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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Libreplanet using Discourse for mailing lists


From: Connor Doherty
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Libreplanet using Discourse for mailing lists and web-based forums?
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2017 02:31:06 +0000

"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."
That was point of my suggestion: to have both. Mailman 3 has a more modern 
(sort of) interface, although it's in beta. If plain HTML stuff (forms, CSS) 
could do everything and Javascript were unnecessary, Javascript wouldn't be so 
popular today. Of course, HTML5 is much better with this regard, but we're 
still not there yet. Anyway, you can use Mailman 2, Mailman 3, or Discourse via 
only email, as I said earlier.


"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."

Yeah, I can definitely see why this is a nice feature for those that attempt to 
audit the code of every site they visit.

"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."

No doubt it's hard to manually inspect, again. And that may be the reality, for 
now, for today's internet sites that do anything more than display static info. 
That said, in this case we don't have those problems - Discourse is a piece of 
software you can go and inspect right now, and it'll be the same code running 
on any other instance you find (including the JS) unless they tweaked it a bit 
(but the FSF's instance would publish that too).


"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)."

While there are certainly many bulky, poorly-optimized sites out there that 
slow down old hardware, this is not the case with Discourse. It's snappy, and 
the JavaScript features are what really make it a joy to use.


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

Thanks for pointing that out, I didn't realize Discourse works with JS 
disabled. Cool!
(Not that it matters if you're only interacting via email)


"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)."

Actually, the Trisquel forum, where I also spend a bit of time, is exactly the 
kind of forum I had in mind when describing the traditional, clunky forum 
software that's been around for over a decade. I'm not really looking for a 
"works well enough" solution so much as a completely improved experience all 
around, which hopefully Trisquel can adopt as well.

And yes, this isn't either/or, my point was exactly that we keep both sides of 
it.


"I don't see this as a problem. I see this as a feature"

I was prepared to receive these kinds of comments with this list. I do 
recognize that many established users are perfectly fine with what they have. 
However, the rest of the web does see it as a problem: "automatically subscribe 
me to every new post to every new thread" was not my wording, it was from 
another more formal complaint about the bad design choice, by design people.


"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"

I do this too, and every time I subscribe to a new mailing list I have to 
modify the filters so I can save my inbox. I see this as a hack, not really a 
solution, but I understand again that older folks are used to what they're used 
to.


"across them all using an interface I know"

I'm interested in the implication you're giving off her. Are you saying you 
have to really work to learn any new interface you come across, even a website? 
That most sites aren't quickly intuitive or otherwise trivial to "learn"? If 
you feel this way, it would explain the aversion to "new" interfaces. It'd be 
interesting to study the demographics of this question.


"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."

It's even easier to sign up for an account on a forum, but see above.


"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."

I agree with you there! Digests aren't really kosher and often introduce 
problems. Yet, I dislike the lack of digests even more. I can't imagine how 
unwieldy my mail counters would be if I allowed every message of every list, 
and without some sort of organization, I wouldn't know where to even begin 
reading (and might not even bother).


"I looked at the instance on https://community.cartalk.com/ 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."

You can't turn it off - to reply to a particular post, you hit reply. Can't say 
as to whether the gear-heads care for proper threading though. 😝


"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."

What I meant is that you can use email to communicate through the forum. Or, 
you can use the web interface. It sounds like you want to use a web interface 
(at least a little bit) anyway, in which case you're in luck because as you 
pointed out, Discourse works without Javascript. Then you can just browse the 
archives right there. Although if you really want to read them in your emailer, 
I'm sure a script exists (or easily could) to do that mbox thing.

I'd love to know what magical Mail client you must be using if it's libre 
software for GNU/Linux that somehow manages to be nicer than Discourse, however.


Cheers!

________________________________
From: libreplanet-discuss <address@hidden> on behalf of J.B. Nicholson 
<address@hidden>
Sent: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 9:44:56 PM
To: address@hidden
Subject: [libreplanet-discuss] Libreplanet using Discourse for mailing lists 
and web-based forums?

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
https://community.cartalk.com/login even though there's nothing about
Car Talk Community<https://community.cartalk.com/login>
community.cartalk.com
Car Talk Community. Car advice, tips, troubleshooting, and answers to your car 
questions.


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
> list.

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<http://www.discourse.org/>. I apologize if this has already
[https://discourse.org/a/img/favicon.png]<http://www.discourse.org/>

Discourse - Civilized Discussion - Discourse is a ...<http://www.discourse.org/>
www.discourse.org
Discourse is a civilized discussion platform for your community. Use it as a 
mailing list, discussion forum, long-form chat room, and more!


> been suggested elsewhere.

I looked at the instance on https://community.cartalk.com/ 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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