It's interesting -- unlike forums, people really enjoy mailing lists. I don't think I've ever met anyone, ever, who said they liked forums. But mailing lists seem to inspire people.
I want to see a long term hybrid model where you can interact nearly completely via email, or a good, modern web UI that YOUR org owns (not google groups or yahoo groups). This should be supported.
It works out quite nicely for us.
I love how snappy they are.
it solves all these problems decently well. i hate mailing lists, because they're not that efficient to use, and that includes the google ui to stuff (and gmail for that matter).
Sadly, I think that culture and clients are likely to sabotage this. Usenet worked pretty well when it was a handful of marquee tech firms and edus using tin or gnus. Similarly, email list work pretty well when everyone's using pine or mutt, understands threading, and uses postfix response format.
The worst mess I ever saw was a list that mixed entertainment industry types with techies, using a wide range of email clients, and featured a lot of people who really liked the sound of their own voices (talked, and wrote, far too much). It was all but impossible to follow discussions, threads were utterly mangled, etc., etc.
So I'm not sure Usenet can continue to work, on a wide scale (not to mention most people don't have a client installed). Though one can hope.
The software is just an intermediary that connects people having discussions and collaborating.
The first version may well be a web forum.
The second version may well be an email interface / mailing list.
The third version may well be native mobile apps.
But all versions work all of the time and people should be able to connect around their shared interest regardless of how their interface preference might divide them.
In that regard, you have the usenet dream of people picking whatever client they love, and there's little reason NNTP can't just be one of the available interfaces to the underlying swirl of discussion and collaboration.
Then again, to some extent I'm just nostalgic. What then was personalization I might now see as a rather low post text (signal) to metadata (noise) ratio...
I also absolutely love Futaba-style imageboards - it's a great blend of anonymity, simplicity, and community. It's a shame 4chan's reputation is what it is.
Granted, then it's no longer strictly an anonymous imageboard but in a lot of cases, the images don't add to the discussion anyway.
I disagree with getting rid of the images, though. They are a useful tool, and most forums feature some sort of attachments. attachments that add nothing to the discussion are a culture problem, not a technical one.
What's important is if there's an active community encouraging them to do something better. (This is different from just stopping them from doing bad things.)
One example off the top of my head: Because some of us would like to put it to productive use and discuss technical work-related stuff without a possibility to link it back to our employer?
I always found mailing lists a pain in the rear to be honest, because the content is usually surrounded by all this auto-generated administrative cruft in addition to the administrative interface of the mail reader itself.
I love what you're doing with Discourse but I wonder if there sin't some selection bias going here.
I bet if you asked people if there were forums they liked, you'd get a different set of responses.
Forums do seem to be generally less popular than they once were, though, probably because a lot of the functionality they used to provide has been folded into social media and blogs with social logins.. just plain forums on their own might seem a bit atavistic to someone who grew up in the age of facebook, youtube and whatever the new thing is i'm too old to even know about.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the news aggregation feature, but the community aspects are terrible. The benefit of forums was primarily in their segregation of a small-but-active community. Reddit works in precisely the opposite manner, so you end up with boring, repetitive, least-common-denominator tripe. Any subreddit small enough to avoid that is too small to be worth the time - it seems that small communities (by which I mean actual communities, as opposed to random conglomerations of people with vaguely similar tastes) tend to have other sites and methods of communication they frequent, such as this one.
I think that the poor scaling of forums is their greatest strength, and Reddit is an example of what happens when forums do scale.
Also, FWIW, I hate mailing lists (although recognise they often hold high value information).
Also, Reddit and HN are basically forums.
Quora is a forum, and I hate it.
Hacker News is a forum.
I see no reason to use JS for a simple forum like webpage just like I would see no reason to use HTML in mail.
One argument about what that I haven't seen so far in this discussion is that I can go to check the forum whenever I want (and not go for a couple of days if I decide to) whereas a mailing list is more like a push model where you receive the emails no matter what, even if you can't take care of them for a couple of days.
I have to say that I have very little experience with newsgroup though, so it might be a best of both world, but let's face it, it has becomming almost inexistant.
I think I'm a weirdo, though. Or a web-head.
Which mail client do you use, and have you ever used a mail client that supports an easily accessible threaded view, like mutt? Or have you ever used a Usenet news reader, like slrn?
I really don't like web forums and very much prefer mailing lists and NNTP, because it gives me a unified interface for all the different lists and newsgroups with very low UI latencies and powerful functionality for dealing efficiently with huge discussions.
That's why my hypothesis is that many people who prefer forums do so because they have never seen/used a good/powerful mail or news reader, and only ever have used mailing lists through some webmail interface - which indeed probably is a lot worse than web forums, especially if it's high volume. So, I am asking you to provide some data to check this hypothesis against ;-)
4chan is a forum, neogaf is a forum, gamedev.net is a forum. I think they all work much better as a forum than a mailing list.
I think mailing lists serve a different need/style/purpose than forums.
On the other hand, once you have one filter setup, it usually isn't that difficult to copy and modify it for a new list!? And signup is a one-time thing, after all. But two-click subscribe certainly would be nice and shouldn't really be all that difficult to do.
(Edit - sorry, forgot the second part of my answer, so here it is:)
Usenet is not dead, though quite a bit less alive than it once was ;-) - but no, you don't have to pay, there are a few free news servers, if you can live without the binary groups, for example:
(Those are read/write, you can find many more public read-only servers)
I think it entirely depends on what the purpose of communication channel is serving.
Mailing lists are transient passive participation. I can sign up to a list and never have to do another thing because I use email all the time. Occasionally a back and forth discussion might pop up, but I can easily choose to ignore it by simply glancing at the subject line.
Forums are persistent active participation. I have to specifically access the forum, possibly logging in in the process, to see what activity has happened. Many do enable some kind of email notification with a set frequency. Digest emails lose the benefit of the quick glance decision to attend or not, while all activity would be similar to the mailing list model. As forums can encourage more silo-ed conversations or short disposable responses, getting all activity is generally not ideal, however.
My philosophy is also that 90% of what you would want to do with plugins should be built in, anyways.
In the last 3 months we went from 500 Discourse forums to 1500+. (We screen out the obvious test installs with IPs for names, etc.) We're about to take the brakes off as we get to V1.0, I have been reticient to really encourage people to launch new Discourse sites while we are in beta. But it's speeding up as we get closer. Open source FTW!
We don't have a public directory of all Discourse forums -- we do internally, since everyone pings us for versioning, but I have been hesitant about exposing it until we're clear the community is OK with a public directory.
Sadly, as much of a fading giant as Yahoo are, their email presence remains huge.
I'm not a Microsoft fan, but their people were very professional in this case.
Additionally, Yahoo has a huge amount of abuse and doesn't seem to have an abuse handle either; you have to fill out some form buried deep on their site. On the other hand, I've reported abuse incidents to Hotmail before and have gotten an actual reply from a human (a rarity when submitting abuse reports; most places act on them but don't bother responding).
As I wrote above: I'd written Raymie Stata repeatedly after getting a complete runaround from Yahoo's tech support (and diving into dead ends on their website), never hearing a peep from him. Not until I emailed pretty much the entire C-level suite and senior managers with a bit of data showing the nature of the problem (postfix delivery time stats) did I get a return response, from Yahoo's "concierge" service. That finally resolved the particular issue I was dealing with, but that's one appropriate response in years of dealing with the company.
The resolution with Yahoo was essentially the one described in your Serverfault link: get explicitly whitelisted. That's not uncommon with top-tier email service providers.
I vote for SPF et al.
SPF doesn't really come into it. Mailing lists use their own sender envelope. The problem is, when a mailing list makes changes to an email which breaks the DKIM signature. But the sender uses DMARC to say that DKIM must pass.
Another fix would be for all mailing lists to be updated to not make any changes to messages which might break DKIM. E.g by adding [listname] to the subject line, or messing with other headers, or adding signatures to the body.
It can be argued that the required changes are very burdensome and not mailing-list-friendly. The mail body modifications seem to me like something mailing lists could drop taking advantage of the list-* headers instead. The harder usability issue arises from the fact that DMARC imposes a different way of setting the from header potentially breaking all those filters we've set up.
DMARC claim both issues can be solved using "Original Authentication Results" header but since it requires the receiving MTA to trust the mailing list the administrative overhead here just doesn't scale and will likely end up being pushed onto the list admins.
Also, SPF does come into it since DMARC requires "alignment" between the from domains in the envelope and the header (see again the FAQ answer above).
Q: I operate a mailing list and I want to interoperate with DMARC, what should I do?
A: DMARC introduces the concept of aligned identifiers. It means the domain in the from header must match the d= in the DKIM signature and the domain in the mail from envelope.
You have a few solutions:
- operate as a strict forwarder, where the message is not changed and the validity of the DKIM signature is preserved
- introduce an "Original Authentication Results" header to indicate you have performed the authentication and you are validating it
- take ownership of the email, by removing the DKIM signature and putting your own as well as changing the from header in the email to contain an email address within your mailing list domain.
Spoofing is a huge issue for all email customers. DMARC was started, in part, to deal with the coming problems that were foreseen here. Mailing Lists don't have to forge or spoof to work. They can adjust and everyone is better off.
Interesting point for the discussion on whether MLMs are allowed to modify the from header is in the section 3.6.2 of rfc 2822: http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2822#section-3.6.2. The intended meaning of the from field is to indicate the author of a message which is explicitly allowed to be different than the sender. Thus list-originated communication like digest messages should be sent with the from header of the list, but messages forwarded by the MLM should be sent with the from header indicating the original author. In the absence of the sender header it can be assumed to be the same as the from header. Thus, DMARC could use the sender header instead of the from header and fall back to the from header only when sender is absent. This way MLMs would have a way of avoiding the issue by supplying the sender header. Unfortunately, DMARC chose not to use the sender header citing abuse and bugs in some MUAs which don't display the sender header to the user correctly: http://www.ietf.org/mail-archive/web/dmarc/current/msg00064.....
As for the "Original Authentication Results" it doesn't solve the problem for most lists since it requires the destination domain to explicitly trust the list, see
http://tools.ietf.org/id/draft-kucherawy-original-authres-00.... Few list admins could afford getting a trust explicitly established with every domain where the members happen to have mailboxes.
Using email correctly per RFCs isn't "forging" or "spoofing".
That this doesn't work with DMARC because DMARC chose instead to break the world because it preferred to support the existing broken behavior over (rather than only as far as was consistent with also supporting) standardized, documented semantics of email headers is if not a fatal flaw in DMARC, at least something that greatly limits its utility.
*UPDATE: Clarified 'wrong' wrt the various protocols.
Its a messy state of affairs to have to workaround issues that dont match your particular models, but its often necessary to have things work at all.
Do note that mailing lists and the way they send mail predate DMARC, DKIM and SPF by far, why don't they better account for this extremely prevalent model of email usage. Why is it that mailing lists that are "broken".
I'd meant 'broken' with respect to DKIM, SPF et al (and have updated the post to reflect that).
So I don't view lists as somehow a techie habit - quite the opposite, in fact. They work for politics because the technical 'barrier to entry' is very low. You don't need to know anything more about computers than how to send and receive email in a client of your choice. Given that in most political groups you're dealing with students, pensioners and everyone in between, this is a distinct evolutionary advantage.
I have no idea how the total volume of list-mail breaks down between tech stuff and muggle concerns. But in any situation where you have to communicate between people of different generations with wildly different technical expertise, lists are an ideal lowest-common-denominator.
Until, that is, Yahoo or whoever cut their users off, and muggins here has to explain to uncomprehending people why their messages aren't appearing.
Guess it's going to be a long week for me. sigh
As well as every other mailing list in recent memory. (Including the LKML. I just checked.)
Whether it's "right" or "wrong" might be an argument that someone will find worth having, but I don't think it can be argued that this isn't common practice.
I appreciate where Yahoo's heart is, but this wasn't really well thought out on their part.
Yes, which many mailing lists do.
> In that case, it's the mailing list doing it wrong
Is it? Not having the actual originator as the "From:" seems to be "doing it wrong".
Personally, I've almost never wanted to privately reply to a mailing list posts (and I'm under the impression that doing so in most contexts is vaguely rude), but redundant CCs in reply-all chains are ugly, so I prefer munging Reply-To.
As for redundant Ccs: That is what Mail-Followup-To is there for, see also:
edit: Oh, and also, in particular, he completely ignores the fact that Reply-To munging deletes existing Reply-To headers, and thus breaks things in a way that even the best MUA cannot possibly work around - the original Reply-To isn't there anymore, so it cannot possibly offer you an option to reply to the original Reply-To or to the munged Reply-To.
Because the envelope from headers are very likely changed to the mailing list, the SPF pass doesn't help with DMARC. And since the mailing lists very likely alter the messages (to put footers), the messages probably don't pass DKIM either.
Looking at the headers of a recent message from a Yahoo user over Yahoo groups it seems like it would be the case:
dmarc=pass (p=REJECT dis=NONE) header.from=yahoo.com
The proper usage of SMTP mail headers is outlined in RFC2822 (originally RFC822), and the definition of the headers From, Sender, Resent-From, etc. The rules for specifying sender information are spelled out in 3.6.2. 
That said, system behavior also depends on if the MLM software is running behind a mail transport agent that enforces authentication protocols for incoming emails, scans for viruses, etc.
When discussion list owners are concerned about receiving forged posts, they usually use list moderation features so they can ensure emails do not get distributed that haven't been reviewed first. But the biggest problem for MLMs isn't usually dealing with impostors, but rather blocking email-borne viruses and misconfigured auto-responders that could cause bogus emails to get reflected out to subscribers.
The behavior of the outgoing From header from MLM software typically depends on the configuration of the list. Some lists (especially digests) are configured so outgoing messages are "From" the list itself. But most discussion lists are configured to retain the original From line, while clarifying their role as an email proxy through other headers.