[Mailman-Users] query re "message has implicit destination" (devils advocate!)

Bretton Vine bretton at hivemind.net
Thu Aug 31 04:56:05 CEST 2006

Brad Knowles said the following on 2006/08/31 03:01 AM:
> The methods of open source development pre-date Richard Stallman and his
> GNU followers.  Some of us remember those days.

And quite a few are still around to teach us who take the net etc for
granted which is a good thing.

> I think that Mailman has become the leading open-source mailing list
> management system for the small to moderate size lists, but we still
> have some issues with larger lists that preclude us from taking the
> complete title away from programs such as Listserv.

So far my experience has been wonderful with the product, good and bad with
the documentation, and rather difficult in terms of user-error, namely mine.

> That may be true, but in this case the answer is pretty simple -- it's
> safer that way.  No further explanation is required, or likely to be
> provided.

Then that's the answer I have. My job is to keep things running, and if they
break fix them fast or provide reasons/solutions. However it's hard
sometimes defending a choice in platform when some or all of the following
are insufficient:

 * because everyone's using it
 * because it's free [speech or beer]
 * I don't know! It worked yesterday

> That's perfectly fine by me.  We don't require that everyone use our
> software.  Indeed, I would say that we probably don't want everyone to
> try to use our software.  We're relatively happy with the user community
> we've got, and we know that there are a lot of ways that we think that
> this software needs improvement.

No offence intended, but this is a rather closed-off point of view. It's
completely valid yes, but leaves no room for organic growth. A view of "we
have enough users, we do this for our own reasons, we know we can improve
this and that but there's no urgency" actually shrinks a community in the end.

I'm not saying there's an obligation to use or prove your software (and
time/effort interacting with the user base) just that any project can become
bigger than the sum of its parts and developers should be aware of that.

I'll leave the philosophical analysis of that aside for now.

> That's fine, too.  If they want to go off by themselves and learn their
> lessons the hard way, then that at least gets them out of our hair.

Doesn't seem quite efficient to have people duplicating labour for no reason
other than stubbornness.

> We're not a commercial environment, and we've actually had pretty bad
> experiences with people/companies that are in commercial environments
> taking our software and making unapproved modifications to it, or
> providing the software to their customers but *not* providing adequate
> support to those customers.

Nor are we specifically a commercial list environment. The nature of our
income-generating business is such that lists have proven to be extremely
useful over the years and form the basis of in-house communication and
communication for the participating associations we manage.

However my point is that Mailman will still be used commercially. Which
creates expectations. You can't manage the expectations of others so it's a
difficult road to travel.

> No, we're not selling anything here, but we are still obligated to
> create safe defaults for the options within our software.  Failure to
> create safe defaults would be negligent behaviour, and potentially
> legally actionable.

I understand. But look at it from a point-of-view of say a prior majordomo
installation where the safe defaults are different defaults. Look at it from
the point-of-view of someone who knows the prior defaults and may be
confused by the change. Yes the new defaults are safe, but why?
(obvious answer: changing environment and needs)

> Balance the need to know against the issue of legal actionability. Trust
> me, the latter will win every time.  Especially when the answer is as
> simple as "because it's safer that way".

Aye, and balance a hierarchy of dependencies between organisations and
information dispersal (and pace thereof) and legal accountability becomes a

Change may be necessary, but not everyone wants it. In my current situation
we've discovered that the need to disperse information quickly and
accurately is more important than the possibility of a flood of spam. I sold
my employer a migration path in a particular direction and this filtered
down to clients but has had some unintended consequences along the way.

I think a fair analogy would be (as if speaking to a client):

 I'm sorry, we can't assist you as normal, we're busy upgrading our systems
 and did not anticipate this issue, please call again soon

Obviously there are situations you just can't do this in.

> For the lowest common denominator?  None.  Even the simplest possible
> web interface would be too complex for them.

Boy, that's harsh. ISOC-ZA had an open-day last year, setup some computers
and an internet link in an under-privileged area. Invited the local
community (young and old) to come see what the Internet was all about. Many
using computers for the first time. And they practically had to pull the
people away from PCs so others could get a chance too.

Didn't take long for someone presented with a browser and search engine to
get the swing of things. (And yet the irony is that there are middle-class
workers who have been using computers at work for some years who still 'just
don't get it')

>> Seriously, what's the worst that can happen 
> Entire sites being blown off the 'net, because they're not able to keep
> up with the e-mail flood?  Entire businesses going bankrupt because they
> weren't able to do their regular work because of the e-mail flood?

I've knocked out our system quite a few times (by accident or oversight) and
yes there's often hell to pay and some sleepless nights -- but we've yet to
find a user who takes the system down because they have a web-interface or
email-interface to the system so they can manage their own list.

It's like the parent who refuses to let their child near a pc in case they
break it (but secretly because they wouldn't know how to fix it if they did)
compared to the parent who gives a child an old keyboard to bang away on in
the early years. The latter somehow never seem to actually break things
beyond the point of being able to fix them. The former end up as luddites.

> You're asking me whether or not we should have all the software defaults
> set to their safest mode
> Excuse me?

See Subject: (devils advocate) ;-)

>>  # Functionality = 1
> I don't see how this is any different from what we're already doing today.
> Please elaborate.

In alternate reality one, the safe defaults are automatically decided for
the user. In alternate reality two they are suggested but the user has to
enable them. Which reality informs the user more?

| Bretton Vine | 083 633 8475 | bretton at hivemind.net |
| GPG: http://bretton.hivemind.net/bretton_vine.asc  |

Tyler: Hitting bottom is not a weekend retreat, it's not a damn seminar.
Stop trying to control everything and just let go. Let go! - Fight Club

More information about the Mailman-Users mailing list