One of the most underused features of Windows SharePoint Services is discussion lists.  I don't think I have ever seen an implementation where a vibrant community has been interacting using discussion lists.  On the face of it you'd think this would be a killer feature.  Web-based discussion lists are a central feature of any internet-based community/collaboration site.  Yet when I go work with large corporations this feature is invariably ignored.  I got to thinking recently why this might be.  My theory is that in the corporate environment there are so may other ways to communicate that offer more advantages:

  • Face-to-face or phone - instant feedback, more interactive, direct discussion with the accepted internal authority on the subject.
  • Email distribution lists - offline access, richer/faster UI, push mechanism works to make the commnity more involved/vibrant, especially if the community is relatively small.
  • Internet discussion lists - The availability of internet based discussion lists, whether web-based or UseNet groups offers access to a wider range of experience and view points.

So what do you make of WSS discussion lists?  Is there something wrong with the feature set they offer?  Do you use them, or is my theory correct?

[Update 18/1/05]: Also see follow-up post: SharePoint Discussion Lists - What's Needed To Make Them Work?