[swift-evolution] [Discussion] mailing list alternative

Karl Wagner razielim at gmail.com
Wed Jan 25 17:49:53 CST 2017

> 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?

- We have 5 lists, requiring 5 subscriptions (swift-corelibs-dev, swift-dev, swift-users, swift-evo, and one about server APIs).

- Once you subscribe you get new content, but not old content. If somebody bumps a thread from before you subscribed, you get no context. When you first subscribe to a list, you land bang in the middle of whatever’s going on and reading the prior discussion requires a switch to the (awful, I’m sorry to say) web UI.

- Sometimes people refer to discussions on a list you don’t subscribe to. Again, I won’t have that content in my mail client and will have to use the web UI. It’s not an insignificant hurdle for convenience.

- Email addresses are public. Maybe that was acceptable in the 80s, or internally within a company, but for individuals it means creating a burner email account so you don’t get spammed or hounded by corporate recruiters. Isn’t Apple supposed to be big on privacy?

- Formatting can be inconsistent between mail clients. I sometimes browse the lists on my commute, then I come across a post formatted in a way my client doesn’t like and it parasitically infects everybody who replies to that comment. A rich HTML rendered version can be more consistent.

All of which makes mailing lists a rather fussy and contributor-unfriendly solution.

And yes, mailing lists are not really a modern solution to these kinds of discussions. Lots of people will have never signed up for a mailing list before in their life, not understand how to use one, forget to “reply all”, or accidentally reply to one of the “announce” addresses and get one of those “you are not authorised to post to this list” messages which makes it seems like you’ve been banned or something.

The ideal solution, IMO, would be a discussion service integrated in to GitHub itself. It seems to be a popular request (https://github.com/dear-github/dear-github/issues/44), but there’s nothing on the GitHub roadmap about that. Other projects in similar situations seem to go with Discourse, so if it's consistent with our requirements I’d support using that.

- Karl

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