[Haskell-cafe] Edit Hackage
la at iki.fi
Fri Oct 29 21:22:17 EDT 2010
On Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 01:55:12PM -0700, Don Stewart wrote:
> The number of subscribers to the Haskell Reddit, for example, is double
> the -cafe@, and there are comparable numbers of questions being asked on
> the Stack Overflow [haskell] tag, as here -- so anyone who only reads
> -cafe@ is already missing a lot of stuff.
> A lot of the community has already voted on the efficacy of mailing
> lists for large communities, by moving their discussion elsewhere.
Do you mean that people have actually unsubscribed from the list in
favor of only following web-based media? New people who only join the
web forums do not "vote" since they may not even know about the
I know that this is a hopeless battle, but since I feel very strongly
about this, I'll indulge in defending the mailing list even though
this is rather off-topic.
The reasons why I prefer mailing lists (and newsgroups, rest in piece)
over web-based discussion forums:
* Usability: mail and news clients provide a consistent interface to
all the discussions, and the customizability and diversity of
clients ensures that everyone can access the discussions the way
they like it. In contrast, web forums come with their built-in
interfaces, and if you don't like them, you are SOL.
* Scalability: related to the above, since mail and news provide a
consistent interface to all the discussions, adding new lists and
groups to be followed requires minimal effort since they just show
up as new items whose updates get tracked automatically. In the
worst case, adding a new web forum to be followed requires visiting
the site frequently to check whether new messages have arrived. RSS
and similar syndication technologies help, thankfully, but support
for them is inconsistent, and often incomplete (they might not
notify about new comments, only new topics). I subscribe to tens of
mailing lists without problems. I wouldn't want to try to follow
tens of web forums regularly.
* Archivability: with mail and news, it is trivial for me to get local
copies of the discussions (and the messages I myself have written)
which I can peruse and search to my heart's content later without
being dependent on the continued functioning of some external
service. Although it is possible to save web pages locally, this
usually very inconvenient, especially if one wants the local copies
to be kept up to date with ongoing discussions.
* Offline support: related to the above, with mail and news fetching
and sending messages are separate from reading and writing
them. Hence one can read and write messages even when one is for
some reason not online. Web forums practically require an online
connection when one wants to read the discussions.
* Neutrality: newsgroups are completely distributed and not controlled
by any single entity. Mailing lists are a centralized service, but a
purely technical one. The haskell.org mailing lists (like the rest
of haskell.org) are directly maintained by the community. In
contrast, external web forums like reddit and stackoverflow are
owned by companies, and visits to the sites bring ad revenue to the
companies. Moreover, the contents of these sites are subject to
deletion (or perhaps even editing) by the whims of their owners.
In short, the old technologies of mail and news are technically vastly
superior to web forums, which have required additional technologies
(e.g. RSS) to attempt to overcome the obstacles that mail and news
It is true that web forums are nowadays very popular and have some
nice features that the older technologies don't. The main reason for
this, I suspect, is money: mail and news are from the older, more
innocent age when internet technology was driven by the desire to
communicate efficiently instead of making money. They are by their
nature so neutral that they provide no financial incentive to develop
them or support them. The web, on the other hand, provides many
opportunites to profit by offering services, so it is no wonder that
web technologies have flourished in the commercialized internet.
Perhaps this is inevitable, and it is certainly ok for the haskell.org
front page to provide links to reddit and stackoverflow just to inform
visitors that these sites might be of interest.
But by saying "I encourage people to use the online forums: Haskell
Reddit and Stack Overflow" you are effectively saying: "please let
Condé Nast Digital and Stack Overflow Internet Services, Inc
capitalize on your interest in and knowledge of Haskell". I most
strongly object to this becoming the standard policy of the Haskell
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