Re: CompuServ or AOL?

Subject: Re: CompuServ or AOL?
From: "Arlen P. Walker" <arlen -dot- walker -at- JCI -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 27 Jun 1994 09:34:38 -0500

These comments come from the Macintosh perpective of AOL. I don't plan to
get into a my service vs. your service debate, but as an ex-CIS patron, I
felt this post needed commenting on.

>Now ... back to CompuServe, the online service I prefer. Why? For one
>thing, it's easier to compose & review e-mail offline before sending it,
>and it's MUCH (read: MUCH MUCH MUCH!!!) easier to file e-mail messages
>because CompuServe lets you create mail folders.

AOL lets me store my mail in any folder on any disk on my Mac. And I
routinely compose messages off-line. A simple copy-and-paste and they're
ready to go. It may be even easier now, but that's the way I learned, and
it still works for me.

> Another nice thing
>about CompuServe's e-mail features is the fact that it's part of the
>Basic Services (included in the basic rate of $7.95/month). But, having
>said that, you should be aware that CompuServe gives you a $9.00 credit
>each month for e-mail and, once that credit is used up, you'll be charged
>15 cents for each e-mail message you send or read ... and that can add up
>quickly if you subscribe to any active mailing lists (such as TECHWR-L).

On AOL, mail is free, period. You pay only one rate, no matter where you go
on the service, no matter what you do. you simply pay $3.50 per hour for
connect time. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 1200 baud or 9600 baud (soon
to be telnet as well). $9.95 monthly minimum gets you 10 free hours. After
10 hours the $3.50 per hour kicks in. CIS gives you, my calculator tells
me, 60 free messages. to make that the equivalent of the 10 hours connect
time, you'd need 10 minutes of online time per message. Time of course
depends on length of message, but I average closer to 2 minutes

>TIP: the cost is minimized if you subscribe to the digest form of
>mailing lists. As someone else has already mentioned, CompuServe has
>more forums than you can count ... but they all cost extra.

True, AOL has somewhat fewer forums, but they don't cost extra.

> And, if
>you're an "information junkie" you'll be happy about the ability to
>search various business and magazine databases. And many big-name
>hardware & software companies maintain a forum for technical support
>on CompuServe; I've found that to be extremely useful ... and I much
>prefer posting a message on a technical support forum to waiting &
>waiting & waiting on a customer-service hotline.

Same here. But I post them on the tech support boards on AOL.

>Also -- and this is a BIG point -- it's more reliable. I've *never*
>had problems logging on CompuServe. However, there are "peak" times
>(evenings and week-ends, mostly) when it's absolutely impossible to
>get on AOL or, at best, it requires several dozen attempts and all the
>patience you can muster. AOL has, by far, more system problems than
>CompuServe, which has been around longer and seems to have worked things
>out quite well.

There's where we seriously differ. One of the major reasons I left CIS was
the fact that I was routinely getting dropped as I travelled from one forum
to another. I found it extremely unreliable. I switched to AOL a few years
ago and I've had a few problems, but nothing on the scale I had with CIS. I
read in the trade press about access problems with AOL, but in all honesty
I have to say I've only had one time in the last year when I had to try
more than once to get in. I think the relative problems on the two services
can be linked to locality.

>Now ... one more word about AOL: it can be a great place to "play" if you
>want to assign yourself several (up to 5) Screen Names and bounce around
>from one chat room to another (the equivalent of bar-hopping). When I
>hosted the April meeting of the Colorado chapter of ASI, I gave demos of
>CompuServe and AOL ... and most of the indexers there (librarian types,
>mostly) were quite shocked to see the names of some of the chat rooms
>people had created.

That's a feature, not a problem. AOL has set certain Terms Of Service
limitations, and as long as you stay within those limits, you can do what
you please. Yes, people violate TOS. Yes, it sometimes takes a while to
catch them. That's the problem with freedom; it gets abused. There are
problems (as in the chat room names you mentioned -- did you take your tour
group through the seamier areas of CIS?) but all told I'd rather the
service were permissive than restictive (I've been on Prodigy, thank you).

All told, either service is usuable. Lori gave her reasons for CIS, I gave
mine for AOL. And try not to pay for the sign-up kit. They're available
free from so many different places.

Have Fun,

arlen -dot- walker -at- jci -dot- com
This mail message contains 100% recycled electrons

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