[Haskell-cafe] The Future of Community.Haskell.Org

Gershom B gershomb at gmail.com
Mon Feb 23 22:55:06 UTC 2015

This message is intended to kick off a discussion on the state of the
Community.Haskell.Org server and possible future plans. Included below is
the text of a blog post on the infra blog (

We would especially like input and feedback from those who use or rely on
any community.haskell.org services or accounts. We don't want to leave you
in the lurch, and want to make sure that you feel your needs can be taken
care of smoothly, even as we look to wind things down.

Feedback is welcome via email (to admin at h.o) as a post on the blog, or via
the reddit discussion (

-   -   -

Community.haskell.org is a server in our ecosystem that comparatively few
know about these days. It actually was, to my knowledge, a key part of how
the whole haskell.org community infrastructure got set up way back when.
The sparse homepage still even says: "This server is run by a mysterious
group of Haskell hackers who do not wish to be known as a Cabal, and is
funded from money earned by haskell.org mentors in the Google
Summer-of-Code programme." At a certain point after this server was
created, it ceased to be run by a "mysterious group of Haskell hackers" and
instead became managed officially by the haskell.org Committee that we know
today. You can see the original announcement email in the archives

The community server, first set up in 2007
<https://mail.haskell.org/pipermail/haskell/2007-June/019592.html> played a
key role back before the current set of cloud-based services we know today
was around. It provided a shared host which could provide many of the
services a software project needs -- VCS hosting, public webspace for
documentation, issue trackers, mailing lists, and soforth.

Today, the server is somewhat of a relic of another time. People prefer to
host projects in places like github, bitbucket, or darcs hub
<http://hub.darcs.net/>. Issue trackers likewise tend to be associated with
these hosts, and there are other free, hosted issue trackers around as
well. When folks want a mailing list, they tend to reach for google groups.

Meanwhile, managing a big box full of shell account has become a much more
difficult, riskier proposition. Every shell account is a security
vulnerability waiting to happen, and there are more adversarial
"scriptkiddie" hackers than ever looking to claim new boxes to spam and
otherwise operate from.

Managing a mailman installation is likewise more difficult. There are more
spammers out there, with better methods, and unmaintained lists quickly can
turn into ghost towns filled with pages of linkspam and nothing but. The
same sad fate falls on unmaintained tracs.

As a whole, the internet is a more adversarial world for small, self-hosted
services, especially those whose domain names have some "google juice". We
think it would be good to, to the extent possible, get out of the business
of doing this sort of hosting. And indeed, very few individuals tend to
request accounts, since there are now so many nicer, better ways of getting
the benefits that community.haskell.org once was rare in providing.

So what next? Well, we want to "end of life" most of community.haskell.org,
but in as painless a way as possible. This means finding what few tracs, if
any, are still active, and helping their owners migrate. Similarly for
mailing lists. Of course we will find a way to continue to host their
archives for historical purposes.

Similarly, we will attempt to keep source repositories accessible for
historical purposes, but would very much like to encourage owners to move
to more well supported code hosting. One purpose that, until recently, was
hard to serve elsewhere was in hosting of private darcs repositories with
shared access -- such as academics might use to collaborate on a work in
project. However, that capability is now also provided on
http://hub.darcs.net. At this point, we can't think of anything in this
regard that is not better provided elsewhere -- but if you can, please let
us know.

On webspace, it may be the case that a little more leniency is in order.
For one, it is possible to provide restricted accounts that are able to
control web-accessible files but have no other rights. For another, while
many open source projects now host documentation through github pages or
similar, and there are likewise many services for personal home pages,
nonetheless it seems a nice thing to allow projects to host their resources
on a system that is not under the control of a for-profit third party that,
ultimately is responsible to its bottom line and not its users.

But all this is open for discussion! Community.haskell.org was put together
to serve the open source community of Haskell developers, and its direction
needs to be determined based on feedback regarding current needs. What do
you think? What would you like to see continued to be provided? What do you
feel is less important? Are there other good hosted services that should be
mentioned as alternatives?

And, of course, are you interested in rolling up your sleeves to help with
any of the changes discussed? This could mean simply helping out with
sorting out the mailman and trac situation, inventorying the active
elements and collaborating with their owners. Or, it could mean a more
sustained technical involvement. Whatever you have to offer, we will likely
have a use for it. As always, you can emailadmin at h.o or hop on the
#haskell-infrastructure freenode channel to get involved directly.


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