[SDL] IMPORTANT: Migrating away from mailing list

Mason Wheeler masonwheeler at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 28 07:46:24 PDT 2017


When this came up a while ago, I mentioned that I had previous experience with Discourse and it was a huge mess, and it sure looked like you and Sam acknowledged it and said thanks for the warning.
Since it looks like that warning wasn't heard, please let me reiterate: I don't deny that there are serious, severe problems with the current mailing list, but if you forge ahead with Discourse as the solution, you will just be trading one set of serious problems for another.  When another community I'm part of switched to Discourse, we found this out the hard way.
It has huge architecture and scalability problems that you won't notice early on, but will bite you in the butt once you get going.
XSS/XSRF vulnerabilities galore.  (You say the current forum has security issues?  Discourse is no better!)

The front-end is so sloppy that attempting to run it on a mobile phone will literally cause your phone to heat up in your hand as if you were playing a high-end game.
The team is *exceptionally* unprofessional and actively hostile to bug reports, to the point where Jeff Atwood personally made a point of banning anybody from our community who reported bugs in Discourse, simply because we were finding too many and making him and his software look bad.
Speaking of Jeff Atwood, even though he was not a member of our community, he took it upon himself to use a developer's backdoor to set up a special administrator account on our community and go through policing things, arbitrarily moving posts from one category to another because he felt it fit better there, to the point where "Jeffing" became a verb among us meaning "moderator action to move a post to another thread/category".  I can't help but think this behavior would be completely unacceptable for the SDL forum.

I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: if you switch over to Discourse, we will all end up regretting it.  I agree that we need a better forum software, but please, please, find something less toxic!
Mason

      From: Ryan C. Gordon <icculus at icculus.org>
 To: SDL Development List <sdl at lists.libsdl.org> 
 Sent: Monday, March 27, 2017 9:52 PM
 Subject: [SDL] IMPORTANT: Migrating away from mailing list
   

tl;dr: We're going to try to move the mailing list and web forums to a 
new piece of software. Please go to https://discourse.libsdl.org/ and 
claim your account. You can still use it as a mailing list or a web 
forum. This list will (probably) be going away soon.


So this is an experiment with Discourse (https://discourse.org/), to see 
if we can solve our mailing list and forum woes:

Problems we currently have:
- The forum software is wildly out of date, and couldn't be upgraded 
without losing the email bridge. Upgrading the software breaks a 
fundamental feature we rely on, not upgrading it is a massive security 
risk. We tried--and failed--to move the web server to PHP7; the forums 
needed massive work to just run at all. Serious problems, like not being 
able to register an account or post a reply, were failing silently, so 
we could never be sure if we ever really had fixed it up completely. For 
now we have dropped the web server back to PHP5, but being trapped on 
old versions of basic software to support old versions of custom 
software is doubly bad.
- The spammers on the forums were brutal; they couldn't actually post 
because we had to approve the accounts, but they'd just flood our SMTP 
server with backscatter trying to make thousands of accounts, all day long.
- We have to manually approve forum accounts in the first place.  :/
- The mailing list was unreliable, and would lose mail, lose the 
archives, etc. This was largely a problem with the list provider and not 
mailing lists in general, but migrating somewhere more reliable was 
non-trivial, so changing direction entirely was a reasonable option if 
we had to do that.
- The glue that bridges between the mailing list and the forums was not 
great in general.


As I see it, these are the primary benefits of Discourse for us:
- It runs on our server.
- Is well-maintained and constantly improving open source, concerned 
with what modern Internet communication looks like (silly things like 
Emoji and Gravatar, really important things like Unicode and REST APIs 
and downloadable archives of your posts, etc).
- Is one central place where all communications happen.
- If you like the mailing list, you can use it exclusively through email.
- If you like the web forums, you can use it exclusively through a web 
browser.
- If you want to use it through the web interface and occasionally shoot 
off a quick reply by email, you can do that too.
- The web interface looks modern and responsive, with all that AJAX-y 
goodness. It runs well and looks good on mobile devices, too.
- It has all our email archives imported! After a lot of manual cleanup 
and one-off perl scripts, all the existing mailing list content, all the 
way back to _1998_ has been turned into Discourse topics with threading 
intact. More than 20,000 topics, more than 100,000 posts!
- It has all the old forum posts imported too, thanks to a lot of manual 
cleanup and one-off perl (and PHP!) scripts.
- It has all the users (more than 2000!) imported. We took efforts to 
try to merge people that posted from different email addresses over the 
years into one account, using the latest email address we saw, and deal 
with people that used both the forums and mailing list interchangeably 
over the years.
- An actual search function that works.
- Lots of bells and whistles and control over everything...not just as 
an administrator, but as a user, so you get the experience just how you 
like it.


So we're going to give it a little time and see if we can turn off the 
existing list and forums. So that we don't end up with two separate 
communities, we're going to make this decision pretty quickly. As such, 
if you have problems (including a generic "I hate this"), please speak 
up loudly as soon as possible.

To get started: Go to https://discourse.libsdl.org/

If you sign up for an account and it thinks your email is already in 
use, we probably generated a user for you when the list archives were 
imported. Just tell it your forgot your password and it'll email you a 
reset link so you can take control of the account. In this case, we 
assigned you a best-guess username, but you can change it yourself once 
you log in.

If you exclusively used the web forums, we have an account for you but 
not your email: hit me up and I can hand the account over to you, or you 
can just make a new one, if you like.

If you want to use Discourse as a mailing list and never see the website 
again, you can; there is an option to turn on "Mailing List Mode" in 
your user prefs. New topics can be started by writing to 
sdl at discourse.libsdl.org, or you reply to the address on whatever email 
you want to reply to, and it ends up in the right place.

If you have trouble, we can fix things (including getting you a username 
from a legacy account, assigning ownership of old posts to a new 
account, etc). Just let me know!

--ryan.
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