Choice of Push- or Pull-Style Group Communication Depends on Message Volume

Groups that want to communicate have a choice between pushing messages out to their members via mailing lists or feeds, or allowing them to pull messages from news groups or Web sites.

Several years ago, the popular services available were typified by bulletin boards (pull) and mailing lists (push). Today there are many choices, including blogs, wikis, hybrid push/pull Web services such as Yahoo and Google Groups, and event-specific webinars or Web meeting spaces.

It is important to keep in mind that mailing lists can easily push 10 to 20 messages or more per day to their members. This often leads to end-user turnoff — people simply stop reading. That can be a good indication that it is time to switch to a pull mechanism, such as a wiki. With a pull model, people can digest the information on their own schedule and at their own pace. Alternatively, groups can choose a hybrid model such as a wiki or blog that also publishes an RSS feed. These tools allow the users to choose between pulled Web access or pushed reading of feeds (the value of RSS is that it allows changes to be pushed to the desktop, rather than having to pull them). 

Janet Asteroff (editors: Richi Jennings and David Via)

(Footnote: When we say "pull" or "push" we’re referring to the user experience, not the underlying technology. For example, the user experience of RSS feeds is push, although the technology involves a client that automatically pulls new content.)

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