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Discourse - A very powerful mailinglist

Preface: I know it’s horribly hard to organize the community and osrf tries to do the job, thank you!
< rant >
Until recently I simply ignored discourse because it looks like a huge soup of everything, sorted by web 3.0 standards and only used by a handful of people. I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks at it that way.

Now, as OSRF keeps pushing people towards this website by corporate policy (e.g. https://github.com/ros-planning/geometric_shapes/issues/49#issuecomment-237073891),
I tried to integrate it with my mailbox.
< /rant >
This is because I skim through my mails every morning, but do not plan to login to a website everyday just to scan through things I’m probably only marginally interested in.

This brought up two issues for me:

  • In general, how do I send a mail to a given category to start a conversation?
  • How do I subscribe to a specific category only? I changed my profile to “mailing list mode” and only category I “watch” is “MoveIt! Developers”, but still got mails for Who is using ROS on Archlinux? and New Packages for Indigo and Kinetic 2016-08-04 . I know that some colleagues face the same problem.

@tfoote here is the constructive criticism you asked me for. Well more like a “criticism” and a “constructive” part, but anyway.

Thanks in advance for pointers to solutions!

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Hi @v4hn thanks for the feedback,

Indeed discourse is a more modern front end, it is a little different than many of us are used to but that’s one of the things that is valuable about it.

In the current state on the mailing lists I often find myself finding threads on nabble rather than the main site when I search. Discourse is focused on both supporting active members via the realtime email notifications as well as being easily searchable and browseable which is highly valuable for the majority of ROS users who are not actively subscribed. From the Metrics Reports we have approximately twice as many people with wiki accounts, 5x the users on answers.ros.org, and 20x the unique IPs as subscribers to ros-users. We want to make things better for this large majority of the users. Improving browseability and ease of search significantly improves this experience.

One of the main impetus’ behind the switch was this thread To find that thread, I searched my personal inbox, found the title and then searched online for the archive so I could link to it. Without cheating and remembering exact strings from that thread it’s very hard to find the thread using google search. Discourse is designed to be easily crawled by search engines and the results are picked up quite quickly with good rank.

We’ve had many reports of people unsubscribing from ros-users due to the volume being too high. As the user community has grown the ros-users mailing list subscriber base has not grown proportionally. Typically it’s a subcategory of content which individuals are not interested in and they unsubscribe because it’s filling up their inbox too often. Whether it being job postings, development discussions etc with discourse and your personal settings now you can easily pick the topics you’re interested in subscribing to and let the rest be.

We’ve also seen a trend that our SIG’s get created populated, and then the drift off into a slow quiet decline because they are not discoverable. It requires knowing there’s a mailing list to find, finding the mailing list, browsing the individual archive. Often after the initial impetus has petered out, there are a bunch of people on the list and if a new person joins the members will respond, but rarely does the membership grow after the initial publicity due to the SIGs being hard to discover whereas now they can be a category and new people joining the community can easily discover them through the front page of the forum.

Discourse can scale and support many more users. If you browse through: https://www.discourse.org/faq/customers/ you’ll see forums with tens of thousands of users. Clearly that level of activity requires filtering and categorizing, but that’s what discourse empowers the user to do.

To answer your specific questions:

You should be able to send a message to ros+[categoryname]@discoursemail.com if you are at trust level 1 or higher. To get to trust level 1 you need to enter 5 topics, read 30 posts and spend at least 10 minutes on the site. This is primarily an anti-spam measure. From your Basic badge I see that you’ve already reached level 1 from just looking around the site.

You can find the categoryname in the url if you browse to the category. Note that subcagetories are separated by a - not a / so it’s release-kinetic where the url reads release/kinetic

From your reply on github you implied that the domain did not resolve for you. I received the notification of your post from that domain so as far as I know it’s resolving and operating just fine.

In terms of filtering, mailing list mode means that you get everything on the forum sent to you, just like a mailing list would. If you want to filter you should turn that off and then you should only get notifications on any categories you’ve setup to watch.

4 Likes

I never said there are no reasons to use such a system, but anyway thanks for the lengthy elaboration of osrf’s reasoning.
I didn’t know that short thread got so much attention, but it kind of makes sense. It actually made me laugh when someone suggested the user list got too active.
Especially as it feels like every mail that is sent by someone other than yourself gets a fast reply saying “go to answers.ros.org”, hehe.
I’m pretty sure one day of subscription to the Linux Kernel Mailing List would change their mind (and their way of handling mails). :slight_smile:

You should be able to send a message to ros+[categoryname]@discoursemail.com if you are at trust level 1 or higher.
From your reply on github you implied that the domain did not resolve for you.

I forgot to look up their MX entries(actually just one). I simply weighted it more likely that you made a typo
than that all mails sent for any discourse instance are send over a central mail server.
Still sounds somewhat fishy to me.
So I suppose it works as you described and I’ll test it eventually. Thanks!

In terms of filtering, mailing list mode means that you get everything on the forum sent to you, just like a mailing list would.

I enabled mailing list mode only recently because I didn’t get a number of replies from Migration to one GitHub repo for MoveIt! .
Although I received some other posts from the watched category…
Looking into it a bit, I suspect that discourse did not automatically send mails to me for replies to the thread because the thread got created before I added the category to the watch list (and if I remember correctly also before I created the accout).
I’m not sure this is the case, but it might actually be a bug in the system?

I turned off mailing list mode again and I expect that everything works as expected now.
If I notice any further problems, I’ll come back to this.

Thanks for your time.

1 Like

This is because we’re using their hosted service. Originally we had to setup our own mail server SPF/DKIM entries etc and we’d done it successfully. But for most of their customers that’s too much so they’ve moved to processing all the emails centrally for the hosted accounts.[quote=“v4hn, post:3, topic:389”]
I enabled mailing list mode only recently because I didn’t get a number of replies from Migration to one GitHub repo for MoveIt! .Although I received some other posts from the watched category…Looking into it a bit, I suspect that discourse did not automatically send mails to me for replies to the thread because the thread got created before I added the category to the watch list (and if I remember correctly also before I created the accout).I’m not sure this is the case, but it might actually be a bug in the system?

I turned off mailing list mode again and I expect that everything works as expected now.If I notice any further problems, I’ll come back to this.

Thanks for your time.
[/quote]

You’re welcome. We want to hear feedback and understand how things are working or not so that we can fix it. Discourse is under active development/maintenance. Well formed bug reports like this can easily be diagnosed, a fix developed, and deployed on the site within a week.

1 Like