My question to you is: how can we do better? How can we make it easier for our user community to get help? Is it time for a replacement for newsgroups? I have my own ideas, but I’d like to hear yours.