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[libreplanet-discuss] Libreplanet using Discourse for mailing lists and

From: J.B. Nicholson
Subject: [libreplanet-discuss] Libreplanet using Discourse for mailing lists and web-based forums?
Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:44:56 -0500
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:45.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/45.8.0

Connor Doherty wrote:
*   Mailman, the software usually used for mailing lists, shows its age,
with an unnecessarily clunky, under-designed web interface.

Two big good things about Mailman 2's web interface: it's optional (one can do mailing list management via email) and it doesn't require Javascript (it's entirely form driven). I don't know about Mailman 3's interface.

Not using Javascript (JS) is a good thing to me because it means I don't have to review code to make sure the webpage isn't trying to do something beyond letting me supply an email address to manage my own list details. Free software JS doesn't address this concern at all (thus this concern is out of scope for LibreJS): This concern has nothing to do with whether I can run, copy, modify, or share the JS. I come across too many pages where JS is added on because some web developer thinks it's a good idea to implement a feature in that way, and along the way (most of the time) the web developer has clients loading in JS from various other places and the client's security now depends on JS from multiple sources. All of this (and the commensurate slowdown due to executing JS) so I can have features I probably don't want in the first place (and don't have to deal with at all in a mailing list).

I see "Powered by Discourse, best viewed with JavaScript enabled" on even though there's nothing about logging into anything that genuinely requires JS to do that job.

But as you say with Discourse, I don't see this as an either-or situation: the Trisquel GNU/Linux forum is an example of a Mailman-managed mailing list and a web forum where posts to either are copied between the two. I never use the web forum, and I'm sure there are people who never use the mailing list but we discuss things all the same. Whatever software they're using seems to work out well enough (perhaps better for the mailing list users as I understand the web forum admins can "lock out" a thread but this doesn't seem to carry over to the mailing list, thus I can post to any thread or start a new thread at any time).

*   More importantly, the mailing list concept has proven bad for
scaling. With tiny projects, the notion of "automatically subscribe me
to every new post to every new thread" for a topic or a slew of topics
might make sense or at least be harmless. But when a community booms,
many find it unrealistic to manage all of the emails in the mailing

I don't see this as a problem. I see this as a feature: I have no problem filing the list emails into a folder and reading them when I have time. I subscribe to multiple lists and I do this quite successfully across them all using an interface I know, scales well to service many people, and doesn't require that I learn a new interface to do what I come to a list to do -- read and participate in discussions. These days it's easy to get an email account with lots of space.

*   The best mailman can do is roll up messages into a "digest". This
makes it harder to reply quickly, and while it might solve growing pains
at the couple-of posts a day scale, it's still useless above that or for
people who don't want another daily email.

I've never found mailing list digests to be handy or wise because they break threads and people don't take the time to edit their posts to only what's relevant for that post. Posters typically leave a lot of other digested posts in their followup. But this doesn't seem like an issue on-topic here. Perhaps it's worth turning off digesting for a list in Mailman 3.

My suggestion in this regard is a piece of libre software called
Discourse<>. I apologize if this has already
been suggested elsewhere.

I looked at the instance on and saw some top-level threads there. All the discussions seem to take place in one thread per discussion. I couldn't easily figure out who was replying to whom in any discussion. I hope this is configurable so proper discussion threading can be done.

What's relevant here, especially for those afraid of change, is that
while Discourse may be a "fancy web forum", it can [now] be completely
interacted with via email, putting it near feature parity with mailing
list software.

Where can one find an example of this mailing list interface?

I'd like to see where I can find archives of a Discourse-managed mailing list and download those archives in mbox format (with no JS required) so I can add those archived posts to my email clients and browse the threads.

I'm not going to address the issues you raised with the wiki here because those seem to me to be an entirely separate issue from setting up software that copies posts between a web forum and a corresponding mailing list.

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