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From Ben Hyde <bh...@pobox.com>
Subject Re: news.apache.org (was: apache.org vs. mozilla.org)
Date Sat, 05 Apr 2003 21:25:42 GMT
A note were in Ben has post Vietnam flashback...

Justin Erenkrantz wrote:
> Leo Simons <leosimons@apache.org> wrote:
>> NNTP makes more sense than SMTP for group discussions.
> No, it doesn't necessarily.

I was in a room yesterday with a lot of people who have been spending 
way too much time attempting to 'understand open source'.  I am always 
greatly amused by these gathering because you have a group of extremely 
smart people attempting to tease apart the mystery of what we do.  
That's fascinating to listen too.   But they are always attempting to 
do so with out getting the hands dirty.  At one point during the day 
they spent a good two hours discussing one thread in the Linux kernel 
mailing list.  They looked at the first four messages and then were 
given a summary of the other 175 messages.  I was the only person in 
the room that had the least clue what the topic of the thread was.

What I often say in these gathering is that Open Source is both a very 
old process, i.e. people cooperating to solve problems, and a very new 
one, i.e. manufacturing of a document intermediated by computers.  We 
are a long way from having searched the space of all possible schemes 
for doing it effectively.  That even the simplest things, like what 
affordances on the tools might help are just beginning to get some 

For example would open source projects work better if CVS was more 
enthusiastic about forking?  Would a cooperative drawing tools help?  
Is there a right size for a repository, or a community, or an 
appropriate way to manage the boundaries around these?  Nobody knows, 
but we have lots of intuitions that may or may not just be cargo cult 

I have a lot of nostalgic affection for using NNTP rather than SMTP for 
this stuff.  The first project I ever worked on that was effectively 
intermediated using computers and networks used NNTP.  1980-85 I worked 
on a very complex compiler project and we used NNTP to organize the 
narrative around the work.  For example we used individual threads for 
each bug.  We never discarded any messages.  The entire message store 
was in flat files on the file system so we could use unix tools to 
search for lost bits of info - like "did heather say something about 
stack chunks a few weeks back".  I vividly recall noticing about half 
way thru that project that we all stopped talking about the work in the 
halls, that we only talked about life in the halls.  That struck some 
of the management as very odd.

We had stumbled on the discovery that by normalizing the work so it all 
happened in one place intermediated by the machine we were more 
thoughtful, more efficient, more convivial, effective due to the 
orthogonal skills, able to tap into bits of serendipity,  able to work 
with people who could be prickly in person, etc. etc. etc.

This was also the first time I saw automated builds and testing used to 
help developers avoid embarrassment.  The first time I saw builds and 
testing triggered by commits so we could shorten the interval between 
break and fix - and hence increase the chance that the guy that broke 
it could remember what he thought he was doing.  It was also the first 
time I got the commits posted to netnews so many eyes could casually 
proof read them.

One thing that would happen in that context was that NNTP threads would 
often lie idle for months only to suddenly come back to life.  That is 
one reason it could be used for working on individual 
bugs/enhancements/ports/etc.  The threading seemed more robust then it 
it ever seems to in dev@httpd.apache.org.  I assume that was because we 
were all using the exact same client software then.

These days I have a lot of trouble seeing the difference between a good 
news setup and a good mail setup.  But both need archive, threading, 
search etc. etc.  I run all the dev@apr.apache.org email into my 
in-house news server, for example.

Of course the major user list for httpd is netnews based.

  - ben

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