[Haskell-cafe] Maintaining the community

Claus Reinke claus.reinke at talk21.com
Fri Jul 13 09:33:11 EDT 2007

> As we sit here riding the Haskell wave:
>    http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~dons/tmp/cafe.png
> with nearly 2000 (!) people reading haskell-cafe@, perhaps its time to
> think some more about how to build and maintain this lovely Haskell
> community we have. 

my replies to some of the issues raised in this thread:

- gmane.org is great. i still read my main mailing lists via a mail reader,
    but i read some lists i follow less thoroughly via gmane's news 
    interface, and people often refer to gmane's web interface if they
    want to refer to whole threads rather than individual messages.
    no need to change the haskell.org setup - you can already choose!

- haskell-cafe is meant to be the general forum, that shouldn't change.
    but i think there is potential to spin off one or two more specialist
    lists (not too many, or they'll dry out, and not too specific, or they
    won't attract the haskell-cafe style of membership and content; we
    also do not want to start cross-postings to keep the synergies of
    a multitopic forum). 

    the most obvious one being 'haskell-performance' for shootout 
    entries, 'how do i improve this?', 'what is wrong here?', and 'why
    isn't haskell slow?' style of questions, profiling, space&time leaks, 
    compiler benchmarks, optimizations, transformations, 
    representations, libs, tools, papers, etc. 

    another possible candidate, judging from mails and blog postings, 
    might be 'haskell-math', for numeric and algebra libs, apps, tools,
    classes, theory, and math-related algorithms and data structures, 
    and general discussions.

- with higher volume, the style of messages sometimes reminds me 
    more of newsgroup postings than of a mailinglist. but there are
    several hard-earned lessons from newsgroup experience:

    - don't try to police threads, unless you're willing to go to a
        fully moderated forum (which is exactly what -cafe isn't).
        it tends to be ineffective, and often counterproductive wrt
        to the general feel of the forum and the number of messages

    - you cannot manage volume by adding messages. there are
        only two things you can do with a thread you don't like:
        do not add to it, and ignore it

    - there are lots of faq, and it sometimes feels as if a question
        has just been answered when a newcomer asks it again!-)

        but unless you have a faq you can point to that comes
        very close to providing the answer, there is nothing you
        can do about that. the wiki is evolving, and i hope that
        the search engine fixes that have ben applied to robots.txt
        will ultimately make its contents easier to find. but if you
        want to avoid answering questions again and again on the
        list, you need to improve the cache of answers.

        personally, i tend to be more willing to answer questions
        on the list than to fiddle with wiki markup and conventions,
        but there is no reason why people who are happier with
        wiki editing cannot extract content from list answers to the
        wiki, especially if its a faq answer rather than a research
        result. memoization, organization and generation of answers
        do not all have to be done by the same set of persons.

        once there is a useful collection of faq answers, it should
        be made easier to find: the default signature of -cafe mails
        should be augmented to include pointers to:


        doing so should soon lead to useful results when googling
        for 'haskell faq', as well. note how one of these is rather 
        less exhaustive than one would expect, given the number 
        of faqs.. faq should include pointers to the list of mailing
        lists, the lists and repos of libraries, the language spec,
        list of tutorials, papers, tools, and implementations, and 
        to the guide about homework questions, among the 
        obvious technical answers.
        there is also the registration message, which could point
        to a wiki page dedicated to mailinglist newcomers and 
        their most likely information needs. which should be
        crosslinked with the faq answers.

well, enough additional traffic for now..:-)


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