Disappointed and overwhelmed by Discourse

(Guido van Rossum) #1

I am getting more and more unhappy with Discourse. In the beginning I tried mailing list mode, but it was way too noisy. So I turned that off, but since then my experience has been that I ignore most topics, but then I also miss out on important things. E.g. I didn’t realize Carol had already posted her SC update somewhere, so I made another post, which had to be closed forcefully. Basically I am now longing back for mailing lists. It’s so easy to mute a thread in comparison to dealing with Discourse!

(Paul Moore) #2

FWIW, while traffic was low, I found Discourse fine. But as more threads started, and more messages started coming in, it became easier to miss things, and harder to keep track of, and organise, what I hadn’t read. I’m pretty certain that if we reached a point where the full traffic for something like python-dev or python-ideas was coming through Discourse, I’d be completely unable to deal with it (and that would impact all the other categories, not just the big ones).

Things I do like a lot about Discourse, though:

  • Rich text. So much better than text-only.
  • The “like” feature. It really does cut down on the level of “+1” mails, while still giving a feel for people’s views.

Things I’m ambivalent about:

  • Quoting. Easier than in email. But it’s also far easier to lose attributions and so lose the thread of a discussion. And it’s probably my email client (gmail web interface) that makes quoting hard in mail.
  • Linear conversations. I don’t use a threaded mail client, but mail still feels more tree-like than discourse. I can’t work out whether this is good or bad, I feel like it’s easier to read a tree-like structure, but easier to contribute to a linear one.

Things that are awful:

  • Keeping track of “everything” - the overall “what’s new” experience.
  • No ability to mark messages unread when I realise I need more time to think about them.

Things that possibly are benefits to others, but irrelevant to me:

  • Better moderation features
  • Ability to split off new topics when threads get fragmented.

So while it was an interesting experiment, and it has certainly focused my attention on the things that are suboptimal in mailing lists, I’m definitely hoping we decide to go back to the mailing lists.

(Brett Cannon) #3

I actually find muting on Discourse easier than email. :slight_smile: Just clicking that bubble to stop watching a thread works better than my email client – Gmail – which will mark a thread as muted but not automatically mark future emails as read when filtered straight to a label.

Other things I prefer:

  • Quoting from multiple emails simultaneously.
  • Markdown/rich text (like Paul).
  • Like feature (like Paul).
  • Moderation support (e.g. easy reporting of troublesome posts, etc.)
  • Ability to forcibly split topics (to help keep things on-topic)

I honestly don’t miss anything from the mailing lists. My setup is I just open discuss.python.org in a tab every day and go through the new and unread topics before I look at my Python-related email that I have filtered into folders. I already went through the categories and marked them as appropriate for ones I want to know about all replies, only new topics, or nothing at all (and I can look at Latest to catch the latter when I feel like it). Passed that I just proactively stop following topics like I mentioned above.

(Dmitry) #4

As an outsider hobbyist lurker, I would be quite sad if you were to ditch Discourse. Mailing lists are such an incredibly high barrier to entry for 2019 (not to mention esoteric and alien) that for me it would mean no longer following discussions about Python development. The ability to just pop into the board on mobile and catch up allowed me to learn a lot about e.g. governing a major open-source project, something I’d never have learned if the discussion was occurring on mailing lists.

So to me it feels like a question of what’s more important: the comfort of a limited number of very experienced contributors who know the ins and outs of mailing lists and have the whole thing set up perfectly already, or an undetermined number of newcomers who have no idea mailing lists even exist, much less how to set them up. I understand though that given the state of the project, the former may be much more valuable than the latter.

Also, wouldn’t some of the hurdles mentioned above be solved by configuring “Watching First Post” categories in the settings? Transitioning all discussion from the mailing lists to Discourse would help too, eliminating the current divided (and even more confusing in some way) state.

(Guido van Rossum) #5

You overestimate me. I’m a very unsophisticated user of mailing lists – I just rely on GMail’s threading behavior and its Mute command. (I don’t file them into labels and I don’t use filters, except to hide certain annoying individuals.)

I bet the real difference is that I am already subscribed to the list, which you seem to consider an unreasonable high barrier. But what we’re trying to do here is foster a community – that bystanders like yourself can also peek at what’s going is at best a secondary benefit. Yes, we want to encourage new contributors – but what we really want is new community members, not more drive-by contributions from outsiders.

(Victor Stinner) #6

Since you mentioned a “Mute” feature (1 or 2 years ago in python-dev?), I tried multiple times to get this feature in Gmail (web UI)… but for an unknown reason, the feature isn’t available in a folder (called “label” in Gmail): only for emails living in the Inbox. Except that I’m getting way too many emails, even using a lot of folders, it’s still hard for me to handle the new threads.

On discuss.python.org, I only get a notification when a new thread (“topic”) is created: notification for the first message of a topic. I don’t need such “Mute” feature. Note: I’m only using the web UI for Discourse. I didn’t try the “email UI” (get everything by email). I only get a notification in a thread if I posted in this thread.

There are many ways to configure the “New” and “Unread” notifications: global configuration, and then per thread.

(Victor Stinner) #7

The official workaround is to bookmark a post. I never tried it yet.

(Victor Stinner) #8

Subscribing to a “mailing list” (category) is way easier in Discouse. No need to setup a password or to wait for the admin approval, etc.

Note: Mailman 3 is better, it supports a single password for all mailing lists of python.org. I asked the admin of python-dev to migrate to Mailman 3, but it’s not done yet.

(Guido van Rossum) #9

OK, like so many things, we won’t reach agreement any time soon. Different people have different workflows.

I will just stop reading Discourse completely, because it doesn’t work for my workflow.

(Paul Moore) #10

I know. Everyone tells me that. But it doesn’t work the same, and isn’t as good.

(Sam Saffron) #11

Hi There!

Sam here from Discourse.

I have a component I plan to release very shortly that does exactly this, will post a link to meta once I publish it.

I would be very sad for this to happen :frowning:

Would it help out if I added a “magic” feature that allows you to reply to topics you are no longer interested in with the word mute to make them muted. Super happy to add that and it saves you a trip to the web browser.

(Sam Saffron) #12

@guido Per this change:

Which we should deploy fairly soon here you should be able to mute topics easily by simply replying with the word “mute”. Does this help your workflow?

(Matthew Woodcraft) #13

I think mailman 3 + Hyperkitty goes a very long way towards resolving this:
have a look at https://mail.python.org/archives/ . To me it looks about equal to discourse in “approachability”.

[edit: and evidently quoting in Discourse does not work in a way which seems natural to me.]
[edit by @brettcannon: you just accidentally deleted the closing [/quote] line]

(Brett Cannon) #14

But I think we will have to come to a decision soon if people take sides and stop reading here or the mailing lists as it leads to an even more extreme bifurcation of communication.

(Barry Warsaw) #15

Although I am now blissfully just a consumer, I would really like to see tighter integration between Discourse and Mailman3/HyperKitty. I am personally managing Discourse well enough, but I can feel the scalability cracks, and I fear just not being able to keep up if python-dev were moved completely to Discourse. In all honesty, I’ve stopped following python-ideas, although I do occasionally drop in via Gmane. Gmane/NNTP access to the list archives is obviously a pretty minority use case, but it works really well for me.

My ultimate dream would be to add an IMAP and/or NNTP interface directly to MM3/HK. Then I could use my normal mail application to catch up and interact with Mailman lists in a very lightweight way, driven entirely by my own workflow. That plus a Discourse bridge would be a pretty powerful and flexible combination.

(Brett Cannon) #16

When we did an initial comparison of various communication platforms and we looked at MM3+HK my issue was there was no way for HK to keep track of what I had (not) read. So while it’s very nice for reading archives in terms of referencing something, as an active way to engage and participate in conversations it seemed to be lacking some key features.

(Dmitry) #17

But that page doesn’t seem to have python-dev and python-ideas archived, does it? I admit that it seems to be just as approachable as discourse, but in terms of general comfort it just cannot compete (imo). :slight_smile:

Off-topic: that resourse as well as BPO are blocked in Russia.

(Brett Cannon) #18

No because those lists are not on MM3 (yet; the Discourse idea came up when talk of migrating more mailing lists to MM3 began being discussed).

(Giampaolo Rodola) #19

FWIW, I disabled the ML mode 2 weeks ago and I occasionally get here and click on “latest” to see if there are interesting new posts, but I’m also hoping to go back to MLs. What I don’t like about Discourse, in no particular order:

  • The “latest” view (which I now set as the default view for the home page): there are categories such as “Packaging” and “PSF” which I’m not interested in but are still being listed. I tried to mute those categories but apparently that doesn’t seem to do the trick.

  • The fact that I have to CTRL+F twice in order to exclude the hook which gets in the way when searching for text. I always forget about that, so I do CTRL+F -> type some text -> realize I’m not typing in the browser’s search text field -> press ESC -> do CTRL+F twice.

  • The like button and the social platform implications which come with it. I find it as an incentive to agree with somebody without providing feedback. It “costs less” than a +1 which is given more rarely but has more value, and it’s more explicit in signaling that you’re liking the objective argument, not the person. It sorts of overlaps with the vote/poll functionality but it’s not really it.

  • The lack of a “star” functionality which I use massively in Gmail in order to mark the threads I’m interested in.

  • The lack of an “expand” button to show the full conversation when dealing with long threads (you have to keep scrolling all the way up/down multiple times).

In general, I see Discourse as a more friendly platform for occasional participants. I know I would probably like to deal with it if, say, I want to temporarily chime in in another community. But when using a communication platform on a regular basis I find MLs just more practical. They are more minimal and aim at doing less by default, yet I’m able to customize the workflow by using the tools I’m already familiar with (Gmail labels and filters are great), and that’s why I like them.

(Sam Saffron) #20

This should definitely work, I am going to need an example, it would be super helpful if you can let me know.

This is bookmark…

  • You can use j to pick a post or even a topic in the topic list
  • Hit b to bookmark
  • Head to your bookmarks with g b