[Mailman-Announce] Time Stand Still

Barry Warsaw barry at list.org
Thu Nov 23 11:38:00 EST 2017

Somewhen in the dark recesses of intarweb history, I found myself as the project leader for both Jython (née JPython) and GNU Mailman.  I'd been involved with Jython since it was invented by Jim Hugunin around the time he came to work with us at Pythonlabs.  I'd been contributing to Mailman since we inherited John Viega's Python-based Dave Matthews Band list server, and put it to use replacing python.org's Majordomo installation.

I'd enjoyed both projects, but knew I could not lead both, so I had to make a choice.  I chose to turn over Jython to a team that's done a much better job over the years than I ever could have.  Something about email, and especially the communication and collaboration patterns that it facilitates, really fascinated me.  I know, I know, but we all have our lapses of sanity.  Mine has lasted almost 20 years, a bit more than "momentary" perhaps.

I've rarely gotten paid to work on Mailman, but it did provide me some great opportunities.  Most notably it led to my 10 year stint at Canonical.  I was originally hired on there to integrate mailing lists with Launchpad, and Mailman was the obvious choice.  I learned a ton doing that project, and working within the constraints of integrating the two Python-based systems, especially since Launchpad was originally not free software and Mailman was GPL'd.  Later, the Zope-based Launchpad source code was released under the AGPL, making much of the monkeypatching unnecessary, but by then the system was solid and reliable, and you don't fix what's not broken.

Except, I guess I did.  I took a lot of the lessons from that work, along with a good hard look at all the problems with Mailman 2, and began to break another cardinal rule of software development: second system syndrome.  The result is Mailman 3.  It took forever, and we're still not at complete feature parity with Mailman 2, but at least it's Real Enough to be used at many Real Sites, including python.org and lists.fedoraprojects.org.

It would be ridiculous for me to take significant credit for this.  I have to acknowledge the amazing user community -- you! -- for all the support, patches, suggestions, feedback, patience, criticism, donations, and contributions that you've given to the project, and to me personally over the years.  And my deepest gratitude goes to all the core developers that have stayed or come and gone, but most especially the current Cabal: Abhilash Raj, Aurelien Bompard, Florian Fuchs, Mark Sapiro, Stephen J. Turnbull, Terri Oda. You should know that each and every one of them is truly awesome, both in what they contribute technically, and in their amazing friendships.  Mailman is infinitely better because of their involvement, and I've loved spending time with them over the years at the Pycon sprints, making releases and sharing teas and meals.

My blog is called We Fear Change, and that's humorously taken from a 90's bit in Mike Myer's excellent Wayne's World movie (a phrase actually uttered by the brilliant Dana Carvey as Garth).  The irony of course is that while we all may fear change, it's the one constant thing we can count on.  And in fact, we *require* change to thrive, because if you aren't changing, you aren't alive. Time, and being engaged with life's vagaries, means there's no alternative to change; it must be embraced.

And so, with a vague reference to the many (good!) changes in my personal and professional life, I'm announcing that I'm stepping down from the project leadership role of GNU Mailman, effective... nowish!  And it's with unanimous agreement among the GNU Mailman Steering Committee (a.k.a. the Mailman Cabal), that we are announcing Abhilash Raj as the new project leader.

If you don't recognize Abhilash's name, you probably aren't paying attention, at least to Mailman 3.  Abhilash came to us in 2013 as a Google Summer of Code student, and he's become one of the project's most valuable contributors.  His list of accomplishments is long, and it includes everything from redesigning the website, to integrating CI with our GitLab build system, porting our code to the SQLAlchemy ORM, adding MySQL support, revving up adoption through his Docker images, along with his great coding work on Core, Postorius, HyperKitty, and mailmanclient.

This transition is good for the project too.  Email, its defining protocols and standards, and its role in our daily lives, has changed profoundly since the early days of Mailman.  A fresh perspective and enthusiasm will help keep Mailman relevant to the changing ways we -- especially the FLOSS and tech communities -- communicate.

Please join me in supporting Abhilash in every way possible as he takes over in this new role as project leader.  I'll be here when and if needed, even as I create space in my "spare" time for... Something Else.  I look forward to the vision that Abhilash will bring to the project, and I know that he will do a great job.  To me, Mailman has always been about collaboration, and the best
way for it to succeed is for you to continue to contribute your insights, experiences, opinions, and skills with positive intention.



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