The single mailing list dream

The ASF uses a (way too) large number of mailing lists for all its internal and project communications.

Having crosscutting discussions is quite hard – for example, many projects use OSGi these days, and the only way for them to share their OSGi experience would be to create yet another list, or to subscribe to all of each other’s lists, which means a lot more traffic to manage.

One of my current technical dreams is to have a single list for all of the ASF, using tags to define the audience and visibility of messages – a la Twitter hashtags.

A message about the maven-scr-plugin on the Sling list, for example, would be tagged

#sling #osgi #maven-scr-plugin #scr #public

so that people subscribing to the #osgi and #scr tags, for example, would see it.

Another obvious use case is to easily ignore all discussions about a given topic (like #budget maybe? ;-), in a reliable way and without losing other communications within the same group.

I’m not sure how to implement this today (particularly the access control part for things like the #asf-private tag), but that would in my opinion be a huge improvement on what we have now.

Update: it’s now 2017 and I heard from a colleague that his company the OpenStack dev list is using this model for group communications. That’s using mailing lists, but the model would apply to any shared channel that supports threaded discussions with searchable thread titles. I’m so happy to hear that this actually works! And too bad I haven’t been able to use it myself so far.

3 Responses to The single mailing list dream

  1. Jon says:

    This would be very easy to accomplish with SubEthaMail and some plugins. Just subscribe subetha to all the lists you want and you get a platform for playing with this idea.

  2. bdelacretaz says:

    @Jon, thanks! I’ll have a look as soon as I find some time…

  3. michid says:

    I don’t like mailing lists at all.

    It is difficult to track/watch/ignore topics and threads from different lists. Most mailing list user interfaces are awkward to use. Mailing list archives create duplicate search hits when googling. Finally mailing lists tend to fragment the community.

    Somehow usenet – which does not suffer from any of these points – grew out of fashion.

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