Is it time to kill the mailing list?


I get emails from the mailing list sometimes, and every time I do, I wonder why it still exists. There are questions about how to use Rust, or applications of Rust, and there are questions about design. These fit into the subreddit and the discourse forum, respectively.

Mailing lists are pretty outdated, and we have the means to remove it and replace it with the other channels, so lets.

This discussion was had when the discourse forum started, but it should be decided and closed.


I don’t think you will have a lot of luck convincing users at large to sign up for reddit. It’s still first and foremost a platform that prides itself on its support of things like harassment campaigns, bigotry and sharing of stolen intimate photographs.

Most people will want to stay way clear of reddit, even if there is the occasional moderated technical discussion forum nestled within the site. It shouldn’t be the central discussion forum that we herd users towards or the community that we’re particularly reaching out to.

A mailing list (or having more than one) is way more accessible and a successful model for a lot of programming language communities and others. Maybe using Discourse as a mailing list service will turn out to be tolerable, but so far I’d be sad to see the mailing list go.


I’d argue that questions on how to use Rust belong to stackoverflow, not subreddit.


I like the mailing lists much more than forums like this one, and actually I’m following the Rust development much less than before, just because it’s not so convenient.

  1. The Gmane ML<->NNTP gateway is very nice.
  2. I like single application/UI for all my mailing lists and newsgroups.
  3. Discourse is better than most web forums but I still prefer a native GUI
  4. Offline reading is still nice for low signal mobile connections.

A good web forum software with NNTP backend together with a Markdown capable newsreader would be great, but someone has to develop that first. :slight_smile:

Besides that, one of the primary reasons for moving from a ML to discourse was the low signal/noise ratio (or so I believe). So a split into rust-dev and rust-user would probably be necessary.



Perhaps we should be pushing discourse to improve their email interface, then? We are part of the closed beta, right? We’re supposed to be figuring out how to make it better?

Edit: and then add a “non-dev” discuss, I guess. I believe @brson was poking at that, but I don’t know what came of it.


The mailing list and discourse forum both just go to my email inbox, so as a reader, I’m fairly ambivalent about the divisions between them.

As a question-asker: I rarely direct my basic usage questions to StackOverflow anymore (like when the lifetime checking in Rust gets finer-grained and I have errors I’m confused about). Out of curiosity, what’s the response time like? How much of the community is on SO instead of, say, the IRC channels? I’ve been going to IRC for basic help as a default, and everybody’s usually pretty fast and helpful there, and simple questions can transition into longer discussions (things that might be considered too off-topic for SO) more smoothly. As a bonus: no account sign-up required!


@mfeckie Posted some recommendations about how to integrate both audiences into this single discourse instance (which I haven’t followed up on yet):


On Wed, 2014-10-08 at 18:10 +0000, bfops wrote:


@mfeckie Thanks for your suggestions on how to set up discourse to accommodate both audiences. If I understand correctly, the thrust of your suggestion was to have users with more trust able to post to internals threads, but others only see them.

Although what I had in mind was that there would be multiple areas of the site, where casual users are funneled to one place, and developers just have to know where to go, and no restrictions on who can post, after mulling it over I’m coming around to the idea that to participate in internals discussions you need to earn karma (or be invited) first. Although forcefully excluding people feels kind of antisocial to me, the barrier doesn’t have to be particularly high, and the gamification of earning karma could be motivating for newcomers. (This strategy also seems to be the norm for modern forums, and is obviously what discourse prefers).

I have two concerns off-hand though:

  • One of my worries about intermixing internals discussions with user discussion in a single interface is that it exposes users to lots of random bikeshedding that may or may not have any material impact on what actually ends up happening, and its easy to get the wrong impression of the direction of the project. I still might feel more comfortable if people had to opt-in to seeing those conversations at all. Is there any way to do that? Does anybody else have opinions on this?

  • It might be nice to be able to tie trust levels to project commits rather than, or in addition to forum participation, since that seems to be a more relevant metric for us. Though as long as its clear that people can ask for an invite if they need to, those that participate on GitHub but not here still have a way in.

I think I’m inclined to set up the trust levels for internals discussions per @mfeckie and open the forum to user discussion as well, shut down the ml. Curious about other opinions still.

cc @dherman @nikomatsakis @pnkfelix @nrc @aturon @huon @pcwalton @aturon


[quote=“sinistersnare, post:1, topic:611”] I don’t think you will have a lot of luck convincing users at large to sign up for reddit. It’s still first and foremost a platform that prides itself on its support of things like harassment campaigns, bigotry and sharing of stolen intimate photographs.

Most people will want to stay way clear of reddit, even if there is the occasional moderated technical discussion forum nestled within the site. It shouldn’t be the central discussion forum that we herd users towards or the community that we’re particularly reaching out to.[/quote] While I respect that you want to avoid reddit, I doubt this applies to “most people” or even very many, as there are many high traffic programming subreddits and I have rarely heard that sentiment expressed anywhere on the internet. (I don’t want to drag a discussion of reddit into this, so I won’t go into more detail than that.)

I’m the same, although I don’t like the big avatar display and ‘how to respond’ boilerplate surrounding each message. Less nitpicky, there seems to be a fairly long delay between sending a response email and seeing it on the site; it would be nice if whoever hosts the Discourse forum could look into that. (Edit: To quantify, I recently had a 15 minute delay between sending a reply and getting it back from the forum. With the two messages I originally tried to send in lieu of this post, it was 2 and 5 minutes, respectively, before “Email issue – No Content”. Either way, most mailing lists will process messages in seconds.)

I would feel put off if, as a non-contributor, I had to get explicit permission to post the very occasional messages to internals discussions I currently do. I guess those messages may not be particularly valuable.

(…and I just had to post this manually on the site after Discourse informed me that inline replies were not supported. Ouch… this is quite annoying and would be good to fix.)


To be clear, Reddit does not pride itself on allowing harassment, Reddit prides itself on allowing free speech. If that speech is against the law, then it will be removed. The admins have continuously said that they are against bigotry, however it is an unfathomably difficult task to try and moderate the whole of Reddit with a staff of 60, with most of them being non-moderator-like jobs. This is off-topic to this conversation though.

You are correct, many threads belong on SO, however some threads on rust-dev are not questions on how to use Rust, but on Rust’s usefulness. These threads belong on the subreddit.

+1 on getting a better email interface to discourse, this will make ML people happy while reducing the surface area of ‘where to ask questions’


That post was originally intended to be about the limitations of the email frontend of Discourse but I suppose this way it also makes its point.


The Reddit issue was one of the main reasons that I was pushing to have a better place to discuss getting started with Rust. I think it’s very easy to say that Reddit supports freedom of speech etc., but the harassment, bigotry and other hideous things make it seem a less friendly place.

I agree that the Rust section appears friendly and well curated, but I still think it’s a hard sell for many.


With the focus of StackOverflow being specific, well formed, technical questions, it becomes a less useful option for new people.

I feel (as a newbie) that Rust is in such rapid and exciting development, there are lots of vague questions that need to be asked. Users are actively punished and humiliated for doing so on StackOverflow.


I’ve found the IRC to be pretty fast and the people on there super helpful, but the lack of persistence is challenging.

As someone new to Rust, I would prefer to be able to see a long running discussion on lifetimes, for example, rather than bother someone every time I can’t get something to work.

Being able to open up this forum to more users (in a controlled way) seems like a great way forward, particularly with support for syntax highlighting, linking to GitHub issues, StackOverflow posts etc.

It would be nice to see the Discourse instance opened up to a wider audience, but with controls on who can, for example, post in the internals section. This would allow people keep the internals discussions from becoming noisy, but allow a more friendly entry to the language for new people. As an aside, the Ember forum is a great example of this transition, lots of help for new people with good signal to noise ratio.


When you say “kill”, what do you mean?

There’s no replacement which isn’t more proprietary, more work to set up an account. And things like Reddit are a non-starter: Rust shouldn’t rely on that for organizing our community.


Reddit is open source

Discourse is open source

Unless I am missing your definition of proprietary, these platforms are just as open as a mailing list, which you have to sign up for just as you have to sign up for Reddit or Discourse.

Also dismissing Reddit with no reason is terrible. Signing up for Reddit is actually easier than the mailing list. If you are going to talk about the community, The community that everyone hates on Reddit is the default community, which I completely agree with. The mailing list can be completely supplemented with the Reddit and Discourse forum.


It means stop using, deprecate, deactivate. It was discussed when we first got this discourse forum, and I would like to finish the discussion.


Very interesting. Can you link some example communities maintaining their own Reddit servers?


There are some problems with Reddit, e.g. the moderation tools are not particularly powerful (e.g. us moderators cannot edit post titles). Discourse is better in this respect, IME (although nothing has happened here that has needed moderator attention yet).

(Both are better than mailing lists.)

I’m slightly concerned about getting overwhelmed in emails from vibrant newbie threads; I believe categories can be muted, but it seems this is a global mute, not just muting emails, which is subpar (i.e. reading the description implies to me that muting a category will disable all notifications, via email and via the website, even if someone explicitly @-mentions you).

This may not be a problem in practice.

Less Wrong uses a modified Reddit codebase.