I’ve been subscribed to the ESRI e-mail discussion lists for more years than I can remember, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I posted to them (either a question or a response to one). I was looking at the latest email digest for both the ESRI-L and the ArcView-L and I started to think of how they could be improved. Most people these days seem to post their question to both lists, probably because they can’t tell the difference between them. According to the signup page the “ARCVIEW-L is a discussion list for all subjects concerning released versions of ArcView and related extensions” while the “ESRI-L is a discussion list for subjects on all other released ESRI software products”. I’m sure this dates back to the time when ArcView 3.x was pretty much a different beast compared to classic ArcInfo Workstation, but these days ArcView really isn’t a product at all so it seems confusing to have an e-mail list devoted to it. I think also the ESRI list is way too broad for as many products as ESRI has these days (From ArcWeb to ArcGIS Server) that probably could use their own email lists.
I’d probably kill both lists right now and replace them with a couple. First there seems to be a huge need for a ArcGIS Desktop list as most of the questions on both lists currently pertain to Desktop questions. I think there probably should be a Server Products discussion list as well as a Mobile and Web Services list. Maybe even an EDN list might be nice to help answer developers questions. Heck, maybe just one list for every group on the Sofware page of the ESRI Support site might be easy.
I’ve seen many people really drawn to open source GIS products because of their email lists and the response they get from their questions there. Just having a list doesn’t mean people will use it if they don’t think their questions are getting answered. Having more specific email lists means that maybe ESRI’s employees can get in and answer some of these questions because they only have to subscribe to the email list that they are experts on. This is all part of that community that needs to happen around ESRI software that has been missing for some years. Updating the e-mail lists is easy and probably should have happened with the release of ArcGIS 8.x.