[swift-evolution] [Discussion] mailing list alternative

Ted Kremenek kremenek at apple.com
Wed Jan 25 14:05:51 CST 2017

I have no problem with the project moving to forums instead of the Mailman mailing lists we have now — if it is the right set of tradeoffs.

My preference is to approach the topic objectively, working from goals and seeing how the mailing lists are aligning with those goals and how an alternative, such as Discourse, might do a better job.

The current use of mailing lists has been carry-over of how both LLVM does public discussion (which is all mailing lists) and how the Swift team at Apple has used mailing lists for discussion.  That inertia has benefits in that it is a familiar workflow that is “proven” to work — but the doesn’t mean it is the best option going forward.

Here are some of the things that matter to me:

- Topics are easy to manage and search, with stable URLs for archives.

- It is easy to reference other topics with a stable (canonical) URL that allows you to jump into that other topic easily.  That’s hard to do if you haven’t already been subscribed to the list.

- Works fine with email clients, for those who want to keep that workflow (again this inertia is important).

- Code formatting, and other tools that add clarity in communication, are a huge plus.

I’d like to understand more the subjective comments on this thread, such as "may intimidate newcomers”.  This feels very subjective, and while I am not disagreeing with that statement I don’t fully understand its justification.  Signing up for mailing lists is fairly straightforward, and one isn’t obligated to respond to threads.  Are forums really any less “intimating”? If so, why is that the case?  Is this simply a statement about mailing lists not being in vogue?

I do also think the asynchronous nature of the mailing lists is important, as opposed to discussions feeling like a live chat.  Live chat, such as the use of Slack the SwiftPM folks have been using, is very useful too, but I don’t want participants on swift-evolution or any of our mailing lists feel obligated to respond in real time — that’s simply not the nature of the communication on the lists.

So in short, using mailing lists specifically is not sacred — we can change what we use for our community discussions.  I just want an objective evaluation of the needs the mailing lists are meant to serve, and work from there.  If moving to something like (say) Discourse would be a negative on a critical piece that is well-served by the mailing lists, that would (in my opinion) a bad direction to take.  I’m not saying that is the case, just that this is how I prefer we approach the discussion.


> On Jan 23, 2017, at 3:18 PM, Ole Begemann via swift-evolution <swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
>> Obligatory prior discussion sheds, er, I mean threads:
>> https://lists.swift.org/pipermail/swift-evolution/Week-of-Mon-20151207/001537.html
>> https://lists.swift.org/pipermail/swift-evolution/Week-of-Mon-20160725/025692.html
>> / https://lists.swift.org/pipermail/swift-evolution/Week-of-Mon-20160801/thread.html#25765
> I haven't followed the previous discussions closely. As someone who mostly follows the discussions passively and only rarely posts something to the list, I have two major complaints with the current situation:
> * The disconnect between the messages in my mail client and their URLs in the list archive makes sharing or bookmarking messages a major pain in the ass. If it were possible for each message to contain its own permalink in the footer, I would be much happier. It seems this feature is available in Mailman 3 [1], but the Swift lists seem to be running on Mailman 2.x.
> * The web archive has very bad usability. I suppose design is a matter of taste, but having the archive organized by week is just wrong. This means that readers will regularly miss significant parts of threads that cross week boundaries without even noticing it.
> I don't like the mailing lists (and hadn't subscribed to any for close to a decade before Swift), but fixing the above two points would go 90% of the way for me.
> If you're counting votes, I'm also +1 for trying out Discourse.
> Another, less important complaint:
> * Readability is inconsistent because people use different formatting and email allows full control over HTML. I assume a forum that allows Markdown strikes the ideal middle ground between some control over formatting but not needlessly messing with font sizes etc.
> I can understand if the Swift team is hesitant to switch to a forum. If you have a working mailing list infrastructure everybody at the company is used to, migrating to a forum is a pretty big undertaking and potential disruption to the workflow. I'm not certain conversations will be much easier to follow in a forum.
> I found it very uncomfortable to read the mailing lists in my normal mail client because I want a totally different UI for the two tasks of reading swift-evolution vs. reading my regular mail. But this can be solved pretty easily by using a separate mail client only for the lists. I actually ended up reading the lists in Thunderbird via NNTP on news.gmane.org. Since Gmane is currently reorganizing and not adding new lists, this means I can't do this for new lists like swift-server-dev, but other than that it works well. The biggest downside is that I am limited to one device because read status isn’t synced across devices.
> [1]: https://mail.python.org/pipermail/mailman-users/2011-October/072379.html
> _______________________________________________
> swift-evolution mailing list
> swift-evolution at swift.org
> https://lists.swift.org/mailman/listinfo/swift-evolution

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.swift.org/pipermail/swift-evolution/attachments/20170125/0e91061f/attachment.html>

More information about the swift-evolution mailing list