[python-committers] python-committers is dead, long live discuss.python.org

Łukasz Langa lukasz at langa.pl
Fri Sep 28 17:45:54 EDT 2018

Hello committers,
since this got pretty long, here's the tl;dr:

- we're at the point where it is hard to make mailing lists work for us;
- we're switching to Discourse; it's better in many ways;
- go to https://discuss.python.org/ <https://discuss.python.org/> and create your account there;
- please do not post to python-committers for the remainder of the year to give Discourse a real shot.

And now the long version.

What's the issue?
During the core sprint in Redmond we discussed how we discuss. The overwhelming feel is that we have reached the limits of what is possible with mailing lists. We identified e-mail as a contributor to some of the problems we're dealing with now. To fix more and whine less, I talked with everybody in Redmond about a possible replacement for the trusty mailing list. We identified one: Discourse.

What is it?
Discourse is forum software started in 2013 by Jeff Atwood, Robin Ward, and Sam Saffron. It's used by many large scale open source projects and companies, including Github Atom, Twitter Developers, Rust, Kotlin, Elixir, Docker, Codeacademy, Patreon, EVE Online, and Imgur. It's open source (Ruby, GPL2), it supports plugins and has an API.

Why is it better than e-mail?
It's both a Web app and a terrific mobile application. It supports regular flat conversational threads and collapsible replies. There is community moderation where users can flag inappropriate messages to notify moderators, moderators and authors can lock topics, move discussions between categories, archive things that are no longer applicable, and so on.

You can edit posts, quote posts, link between posts, add rich media, code snippets with syntax highlighting, there's Markdown support. You can still use it via e-mail similarly to how GitHub notifications work. See: https://meta.discourse.org/t/set-up-reply-via-email-support/14003 <https://meta.discourse.org/t/set-up-reply-via-email-support/14003>

There is a user trust system where proven community members get more power in time, for example to fix typos and move topics to a better category.

There's much more: dynamic notifications, topic summaries, emojis, spam blocking, single sing-on, two-factor authentication, social login support, and so on. Read: https://meta.discourse.org/t/discourse-vs-email-mailing-lists/54298 <https://meta.discourse.org/t/discourse-vs-email-mailing-lists/54298>.

What about Zulip?
Zulip is chat software which some of us find useful but its UI is proving to be challenging for many of us, the mobile application leaves a lot to be desired, and it did not end up moving discussions out of the mailing lists. I see Zulip as replacement for IRC whereas Discourse is replacement for mailing lists (or both; we'll see!).

Where do I sign up?
Create an account at https://discuss.python.org/ <https://discuss.python.org/>. You'll recognize the set up as essentially mirroring the main mailing lists:
- Committers
- Users
- Ideas
There's also Discourse-specific sections:
- Discourse Feedback (post here if things don't work like you'd like)
- Discourse Staff (hidden category for moderators and admins of the instance, boring discussion)
- Inquisition (hidden category for users with trust level 3+)

As you can see, I combined python-committers and python-dev into just "Committers". If we find in the future that this is too limiting, we can always open up another category. For now though I'd like to avoid the fate of python-dev where there's 20k+ subscribers and we don't know who is who.

We'd like to heavily test this new forum. As such, I would like to ask you to NOT USE python-committers for the remainder of the year and direct all conversation to Discourse.

The goal to replace the mailing lists with Discourse met unanimous support at the core sprint. As long as we don't identify any deal breakers in October, I will send an e-mail like this to python-dev on November 1st, and to python-list and python-ideas on December 1st. If everything goes smoothly, those four mailing lists will be archived by end of this year. Other mailing lists are welcome to port over to Discourse too.

Pablo and Ernest worked on setting up this instance for us (thank you both! 🖤). The question whether Discourse or the Python Software Foundation are going to pay for this infrastructure is still open but, as Elon Musk likes to say, funding is secured. Yury and I are helping in configuring the instance.

Future work
We'll be enabling GitHub and social logins soon, ideally with adding identified committers to the committers group by default. We are looking into this right now. In the mean time, please request membership, an existing member will add you. We'd like to migrate old discussion off of the mailing lists to our Discourse instance so that search is immediately useful. We'll look into that after the governance crisis is resolved.

- Ł
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