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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 03:00:17 +0000

Wow Mike, fascinating read. I'm the earliest of Millennials, so I did not 
completely grow up with the web, but most of the things I do online (such as 
participate in communities) I couldn't really do offline anyway, so I never 
developed this crazy efficient workflow of connected programs that I needed to 
later apply to the web. That said, I grew up with Windows, not GNU/Linux, so it 
wasn't as doable anyway. However, no matter what you gow up with, you have to 
be a certain type of person to even want to come up with your own whole system 
for that sort of thing in the first place; that used to be the type of person 
that dominated the computing world, but now we have most casual users who just 
want it to work.
Speaking of that hacker type of person:

"Many of us hackers don't care for flashy interfaces"

I guess I'm one of the few hackers that does indeed care about design. I can 
see why you might see it as frivolous, but I think it's a bit far to call it 
"flashy" when I can explain to you down to an *exact science* how well 
something is designed. The free software community, as addressed in Boston this 
year and nearly every year before it, has a well-documented problem with 
design, so I won't go into that here.


"I haven't used Discourse.  I do see "mailing list support"; maybe that's
a good sign.  But one of the phrases at the top of the features page is
"[w]e're reimagining what a modern discussion platform should
be".  Many of us don't want to see it reimagined.  That's the opposite
of what many want."

Going forward with your concession that most of the world doesn't "want to use 
their own tools", let's make sure we aren't hosting a fear-of-change flag here. 
Let's for a moment forget about who "wants" what, since what everyone "wants" 
is arbitrary, wavering, insatiable, and sometimes even in opposition to changes 
that are *objectively* better by every possible measure.


You said it yourself. You don't want to use a poorly reinvented wheel. That's 
exactly what most forum sites have been. And to those who only know that world, 
the need for "reimagination" is obvious. Discourse is, in my opinion, a very 
nice wheel, and can likely be made to do whatever you need from your emacs 
setup.


Find any establishment in history and you'll see that they probably did not 
"want" the wave of change that superceded them (discovery of electricity, 
industrial revolution, computers) even when that change was definitely an 
upgrade for the better.


So while you may not see the need for a "re-imagination" of online discourse, I 
invite you try Discourse and tell me in what ways it's not better. Then we can 
potentially improve it for everyone.


________________________________
From: libreplanet-discuss <address@hidden> on behalf of Mike Gerwitz 
<address@hidden>
Sent: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 11:07:28 PM
To: address@hidden
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Libreplanet using Discourse for mailing 
lists and web-based forums?

On Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 20:44:56 -0500, J.B. Nicholson wrote:
> 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.

I agree with everything else you said, but this is something that a lot
of people don't understand, especially those who grew up doing
everything on the Web.

I live a huge chunk of my life in my mail client (which happens to be my
editor as well).  It's scripted, heavily customized, and integrated with
other things.  I do task management with Org mode, which integrates
simply but well enough with Gnus.  I can use my editor keybindings and
such when composing messages.  The same goes with my IRC client.
I never have to leave home, if you will.

Contrast that with websites: if I have to write anything substantial, I
often have to write it in my editor first and paste it in.

Many of us hackers don't care for flashy interfaces; we'd rather use the
tools we've invested our lives into and know well.  Tools that can
compose and work well in pipelines.  Trying to use interfaces that
reinvent the wheel poorly is painful.  And let's not be fooled---these
are programs.  Especially when they're heavy on JavaScript.  There's no
difference between this and someone asking me to download Foo and put my
Emacs toy away, as cute as it is.

But I know that many people don't feel that way.  I have coworkers that
think I'm crazy (respectfully so).  And I think they're crazy too. ;)
Admittedly, using your own tools is a large barrier to entry---my tools
are useful because I've spent a great deal of time learning and
researching and customizing.  And now I can reuse them for
everything.  For your average user looking to get into activism, who may
not even be a programmer, that's a bit different.  It's easier to say
"here's your single tool (Web)---go use it".

There are systems that allow for a level of integration (e.g. mailing
lists and forums).  But they're often treated as fallbacks---as
second-class citizens.  They might provide a subset of features; it
leaves certain members of the community out---those who want to use
their own tools.

I haven't used Discourse.  I do see "mailing list support"; maybe that's
a good sign.  But one of the phrases at the top of the features page is
"[w]e're reimagining what a modern discussion platform should
be".  Many of us don't want to see it reimagined.  That's the opposite
of what many want.

Trying to strike a balance isn't a bad thing if that's the audience
we're looking to attract.  But it's difficult, and something I struggle
with a great deal.

--
Mike Gerwitz
Free Software Hacker+Activist | GNU Maintainer & Volunteer
GPG: D6E9 B930 028A 6C38 F43B  2388 FEF6 3574 5E6F 6D05
https://mikegerwitz.com


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