[Haskell-cafe] Edit Hackage

Ivan Lazar Miljenovic ivan.miljenovic at gmail.com
Fri Oct 29 21:42:27 EDT 2010

On 30 October 2010 12:22, Lauri Alanko <la at iki.fi> wrote:
> 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
> mailing list.
> 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
> solve directly.
> 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
> community.

+1; that's pretty much my opinion/arguments as well.

Ivan Lazar Miljenovic
Ivan.Miljenovic at gmail.com

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