Are you and your staff effectively using the free resources available online? These resources include subscription email lists (or list servers), online Q&A forums, and newsgroups. It seems clear to me that, of the tens of thousands of subscribers who read this newsletter, only a handful are using these free services. What resources like list servers, forums, and newsgroups offer is the ability for anyone to ask questions related to not only RPG but iSeries 400 development. The great part is that you get your answers typically in a few minutes. The people who subscribe to these places and often respond to questions are IBM employees, including the RPG compiler developers at IBM Canada, and people like me.
There are two dominant RPG email list services available, and both are free. One is offered by David Gibbs. It is available by going to his Web site at www.midrange.com and clicking on the RPG400-L list service. The other is the one that I moderate on YahooGroups. You can subscribe to it by going to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RPGIV/.
David Gibbs provides another free email list as well: The Midrange-L or midrange list. This list differs from the RPG lists in that it features questions and editorializing on non-RPG issues. To subscribe to the Midrange-L list go to www.midrange.com and click on the MIDRANGE-L link.
There are only a few active forums, and they are used extensively. A forum, unlike an email list service, has an outline of topic areas where you can post questions and expect answers from others using the forum. In addition, you're expected to answer a question every now and then if you can. A great feature of most forums is the way you can search and group the existing knowledge base of questions. This makes finding the solution to a problem simple.
The first forum I check each morning when I get online is the one I provide on my Web site, RPG IV Network. Again, it's a free service, and it's actually running on an AS/400, using OS/400 (no Linux or IXS). To log in and look around, you don't need any kind of profile. The forum goes beyond RPG to CGI, systems administration, Net.Data, SQL, Java, CL, DDS, database, etc. To log on to the RPG IV Network's forum, go to www.rpgiv.com/forum.
Another, more-robust forum is on the MCPressOnline Web site. The discussion forums on the this Web site are one of the most widely used forums in the midrange arena, offering a huge selection of topics and a large subscription base. Email notifications, message tracking, and newsreader (NNTP) access are also available for free on this site. Access these forums by visiting www.mcpressonline.com and clicking on the Forums link. [Editor's. Note: Click here for more information on the MCPress forums].
A forum with a more narrow focus is the one hosted on the Ignite/400 Web site (www.ignite400.com). This forum is based on the same code base as the one used on www.rpgiv.com/forum (which was created by IBM using Net.Data). The Ignite/400 forum focuses on a number of topics, but it really excels at Net.Data and Web development-related questions.
Another great online resource for AS/400 information is, of course, iSeriesNetwork.com. Most of the quality material on that sight, however, requires a paid annual subscription in order to access it. So it can be a bit frustrating compared with the other, free sites.
Although you can access some sites' forums with a newsreader, there is really only one AS/400-related public newsgroup, which is located at news:comp.as400.misc. News groups are somewhat like forums except that, in order to access the data, a newsreader (like the one in Outlook Express or Netscape) is required. Newsgroups are somewhat like using a remote email service. With the widespread use of list services and online Web-based forums, the viability of public news groups is diminishing; certainly for the AS/400 market space.