Switch from Gnu Mailman to Discourse - What we'd lose

We are considering the switch from Gnu Mailman to Discourse. I have been doing some reading and I came across this interesting discussion. I would appreciate know this community’s thoughts on these concerns. One of the links (the 2019 Gnome discussion) particularly caught my attention. However, I must also say that I’m not as concerned about the specific points raised as I am about the general topic of “what we would lose when making this switch.” So I’m interested in hearing any replies on the general topic, not just those confined to the discussions I linked.

Finally, I want to say that it is very obvious that we would gain a lot in the switch to Discourse. I’m very excited about it. I just want to understand ahead of time what we will lose because that’s far from obvious to me, given the ongoing improvements to Discourse. I need to be able to set expectations ahead of any switch, and I don’t want people to be surprised because they can’t do what they are used to doing in Mailman. If that’s the case, I will tell them in advance and we can discuss work-arounds.

We currently use Mailman ver 3. It has a web interface and web-based archive. Most people continue to interact with just the email, but the new web archive in ver 3 is pretty nice.

Discourse - Meta

What we’d lose (user experience)

  • First-class email support: Discourse supports reply by email and starting new threads by email, but at least in early 2016 that support was not great and in 2019 people faced issues.
    • Email forwarding is not handled nicely, making transferring an ongoing conversation from mailing lists to Discourse cumbersome.
    • It’s not clear how to subscribe to specific boards (similar to individual “mailing lists” or “groups”) without subscribing to the entire site. The results of watching a topic can be surprising.
    • The rendering of emailed text on the web version can be surprising.
    • It’s not clear how to establish a two-way bridge where the mailing list would continue receiving messages from people who post on Discourse and relay messages there. (Compare the Telegram-IRC bridges which leave nobody behind.)
  • Right to fork / data portability (own data is portable, but there is no easy way currently to export the whole site).
  • Integration in people’s routine workflows, often email based (which implies chances for people to reappear and contribute to a discussion even long time after they’ve stopped being hyperactive in a discussion venue).
  • Access via newsgroups (although possible if really wanted)
    • hashar: we have used gmane.org for a while. It is a mailing list archiving system with a nntp / newsgroup bridge. Unfortunately the service seems abandoned nowaday.
3 Likes

I’m still seeking feedback. Hope my title didn’t offend people here. It’s quoted from one of the links I included. I believe we will gain more than we will lose, but I want to understand exactly what we would lose in making this switch so we can set expectations properly. Thank you.

1 Like