[Mailman3-dev] Flexible data storage

Kevin McCann kmccann at bellanet.org
Mon Mar 15 13:26:19 EST 2004

I am going down to the sprint this weekend with one main mission:  to 
see if I can influence the design and development such that Mailman 3 
will support SQL database data storage - as a choice - for the 3 main 
data sources:

- list config
- member information
- message archives

At this point I don't really care if it's MySQL or Postgres. The choice 
would not hurt, though.

I am confident that MM3 will have all of the necessary features to 
support flexible, multi-purpose mailing lists. I don't think Barry would 
have it any other way. MM2 is already there in many ways, but there is 
room for improvement, and I look forward to seeing what MM3 will bring.

But after lists have been created, after members are added, and after 
mail is delivered, I want access to that information on *my own terms*. 
Don't get me wrong - MM2 has a fine admin interface. And Pipermail ... 
well ... it's better than nothing. For the majority of sites, this is 
fine. But many organizations want to access MLM data in ways that MLM 
interface developers may not have thought of or have not seen the need 
for. The same need/problem exists with Lyris. It's got a ton of 
features, it delivers the mail, but dag-nab-it, the interface just 
doesn't do what I need it to do. And this is why I have developed 
various home-grown interfaces to Lyris over the last several years.

For me, the one-stop-shopping view is nice:

1) user logs in
2) user sees on left side menu a list of lists he/she belongs to
3) user clicks on a list name
4) archives for that list appear in display area beside the menu
5) user clicks on message subject and sees message
6) profile information for the person that sent the list is displayed 
below the message
7) links to attachments will be available
8) user clicks on another list name in the menu, does same for that list
9) if the list is set to show subcriber list, there will be a link to 
the subscriber list
10) if the user is an admin of the list, there will be an admin menu 
below the lists of lists menu
11) there'll be a stats and trends section where users can see the most 
popular or most recently created lists
12) and on and on ...

But there are *so many* ways to access and manipulate MLM data to suit 
the needs of any given organization. And there are many other 
community-building sofware solutions that could pull in this data. For 
example, there are tons of PHP applications - PHP-Nuke, Postnuke, 
Xaraya, eGroupware, ezPublish, etc. - that could pull in a list's 
archives and/or membership info and offer it in addition to news, 
calendar, documents, web links, books, and other things that help build 
a community of practice.

While a really cool interface might be developed as part of MM3, I urge 
everyone to give due consideration to the aspect of data storage simply 
because different people and different organizations have different 
needs. And why SQL as a choice? Well, for one thing, it's easy. It's 
hugely popular. And there is demand. You know, if I had a dollar for 
every list or forum message that I have read, in which the author is 
desperate for a way to get his Mailman list to talk to his PHP app, or 
get the data into his MySQL database ... well, I'd be a wealthy guy. 
Just check out the Mailman user list archives or check out the list 
archives of all the aforementioned CMS's if you have any doubts.

I understand where all these people are coming from because I am trying 
to crack that very same nut. I hope that MM3 will be the ultimate 
solution in the open source MLM landscape. It can be - by allowing for 
SQL-based data storage - at least as a choice - for all of the major 
data sources.

- Kevin


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