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From Christopher <ctubb...@apache.org>
Subject Re: Mailinglists - a tool from the 90s?
Date Sun, 18 Jan 2015 16:27:44 GMT
On Sun, Jan 18, 2015 at 7:34 AM, Benedikt Ritter <britter@apache.org> wrote:
[snip]

> Now I'm curious: Does anybody here really like the use of mailing lists? Or
> do we all simply go through the struggle of setting up filters etc. just
> because this is the way it has always been?
>
>
I absolutely loathe mailing lists:

1. They *feel* like spam (Google often incorrectly identifies ASF mailing
list activity as spam).
2. They are difficult to parse (visually) and triage/categorize (subject
line conventions help to some degree).
3. They are often full of pages and pages of text, which could be more
easily conveyed by a more succinct means, with the best option to provide a
link to an external resource (which creates a slight burden on the
composer).
4. Long conversations often get forked, and are difficult to follow (esp.
in tools like GMail which doesn't thread conversations natively). Even when
not forked, they can be difficult to determine whom one is responding to
when replies are interspersed.
5. Outages and late-subscribers can get messages at different times, and
dealing with backlog is not so easy.
6. The archives are profoundly difficult to navigate and reference (though,
that's specific to ASF archives, not necessarily generally true).
7. Filters are useful, but have limited ability to address all the issues.
8. Client-side identity management is a pain, when you have multiple email
addresses for different purposes, and the mailing lists expose you to spam.
9. Replying is inefficient and ugly, with different community conventions
(top-posting, bottom-posting, inline-posting) on mailing lists.
10. Message sizes when replying is often inefficient. Most people quote the
entire previous message, including any previously quoted messages,
indenting and wrapping, sending and storing redundant bits which are
difficult to read anyway.
11. Validating authenticity is a problem. GPG is great, but most email
users use web-based email nowadays, and there is limited-to-zero browser
support for adding digital signatures to messages.
12. HTML is bulky, but there's limited other options for pretty-printing
messages (email clients don't often... or ever... support markdown or
asciidoc or similar markup).

That said, I don't think it's that they are used "just because this is the
way it has always been". There's plenty of important (and useful) reasons
why we use them. Still, I do think it's an archaic and outdated system,
which could be pleasantly replaced with an alternative. Aside from the fact
that some people still prefer the mailing lists (my opinion may be in the
minority), the problem seems to be that there is no simple replacement
system which can be substituted.

Of the mass communication forums out there, I think email and message
boards had some good bits, but the modern social network (G+, FB, etc.)
seems to have a reasonable hybrid approach to mass conversations, which
allows threaded conversations, direct linking to topics, easily linked
external resources (with preview), integration with other tools
(email/SMS-to-post/reply), easily linking to an individual to whom one is
replying, easily searched and categorized (hashtags), low burden to
subscribe/unsubscribe, better identity management, integrated blogging,
built-in individual and group chat, two-factor authentication, etc., etc.,
etc.

While email may still have its pros, I *do* think it is archaic and lacking
features which inhibit productivity. I think there are better solutions,
and it'd be great if we had the resources to think about them and
experiment with implementing them for the ASF.

--
Christopher L Tubbs II
http://gravatar.com/ctubbsii

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