Following Tom's presentation on the new Wiki yesterday, the topic of how much value there is in maintaining the legacy email discussion list came up.  The on the spot poll I did (there were four of us), suggests that the old discussion medium should be retired given that the Wiki can do everything the email list can and so much more.

All thoughts, ideas and suggestions on if, how and when the list should be retired are gratefully appreciated.



  1. Brian -- Thanks for your interest in this topic.  I can assure you that it came up in other conversations yesterday as well.  Yesterday, the moderators of the list, Tom Wolff and I, recommended to members of the PIUG Board that we shut down the existing discussion list on a date certain (tentatively 1 January 2009, maybe a little later) after giving members a transition period to adapt to using the wiki and as well as ample time to pay their dues for next year.  The entire Board needs a chance to discuss and/or approve our recommendation, including key timelines and other issues, during their monthly teleconference next week or next month, depending on their current agenda.  After they give their approval, we will post an announcement to the list regarding its shut-down.


    A.J. D'Ambra
    Co-moderator, PIUG Discussion List
    Member, PIUG Electronic Communications Cmte

  2. Hi Brian,

    Not sure why you would want to do this, but let me be the first to volunteer to

    a) moderate the legacy list

    b) donate hosting services for the legacy list

    I've had about 10 years of experience with listservs, both using them and moderating them.

    I think there is great value in the medium, and would hate to see it go.

    Keith Nagel

    KPN Consulting \\

  3. From: Zimmermann, Roy []
    Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 11:20 AM
    To: PIUG Discussion List @ Listbox
    Subject: RE: [PIUG List] Consideration of replacing the PIUG Discussion List with the PIUG Wiki Discussion Forum

    Tom, I understand how much time & effort managing the discussion list takes you and AJ. We all appreciate your efforts. I too am annoyed by the endless out-of-office autoreplies that invariably dog me following any posting to PIUG-L. HOWEVER, I have yet to become an active participant in any WIKI based group discussion. Most are gross violations of the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid.

    Discussion lists, for all their flaws, are well integrated into a regular use tool that we all track throughout our days. I surely hope that PIUG-L does not get phased out in favor of a Wiki only process. Committee communications can be limited to the wiki, that's fine, but not the general discussion list. I, for one, will be much less active on PIUG-L if extra hurdles and hassles are added to a simple message posting or reply to another message posting.

    Roy Zimmermann

    1. From: Tom Wolff []
      Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 12:14 PM
      To: PIUG Discussion List @ Listbox
      Subject: RE: [PIUG List] Consideration of replacing the PIUG Discussion List with the PIUG Wiki Discussion Forum


      I don't believe there will be extra hurdles and hassles for users of the wiki Discussion Forum compared to PIUG-L. I suggest you forget the "wiki" connotations and just think of the wiki as another website. I can show you many instances of KISS being applied in discussion forums. There is nothing inherent in wikis that makes people verbose. I strongly believe the wiki discussion forum adds to PIUG discussion functionality and does not detract from it. Here is a comparison of what you would do to in the two media. 

      New topics 

      PIUG-L: Create an email message using the discussion list email address, which you may or may not have to look up every time like I do. Start writing including adding a subject and text.   

      Discussion Forum (Wiki): Navigate to Forum - PIUG Discussion which you can store as a favorite or link. Login to the wiki if you aren't already logged in. Click on Add Topic. Start writing including adding a page topic and text. Easily add attachments or links to internal wiki resource pages related to your topic or to external resources. 

      Receiving messages 

      PIUG-L: Get the whole message as an email message. 

      Discussion Forum (wiki): Get the whole message as an email message including links to attachments. 

      Reply to topics 

      PIUG-L: Hit reply in your email system. Remember to send to an individual rather than to the whole List which is the default. 

      Discussion Forum (wiki): Hit reply in the email message that you received from the wiki discussion forum. Login to the wiki if you haven't already. Start writing. 

      Find previous messages in the thread. 

      PIUG-L: Look through your email to find other messages. 

      Discussion Forum (wiki): It's all there on the topic page no matter how you got to that page, either via a link in the email notification message or navigating the wiki. 

      I would attach notification email messages to this PIUG-L if I could. I intend to post some on the wiki for showing at the webinar and will link to them in future PIUG-L email messages. 

      Check it out. I think you will find that the recent conversation on "USPTO Report and AE Info" among you, Dominic DeMarco, and Alan Engel would have worked out just as well in the wiki Discussion Forum and everyone would still have it at their fingertips tomorrow and into the future as they use the wiki regularly for forum topics, resource pages, and team interactions and business. 

      Best regards, 


      Thomas E. Wolff, Ph. D.

      PIUG Wikimaster and Electronic Communications Committee Chair

      1. From: Zimmermann, Roy []
        Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 11:20 AM
        To: PIUG Discussion List @ Listbox
        Subject: RE: [PIUG List] Consideration of replacing the PIUG Discussion List with the PIUG Wiki Discussion Forum

        Tom, I understand how much time & effort managing the discussion list takes you and AJ.    We all appreciate your efforts.    I too am annoyed by the endless out-of-office autoreplies that invariably dog me following any posting to PIUG-L.      HOWEVER, I have yet to become an active participant in any WIKI based group discussion.     Most are gross violations of the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid.

        Discussion lists, for all their flaws, are well integrated into a regular use tool that we all track throughout our days.     I surely hope that PIUG-L does not get phased out in favor of  a Wiki only process.      Committee communications can be limited to the wiki, that's fine, but not the general discussion list.       I, for one, will be much less active on PIUG-L if extra hurdles and hassles are added to a simple message posting or reply to another message posting.

        Roy Zimmermann

  4. From: Anthony Trippe []
    Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 10:47 PM
    To: PIUG Discussion List @ Listbox
    Subject: Re: [PIUG List] Consideration of replacing the PIUG Discussion List with the PIUG Wiki Discussion Forum

    Hello Everyone,

    I thought I would add a few comments to this discussion:

    Roy, I think most of us would be interested in your opinion on this topic now that you have had a chance to attend the training. Did seeing the tool change anything for you or are you still of the same opinion?

    Let me start by saying that I think all of us owe Tom a big debt of gratitude for all the hard work he has done up to this point. These type of activities take a great deal of effort and Tom has done a fantastic job bringing us along this far.

    Having said this I find myself agreeing with Roy and some others and believing that it would be a big mistake to eliminate the discussion list in favor of a discussion forum. I am a big believer in wikis and discussion forums and I believe each of them have their place along side discussion lists as tools communities use to communicate with one another and archive the collective knowledge of the group.

    As I see it each tool lends itself to a particular function:

    Wiki - An excellent tool for creating knowledge bases on subjects that need a definitive statement with infrequent follow-ups. I have been apart of several wikis in the past and they serve the above function efficiently and easily with little in the way of training and support.

    Discussion Forum - An excellent tool for allowing users to create a formal record of events, discussion and opinions within a group. I find that for committees and working groups forums work better than lists to again create an archive that is easily discoverable for a small collection of active users.

    Discussion Lists - An excellent tool for allowing an informal exchange of information between a large group of users who are made up of active participants but mostly users who listen to the debates and do not participate in them.  They provide the easiest mechanism for the largest collection of people to keep informed on topics generate by a small percentage of the user base.

    Based on past experience I believe that moving from a Discussion List to a Discussion Forum will eliminate a significant amount of traffic from a community that is already relatively inactive to begin with. We should be looking for more ways to generate discussion amongst ourselves (even if it is informal and somewhat conversational in nature) and moving to a forum system will create a higher barrier to activation for participation.

    Several people have mentioned that the recent thread on Accelerated Examination would have made a great contribution to a wiki and they are right but personally I think that a far smaller percentage of our membership would have had the benefit of seeing the exchange if it had been conducted in a forum or built upon as a wiki page. We should be thinking about using the forums for small, dedicated groups and looking to actively create wiki pages for knowledge items where we need definitive resources for people to refer to in the future.

    I agree with Roy as well that this is a decision that deserves to be voted on by the members and I would suggesting doing so via the discussion list as opposed to waiting for the annual meeting. There are a large number of people who lurk on this list and we do the community a service by allowing them to participate without expecting them to contribute.  I believe the community that listens in whether they are actual PIUG members or not deserve to have a say in how we move forward.  The list is something we do for the larger patent community as a way of giving back.

    Sorry for the long note but this will be a critical decision and one that will have a lasting impact on the future of our organization.

    Have a nice remainder of the weekend,


    1. Tony:

      I appreciate your expression of gratitude and your skepticism about forums compared to discussion lists. You have hit on some very important points. I would like to continue this discussion on PIUG-L and so am addressing this response to PIUG-L and not just to you. I am proposing a big change in how our community interacts and recognize that its success is based on the PIUG community's full understanding and acceptance.

      I believe the principal matter for consideration is summarized in your succinct statement: "We should be looking for more ways to generate discussion amongst ourselves (even if it is informal and somewhat conversational in nature) and moving to a forum system will create a higher barrier to activation for participation." If the new wiki function does indeed create a "higher barrier to activation for participation," then I have not judged the new PIUG wiki function correctly.

      You make a clear distinction between wikis and discussion forums with which I generally agree. I have seen plenty of discussion forums, and I agree that they require users to play too active a role. I recognize that most wikis are good resources that function with a core group of contributors.

      I have judged that the current wiki blurs the distinction between wikis and discussion forums. This is possible via the full-content email notifications that result from new content and the "Page Family Watch" function. This "watch" function did not exist on the PIUG wiki a month ago when you and I created the space for your Executive Secretary Task Force. I tried to explain this "Page Family Watch" function in my message to PIUG-L last Thursday and repeat the key paragraph at the bottom of this message.

      In complete analogy to subscribing to PIUG-L, one "joins" the wiki's Discussion Forum by clicking on the "Watch Page Family" icon in the upper right corner grouping of function icons. From that point on, one will get a full email message containing content of all new topics, replies and comments, even for those that do not yet exist. I believe that this email functionality matches nearly perfectly the current PIUG-L functionality. The only additional barrier that I can see is that submitters have to use one's browser to go to the target forum's top page, e.g. PIUG Space home page for the principal PIUG Discussion Forum, to add a new topic. Since I open my browser even before I open Outlook, I don't see this as a big barrier. Otherwise, participants can use the active links within email messages to reply to existing messages or to view the entire discussion thread in order, something much harder to do in one's mail client. The wiki-based Discussion Forum "watch" function also allows
      one to stop selectively receiving email messages for existing topics that just aren't of continuing interest while still receiving email messages on new topics and replies to existing topics that are still of interest.

      For the recent thread on Accelerated Examination that you mentioned, people watching the Discussion Forum would have received an email message for each contribution from our community had the posting been made on the Discussion Forum. Anyone following the instructions for "Page Family Watch" for the forum would have received an email message with full content of these new discussion forum entries. As I said, each email message would have had a link to view the entire thread in order on the wiki page and a link to reply to the topic. Finally, this thread would have been stored on the wiki and available by the effective search function on the wiki. The messages also could have included attachments if applicable.

      I believe there is no reason to think that "a far smaller percentage of our membership would have had the benefit of seeing the exchange if it had been conducted in a forum or built upon as a wiki page" as you said. So far we have nearly 200 people signed up for the wiki, half of which have signed up in the past four days. I don't think it is unreasonable to think that the remaining 1200 people on PIUG-L will sign up for the wiki. Signing up for the wiki adds no new burden to participants, and the selective "watches" function allows users to be notified of new content in a very selective manner.

      In response to your second point, had the information had been "built upon as a wiki page" instead, users could still have been notified of the added page had they been watching the whole PIUG space, something that most won't do because of the storm of email message they might eventually receive when the wiki becomes more active, or if they had "subscribed to daily updates" to receive an email message that contains a summary of all changes made in the past 24 hours to spaces the user can see (available from the user's profile at This latter function is analogous to the PIUG-L daily digest but it isn't limited to discussion items and covers all wiki content.

      I have no argument that the decision to move to the wiki Discussion Forum "deserves to be voted on by the members." An alternative to the suggestions from Roy (wait until the Annual meeting) and you (doing so via the discussion list) would be a survey via the Survey Monkey function that PIUG subscribes to. The PIUG Board could consider whether the vote would be by the over 700 PIUG members only or the subscribers to PIUG-L.

      I have taken the liberty to add PIUG-L entries on this topic from you, Roy and me to the Discussion Forum thread on this topic that Brian Bridgewater started on October 15th. I offer my apologies to those others who have contributed PIUG-L messages on this matter and to whom I leave it to add their own replies to the Discussion Forum thread.

      I look forward to continuing this discussion to be sure the PIUG community comes to full understanding and reasonable consensus.

      Best regards,


      Thomas E. Wolff, Ph. D.
      PIUG Wikimaster and Electronic Communications Committee Chair

  5. Tom, Tony, Roy, et al.,
    One of the big benefits of using the wiki for these discussions, in my opinion, is that if a thread starts up that I have no interest in, I will be able to "unwatch" that page (and it's daughters). What a boon this could be to my overflowing inbox!

    I had all PIUG messages going to a separate folder for a long time, hoping to read them "later," but "later" seldom happened and I was missing a lot of good stuff -- while still running against my inbox size limits due to the bulging PIUG folder. I look forward to the day that all of the discussions move to the wiki, where I can be selective about what I want to see, but still stay in contact.

    There are many other nice features. Thank you, Tom, for explaining them so well in your Webinar.

    • Photos of the correspondents lend a nice touch, easy to "see" who is speaking -- (and I'll feel more confident of names at the next annual meeting)
    • Consistent formatting. The notes we take the trouble to format well will be seen as they were composed -- not garbled by competing email systems.
    • Easier thread following, as well as searching for that tidbit I remember reading a while back -- all while connected to the same site.
    • Attachments: We've done without these for so long that we forget how much we could use them
    • Directories and folders make it easier to find useful content
    • NO Out-of-office replies!!!

    Yes, it would be nice if we could pick and choose, according to individual preference, but that won't work. Right now, posting this note on the wiki, I miss the majority of the PIUG audience (unless Tom intervenes and does his magic!). So, if we don't all convert, it won't work. I'm hoping people will be willing to give this new option a try. Just a little effort to sign up and get it going -- many benefits to come.

    1. Pat:

      Thank you for your posting on PIUG-L and copying it to the wiki forum. You have provided a good summary of advantageous wiki forum features and benefits as well as a sense of some of the difficulties with having two communication media.

      I don't have any magic, but I will offer to forward all PIUG Discussion Forum contributions - new topics and replies - to PIUG-L. In that way, all subscribers to PIUG-L would also receive email messages containing unique new content in the discussion forum. Those messages would also have active links so that PIUG-L recipients could choose to view the whole discussion thread online and reply thereon rather than within PIUG-L. The only drawback I see is that people who both watch the wiki forum and subscribe to PIUG-L would get two email messages for everything posted on the forum; from them I ask for patience as we try to demonstrate the wiki forum to those who haven't registered yet. I will try avoid forwarding content originally on PIUG-L such as your posting above. 

      I am starting the forwarding process with this reply to your message. I would anticipate doing this for some limited transition period as PIUG and the Board decides what to do with the replacement and transition issues.


  6. Dear colleagues:

    [Pasted in from PIUG-L; off-topic content regarding message formatting omitted] 

    I want to join Tom in thanking Pat Dedert and others who have written in support of our efforts to bring improved communication and collaboration capabilities to PIUG. They have chosen to take a long view of the benefits of adopting these new technologies over the short-term risks. Also, I want to thank Tom for the huge donation of time and effort -- which he could have expended in the service of his clients -- for his implemention and training support of the Wiki.

    Happy Thanksgiving to my US colleagues.

    Best regards,

    A.J. D'Ambra
    Co-moderator, PIUG-L
    Member, PIUG Electronic Communications Cmte

    piug.dlist.moderator1 [AT]
    [or as before: piug_discussion_list-owner [AT]]

  7. The following message was sent out to the PIUG-L listserv on December 24, 2008.

    We are very pleased to announce that the PIUG Discussion List is transitioning to a new platform, effective February 1st, 2009! We encourage you to join the new PIUG Discussion Forum which is available now and explore all of the wonderful capabilities within the next few weeks.  Check it out!

    • Browse the new PIUG Discussion Forum,
    • Review the initial signup help page,
    • Do NOT use your email address as your USERNAME,
    • View basic training tutorials, and
    • Be sure to login to add new topics or replies.

    The new platform has all the capabilities of the current PIUG-L discussion list, plus much more! The new platform allows for attachments, comes with its own archive, and is connected directly with other discussion forums for PIUG committees and task forces. In addition, the discussion forums share a virtual space with a wiki that allows for easy addition and editing of shared knowledge base by discussion list participants.

    The current PIUG-L discussion list will stop accepting postings at midnight ( 00:00 hrs GMT ) on January 31,2009. To continue receiving PIUG discussion postings, please register immediately on the new PIUG Discussion Forum. We recognize the learning curve in using this new platform. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to join the new PIUG Discussion Forum now. It is already available and operating.

    Please sign up from the login page using the "Signup for an account" link if you are a first-timer. Details are provided in the
    Initial Signup Quick Reference Guide. As it says, do not use your email address as your username even though there is a totally
    obvious and inviting check box for using your email address as your username. Please use your name or a recognizable alias
    as your username. People who use their email address as USERNAME will have their registration removed and will have to register again.

    Please provide your feedback and share your learnings via the Electronic Communications Committee Forum , or for assistance,
    please send inquiries to

    Let's stay connected! Make it your New Year's resolution to register and join us on our new discussion platform in 2009! 

    Looking forward to seeing you there!

    Wishing you and your family a Wonderful Holiday and Happy New Year!!!

    PIUG Board

  8. The following is a summary of the PIUG Board meeting discussion held in December 2008 to transition from the PIUG-L discussion list to the new PIUG Discussion Forum platform.

    The PIUG Board of Directors agreed at its regular monthly meeting in December 2008 to replace the PIUG Discussion List (PIUG-L) with the PIUG Discussion Forum ( This decision was based on the recommendations of the PIUG-L moderators, Tom Wolff and A.J. D'Ambra, and on the opinions, concerns, and reservations expressed on and off the discussion list by subscribers and PIUG members. 

    The current PIUG Discussion List uses email technology that brings ease-of-use along with numerous disadvantages and deficiencies of the old technology. Messages come to users scattershot often without context or threaded content. Attachments are forbidden. Submitters receive numerous out-of-office messages and sometimes erroneously send personal messages or ask for return receipts. The Listbox application offers no solutions to these issues and requires significant maintenance by the moderators, as does the archives generously provided by Questel. Termination of PIUG-L would save PIUG about $700 per year. However, none of this is sufficient to eliminate PIUG-L in the absence of a better alternative. 

    The PIUG Discussion Forum integrated with the PIUG wiki is a superior technology and collaboration medium for enhanced PIUG presence on the World Wide Web. The Discussion Forum provides messages in a threaded interface with attachments and editing capability. It maintains the convenience of email by providing users with full-content email messages and convenient links back to the Forum for responding or viewing the full discussion thread. In addition, the Discussion Forum topics integrate well with other wiki content, much of which currently is information recently updated and moved from the PIUG website. The global patent information community is now able to add and maintain information, resource, and news content on the wiki and in the Forum as has never before been possible. All this content is automatically archived and fully searchable. Because the PIUG Discussion Forum is part of the wiki, there is no additional cost or maintenance associated with the Discussion Forum. 

    The PIUG Board recognizes that PIUG-L participants will need to learn a new application. Many tutorials and help pages have already been provided on the PIUG wiki for using the Discussion Forum and other wiki functions. The Board has agreed to the following plan of action designed to ease further the transition for all participants: 

    (1)   After a transition period to end at midnight of the morning of 01 February 2009, PIUG-L will be superseded by the PIUG Discussion Forum, a component of the PIUG wiki.

    (2)   During the transition period, new content on the Discussion Forum will be distributed to the PIUG-L by the PIUG Discussion Forum administrator. In addition, the Board requests that the PIUG-L and wiki moderators and administrators offer ample assistance to PIUG-L subscribers to learn about and navigate the change to the new PIUG Discussion Forum by (a) inclusion of Discussion Forum signup information in the footer of each posted message, and (b) informative announcements broadcast via the PIUG-L, the PIUG Discussion Forum, the home page, and/or the direct-to-member broadcast email messages via the PIUG membership application 123Signup.

    (3)   Beginning on 01 February, the PIUG-L will not accept or distribute postings from subscribers, although the moderators will be able to send messages to remind PIUG-L subscribers of the transition and inform them of further action they would need to take to signup for the Discussion Forum. The PIUG-L will be retained as a read-only repository until the Board is convinced that the Discussion Forum meets its expectations for full PIUG collaboration. At that time, PIUG-L would cease to exist. The full archives of the PIUG-L from 1995 and through January 2009 will remain available as described on and hosted by Questel.

    1. Thank you, Cynthia, for your thoughtful reply and explanation of the considerations the Board took before taking this step.  I believe that we all owe Tom Wolff and AJ D'Ambra a great deal of gratitude for all of the time and effort it took them to help us make this transition.

      I especially want to thank Tom Wolff for the excellent training sessions he conducted to bring us up to speed on this Wiki.  At least for me his training made the transition a lot easier.


  9. I am sorry to see that the Board unilaterally made this decision without actively engaging the membership in a vote or dedicated discussion on this issue before moving forward. I continue to be surprised that the Board makes decisions like these without encouraging more participation from the membership.

    I also continue to believe that this decision will ultimately lead to a vast diminishment in the use of the PIUG as a source of information, advice and communication among patent information professionals. I believe this based on the arguments I made in my previous post about the different internet methods of communication and which ones were important for which purposes. In addition, having closely monitored the number of subscribers joining the wiki over the past several months, I am concerned that members are not joining the new medium. From the figures I have heard, in the next several weeks we will be going from a list with over 1,200 participants to a forum with just over 300 members. I do not expect a large influx of people joining since the number of people who have joined since Cynthia made the announcement has remained small. Even under the best case scenario we can expect to see no more than 500-600 people join the wiki. This will mean that at least half of the list members will not be joining us in this transition. I think that is unfortunate and was unnecessary.

    For the record let me make it clear that this message should not be construed as an admonishment of Tom and AJ. The two of them should be commended for the work they have done and I can certainly understand why they made the recommendation they made. The new wiki is a powerful tool for the organization and will help PIUG in many ways. I am a big believer in this type of technology and use it extensively in several areas of my life. Unfortunately, it will not take the place of the existing discussion list and PIUG as an organization will likely look back on the action that caused more than half of the participants to disappear and wonder how we can get those people back involved with the group. Of course, by then it will likely be too late to get them back and the momentum we have created over the years since the list was created will be lost.

    I truly hope that I am very wrong about this.

    Best regards,

    1. Tony, 
      The PIUG Board of Directors has not made the decision to move from the old email discussion list to the new Discussion Forum lightly.  We considered all of the comments made on the discussion forums and in private emails very carefully, and we worked with Tom Wolff and A.J. D'Ambra on a list of the pros and cons of moving from the old format to the new.  We concluded that we couldn't justify the cost and inconvenience of keeping the old discussion list alive, and we're doing everything we can to facilitate the transition.  
      As you pointed out, the main reasons for keeping PIUG-L is that 1500 people are using it to receive postings and that some will drop out when they have to register for the new Discussion Forum.  We would certainly like to keep participation high, but we know that about ½ of the list members are not PIUG members and that most list members are simply reading messages posted by others and not participating in the discussions.  We wouldn't expect to hear from those people if there were a vote of the membership.   
      There's definitely an energy barrier to moving to the new forum - we had one when we moved from Dialmail to the Internet as well.  But patent professionals are exceptionally bright people, prefectly capable of learning how to use the new forum if they value the information they get from PIUG-L - it's a lot easier than learning to use the IPC!   
      Lurkers don't have to learn how to use the entire PIUG wiki to continue getting discussion postings.  If you follow the links at the bottom of PIUG-L messages, there are only a few simple steps that need to be taken to make the Discussion Forum postings work almost exactly the way PIUG-L messages do.  We think most list members will make the move. 

      Anything you or others can suggest to encourage them is welcome.

  10. I had shied away from this Wiki as it was "new technology" that I didn't want to have to figure out.

    However, if this post reaches my email inbox, I can report with gusto that it really wasn't hard at all.

    I'll post back if I'm successful.

    Bullitt Darlington