Starting a topic via email


#1

I tried to start a new topic via email - how to do that doesn’t seem to be documented anywhere, I had to read between the lines of a thread where someone was complaining about how awful Discourse is (and they seem to have a point…) and so I sent a mail to scalausersdiscourse+question@gmail.com, only to receive the following reply:

We’re sorry, but your email message to [“scalausersdiscourse+question@gmail.com”] (titled Executing an action after everything in a list of futures has completed) didn’t work.

Your account does not have the required trust level to post new topics to this email address. If you believe this is an error, contact a staff member.

I’ve been on this list well before when it was ruined^W moved to Discourse and now I can’t post to it any more?

WTF???


#2

I have to agree, this is so much more cumbersome than a simple mailing list and traffic seems much lower since it moved as well. Is anybody going to review this decision at some point or are we stuck with it?

Kind regards
Brian


#3

I’ve been using Scala for 1.5 years but only just found this group. My guess is I found it because of the web site and the reason I never found it before is because it was a mailing list.

The web interface seems pretty sweet to me.


#4

I strongly prefer Discourse over mailing lists as well, just because of how much easier it is to navigate than your typical mailing list archive.


#5

I must say I also prefer this over a simple mailing list. And based on the past month I would conclude there is more activity here than there was on the old mailing list.


#6

None of which actually answers my question.

Discourse is supposed to provide a mailing list interface that is equivalent to traditional lists, not being able to start new threads via email clearly means it isn’t.


#7

As your question was

WTF???

I assumed it was simply rhetorical.

My guess as to why you couldn’t start a topic through email is that there’s probably some parameter that can be tweaked for preventing relatively new users from starting topics through email, as some sort of basic protection against spam bots. If you believe that’s an error you should probably contact a staff member…
Anyway I don’t see why it’s so important to start a new thread via email. Starting a new thread is a very conscious decision requiring an action on your part. That action might as well be visiting this website; it’s probably easier than figuring out which email address to send to. And you can still do all other interactions through email and use your inbox as an aggregated push/pull notification queue.


#8

WTF???

I assumed it was simply rhetorical.

If it was then I wouldn’t have bothered asking it.

My guess as to why you couldn’t start a topic through email is that
there’s probably some parameter that can be tweaked for preventing
relatively new users from starting topics through email, as some sort
of basic protection against spam bots.

As I said I’m not a relatively new user, I was on the old mailing list
for ages. And if there is such a parameter to tweak then it needs to be
tweaked for everyone who was subscribed to the old list.

If you believe that’s an error you should probably contact a staff
member…

You mean by sending a message to the site feedback forum, perhaps?

Anyway I don’t see why it’s so important to start a new thread via
email. Starting a new thread is a very conscious decision requiring
an action on your part. That action might as well be visiting this
website; it’s probably easier than figuring out which email address
to send to. And you can still do all other interactions through email
and use your inbox as an aggregated push/pull notification queue.

That’s a ridiculous justification. Between work and external I’m on over
100 mailing lists. Expecting me to visit a website every time I wanted
to start a new thread is clearly unworkable, and pressing “send” in my
MUA is just as much a “very conscious decision” as pressing “post” on a
web page is.


#9

It is better to think of mailing lists as deprecated, with these forums as the replacements. If you happen to be able to get some use out of the email compatibility layer, so to speak, great! But don’t expect it.

The biggest advantage of forums is long-term discoverability. Even if email didn’t work at all, there’s a good argument that this would be worth the switch. If it doesn’t work well for you–it doesn’t for me–one can simply disengage. Obviously if you have over 100 mailing lists, the amount of time you spend on each is pretty close to zero, so making it actually zero is probably also fine. If it isn’t fine, then the extra effort to figure out the web interface shouldn’t be a major barrier. It’s not like your web browser has any trouble bookmarking 100s of sites.


#10

It is better to think of mailing lists as deprecated, with these
forums as the replacements. If you happen to be able to get some use
out of the email compatibility layer, so to speak, great! But don’t
expect it.

Clearly that’s the case as it’s pretty awful to use via email.

The biggest advantage of forums is long-term discoverability. Even
if email didn’t work at all, there’s a good argument that this would
be worth the switch.

That’s simply not true. Almost all mailing lists have online archives
and are therefore perfectly discoverable.

If it doesn’t work well for you–it doesn’t for me–one can simply
disengage.

It doesn’t. This is the second mailing list that I’ve been on that has
had Discourse inflicted on it. If you look back at the history of
Discourse it’s based on the prejudices of the original authors - that
email lists are bad and their idea of what forum software should look
like is so much better. As a result the mailing list functionality in
Discourse is very poor, and is unlikely to get better.

They are perfectly welcome to have that opinion but forcing their
prejudices on everyone else is not OK. If Discourse worked well with
email, I wouldn’t care what the web UI looked like as I wouldn’t have to
use it. However that’s not the case and you are forced to use the web UI.

Obviously if you have over 100 mailing lists, the amount of time you
spend on each is pretty close to zero, so making it actually zero is
probably also fine.

I’m pretty adept at doing so having done it for decades. It isn’t
perfect but it is a single, consistent interface. Multiple websites
running multiple forum packages are not.

If it isn’t fine, then the extra effort to figure out the web
interface shouldn’t be a major barrier. It’s not like your web
browser has any trouble bookmarking 100s of sites.

And how do you suggest I manage that number of bookmarks in practice? By
visiting each one multiple times a day? That’s ridiculous.

From reading previous threads it seems pretty clear that feedback such
as mine is not going to be addressed, so as soon as this conversation is
done I’ll take your advice and unsubscribe.


#11

And Discourse doesn’t even render emails properly, this is the second one I’ve had to go in and edit via the web UI to get the quoting right.


#12

Almost all mailing lists have online archives and are therefore perfectly discoverable.

I routinely had to search not in Google but in my email to find things in the Google Groups archive; in practice this supposed discoverability is not so great.

And how do you suggest I manage that number of bookmarks in practice? By visiting each one multiple times a day?

Of course not. You let the site email you when there’s something to look at–that works fine, even with Discourse. You don’t have to reply via email; you can Visit Topic. You only use the bookmark when you know you want to post something or want to browse the site. Given all the subtopic names, it’s easier to do it that way anyway rather than trying to remember what exactly the sub-forum name is so you can encode it in your email somewhere.

If you really don’t like bookmarks, just use any random email as a jumping-on point to get to Discourse and navigate from there.

as soon as this conversation is done I’ll take your advice and unsubscribe.

My advice isn’t to unsubscribe–doesn’t hurt anything to let Discourse spit stuff out at you, does it? Especially if you’ll occasionally ask questions.

Unsubscribing is different than disengaging. I don’t generally answer questions on Discourse because the little bit of extra activation energy to make it over to the web site and/or do battle with the email formatting demons is just enough to prevent me from typing out a quick answer. But if I had a question I’d still ask and listen to answers, and then clicking through to the forum’s worth it when I want to reply.


#13

as soon as this conversation is done I’ll take your advice and
unsubscribe.

My advice isn’t to unsubscribe–doesn’t hurt anything to let
Discourse spit stuff out at you, does it? Especially if you’ll
occasionally ask questions.

The time when I actually need to be subscribed - to ask a question - is
the time when Discourse works worst. And if I’m forced to use a web UI
there are other sites (e.g. SO) that work better and come up far more
often in search results than Discourse does - I can’t think of an
occasion when a search has pointed me at the Discourse forums.

Personally the cost/benefit ratio is not favourable enough for me to
remain subscribed.

Unsubscribing is different than disengaging. I don’t generally
answer questions on Discourse because the little bit of extra
activation energy to make it over to the web site and/or do battle
with the email formatting demons is just enough to prevent me from
typing out a quick answer. But if I had a question I’d still ask and
listen to answers, and then clicking through to the forum’s worth it
when I want to reply.

I think that’s called damning with faint praise…


#14

Hi, so, in summary, it’s been recommended here to subscribe and reply to discussions via email, and to just click through to the website to post a new topic. This seems perfectly reasonable to me. Starting a new topic means that you have a certain level of commitment. It’s not such an undue burden to jump over to the site especially from the links you already have in previous discussions in your email archive.

I want to address two of your other assertions:

  • Mailing list archives are searchable: they’re really not, unless the mailing list sets up a search function or uses Google Groups (or, in fact, Discourse). You don’t automatically get searchable list archives.
  • Stack Overflow is a reasonable place to ask questions: it’s really not. I personally and a lot of people on Stack Overflow try to actively curate it towards the most appropriate questions for the site, which fit into a certain pattern (what is the specific problem? what have you tried? what do you need to do?). Newcomers and people with general questions regularly get burned by that. In contrast, a forum like this encourages newbie and general questions and doesn’t make people feel stupid for asking.

#15

Hello,

For the record, I find it super-annoying that I have to go to Discourse
every time I want to open a new thread, and I have done it quite a few
times.

There also is not the slightest doubt in my mind that countless newbies
who would have subscribed and posted to a regular mailing list are being
deterred by having to sign in to this (to them) unknown thing called
Discourse.

This means there is a huge outreach potential that the Scala community
has decided to waste.

Almost all mailing lists that I have ever encountered, from the old
Mailman to Google Groups, have searchable archives. In addition, tech user
lists usually have public archives and posts eventually pop up when some
one searches the web. It is another huge outreach potential. I don’t know
whether that is true for Discourse or not.

As an experiment, let’s try whether this post can eventually be found on
Google by searching for this term: superscalafragilistic.

 Best, Oliver

#16
  • Mailing list archives are searchable: they’re really not, unless
    the mailing list sets up a search function

I have no idea where you get that idea from.

a forum like this encourages newbie and general questions and doesn’t
make people feel stupid for asking.

That’s certainly not my experience in this thread where my concerns have
pretty much been dismissed out of hand. I’m not particularly surprised,
but claiming that forum software somehow changes the behaviour of people
relative to that seen on mailing lists is risible.


#17

I don’t think that’s a reasonable experiment. That word is in the popular culture, and almost no one will be searching for or linking to it in a Scala context. But look at a Google search for this very topic using some keywords from the title, which is usually how people search: https://www.google.ca/search?q=starting+topic+email+scala&oq=starting+topic+email+scala

Not convinced? Keywords from a recent topic on this forum: https://www.google.ca/search?q=scala+webcam (the topic is about halfway through the first result page).


#18

Well, I wonder how you would search this list: http://lists.inf.ed.ac.uk/mailman/listinfo/polyml

People have engaged with you on this topic, and I think provided a fairly reasonable alternative workflow, with one point where you will need to adjust. On Stack Overflow, a ‘wrong’ question will just be put into a queue of ‘irrelevant’ or ‘duplicate’ or ‘not specific enough’ and then closed off. Not sure how you can equate the two.


#19

I have no idea where you get that idea from.

The problem isn’t so much finding a specific email, as finding the one that answers that email, and making sense of a thread as a whole.

Let’s take an example: I’m wondering what happened to Arch’s linux-grsec package, so I go to their mailing list archive. For some reason, I’m asked to choose what month I care about. I have no idea, but okay, it happened relatively recently so I go through the months until I find something that seems relevant. Eventually I find https://lists.archlinux.org/pipermail/arch-general/2017-May/043648.html under May. But the content is only vaguely relevant to the subject, this looks like a reply! I try to find the start of the thread, but Piper doesn’t even show a “previous” link, and the “[ thread ]” button shows it as the first in the thread. The only way to find the actual start of the thread is apparently to go back to the month listing, continue the search, and find the actual beginning.

Stuff like this is why I personally can’t be bothered with old-style mailing lists, nor interacting with the projects that rely on them.


#20

What about the countless newbies who are put off by the idea of a crufty old email list (so 1990s!)?

I really can’t tell which is a larger segment of the population, but AFAICT the trend is away from email lists towards other things. It would be even better to have something that worked well both ways; that Discourse can’t manage to do email as well as 30 year old Unix software is pretty embarrassing. But we still should not discount the advantages of a forum (and it’s not like forums are a new thing either!).