Re: discourse faults

Hi all,

The migration happened fairly recently for a variety of reasons. The
biggest concern was to move away from Google Groups as a proprietary
solution for hosting community discussions (amongst other concerns about
if Google was planning to pull the plug or not). The move to Discourse
was an attempt to find a middle ground between an open source solution,
a friendly user interface, and backwards compatibility with older methods.

For example, for the Open Labs Discourse, I have enabled mailing list
mode for how I use the forum. This allows me to receive all threads to
my email client just like I would with a normal mailing list. I can
reply to emails from my mail client and they will go to the thread as
expected too. I can also start new threads from email by sending an
email to forum+english@openlabs.cc (as I have done with this email). It
took me maybe five minutes to set up new filters to sort and categorize
the Discourse posts to my folder for Open Labs mail.

If you prefer to use email, I would recommend you to enable mailing list
mode and set up your filters that way, and you’ll hardly notice a
difference. I rarely log onto the Discourse site and do most of my
replying / discussion from my email client.

Just as an afterthought, I think it’s important to be cautious about how
we look at things like communication platforms and associations about
why someone does or does not use them. I think calling it an age thing
is missing the mark. With IRC, for example, it has many issues and
usability issues for people who are not on reliable, persistent Internet
connections. There’s not an effective way to ensure the delivery of
messages, and IRC is a barrier for involving more people with open
source when they can’t stay connected for longer than a few minutes if
there happens to be something like a storm or electricity flashes that
prevent them from remaining connected.

This is why I am excited about things like Matrix / Riot, which provide
a modern solution to these problems by building on top of IRC and
integrating effectively with it. I have an article coming out on
Opensource.com in the next week that introduces Matrix / Riot, and I
will be sure to share it here once it is public! :slight_smile:

However, I would like to end on the note of being cautious about how we
draw conclusions or make assumptions like this. They can have the
accidental effect of being demotivational and discouraging to people who
are actively trying to participate and get involved, but might have
factors outside of their control that make this a challenge. I would
encourage us to be supportive of this transition to an open source
solution and find ways to make this work for our existing setups, like
mailing list mode. :slight_smile:

so switching from an open method called email to non-free
software telegram is progress? I think it is also a
generational conflict, older people like myself like email and
irc. Younger people dont even want to learn to use them. Some
people are restricted in how they use the computer (blind) and
asking them to learn a new method to access the community is a
big problem for them.

It is more complicated than “young” vs “old”

The community in Tirana is slightly more isolated than
communities in bigger countries where there is more mingling
between different generations and people from different
projects.

In many communities I’ve seen initiatives like discourse flounder
when the person who set it up goes on holiday or changes job and
nobody else has time to maintain the server. Often the optimal
solution involves a few local groups running a single Mailman
server together.

FSFE also runs a mailman server and they have hosted lists for
many local groups[1] and related projects including the Free-RTC
list[2].

Regards,

Daniel

  1. https://lists.fsfe.org/mailman/listinfo 2.
    https://lists.fsfe.org/mailman/listinfo/free-rtc

Hi all,

The migration happened fairly recently for a variety of reasons.
The biggest concern was to move away from Google Groups as a
proprietary solution for hosting community discussions (amongst
other concerns about if Google was planning to pull the plug or
not). The move to Discourse was an attempt to find a middle ground
between an open source solution, a friendly user interface, and
backwards compatibility with older methods.

Moving away from Google Groups is commendable. As mentioned already,
there are well known alternatives like Mailman and SmartList that also
satisfy these objectives and there are also groups who host them
collectively, reducing the burden on people operating each list.

For example, for the Open Labs Discourse, I have enabled mailing
list mode for how I use the forum. This allows me to receive all
threads to

One other group I’ve been involved in has tried discourse and I tried
the mailing list mode there and it didn’t work the way you described.
Maybe they just didn’t set it up correctly or maybe they are on a
different version, but I had no motivation to try playing with that
again when I came across this situation with Open Labs.

Looking objectively at the problems with mailing list mode:

  • it isn’t offered to people when they join, they only discover it if
    they go looking for it

  • there is a lot more effort than joining a Mailman list (need to
    choose a username, choose a password, etc)

  • the sender address is obfuscated and the reply button chooses some
    opaque address and the messages were full of links, so it wasn’t clear
    to me if replies would go to the list

  • people are forced to communicate through the platform and can’t send
    private messages to each other or forward attachments directly to each
    other

Can any of that be resolved through configuration changes?

Just as an afterthought, I think it’s important to be cautious
about how we look at things like communication platforms and
associations about why someone does or does not use them. I think
calling it an age thing is missing the mark. With IRC, for example,
it has many issues and

Agreed - I wasn’t calling out for Open Labs to use IRC.

However, I would like to end on the note of being cautious about
how we draw conclusions or make assumptions like this. They can
have the accidental effect of being demotivational and discouraging
to people who are actively trying to participate and get involved,
but might have

It is now 4 or 5 hours since I tried posting in discourse and none of
the messages I re-posted there are even visible yet. The discourse
system gave me orders, telling me to remove links from my messages,
telling me to wait before posting, telling me not to link to one of my
own blog posts. All of that is demotivational. I’m sorry for putting
it bluntly, but you shouldn’t operate a system that gives orders to
contributors like that.

Another notification told me another member clicked the spam button
and so nobody is allowed to see any messages I write now. I’ve never
encountered an issue like that on a mailing list. It is definitely
demotivational.

While I have spoken up about these problems, other people would just
feel that Open Labs doesn’t want their contribution and they would go
and do something else. Given that a lot of effort has gone into the
recent OSCAL event and there may be other people struggling to get
involved through discourse I think it is a great time to get the
situation under control before other people are potentially turned
away by these errors.

Regards,

Daniel

When trying to start a new topic in mailing list mode, it complains

Subject: [Open Labs Forum] Email issue – Insufficient Trust Level

We’re sorry, but your email message to [“forum+english@openlabs.cc”] (titled whatever) didn’t work.

Your account does not have the required trust level to post new topics to this email address. If you believe this is an error, contact a staff member.

On 05/17/2017 02:42 PM, Daniel Pocock wrote:> One other group I’ve been
involved in has tried discourse and I tried

the mailing list mode there and it didn’t work the way you described.
Maybe they just didn’t set it up correctly or maybe they are on a
different version, but I had no motivation to try playing with that
again when I came across this situation with Open Labs.

Hmm, not sure what the issues they might have had were. I’ve used
Discourse a while back (maybe 2013 / 2014) and I don’t remember there
being a mailing list mode, so maybe some of the features have changed
since you last used it? Really not sure without knowing more about how
that community has figured it or set it up.

Looking objectively at the problems with mailing list mode:

  • it isn’t offered to people when they join, they only discover it if
    they go looking for it

I agree that this is a weak point, but I think it can be solved with
documentation. I think a pinned thread explaining how to enable mailing
list mode and use it would be effective to solve this problem. I imagine
most people will likely just use the forum interface, so it will
probably be a minority of people looking to use mailing list mode.

  • there is a lot more effort than joining a Mailman list (need to
    choose a username, choose a password, etc)

I agree that it might be more steps, but I don’t think that this is a
major ask either. Registering an account isn’t anything too uncommon,
and all you need is an email, username, and password. I would consider
this pretty standard and not invasive of user privacy.

  • the sender address is obfuscated and the reply button chooses some
    opaque address and the messages were full of links, so it wasn’t clear
    to me if replies would go to the list

Every email has a unique reply-to address that will take the reply and
attach it correctly to the thread. Is this what you meant? I’ve seen
this kind of configuration with many other software, like GitHub /
GitLab / Pagure and other bug trackers, so it shouldn’t be too confusing
for new users.

  • people are forced to communicate through the platform and can’t send
    private messages to each other or forward attachments directly to each
    other

I don’t think this is possible. I admittedly would like to be able to
more easily find email addresses of other participants, but I think this
might be a privacy consideration or might have other motivations. If I
really did need to get in contact with someone, I could log on and send
them a message from the site or just ask for their email in a private
message. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think you can reply by email to
private messages if you start one from the site.

Can any of that be resolved through configuration changes?

Just as an afterthought, I think it's important to be cautious
about how we look at things like communication platforms and
associations about why someone does or does not use them. I think
calling it an age thing is missing the mark. With IRC, for example,
it has many issues and

Agreed - I wasn’t calling out for Open Labs to use IRC.

Yeah, I wasn’t aiming at anyone specific with this, but I wanted to put
it out as a point for consideration.

Even though the Telegram group is bridged to an IRC channel on Freenode,
#openlabs-albania. :slight_smile:

It is now 4 or 5 hours since I tried posting in discourse and none of
the messages I re-posted there are even visible yet. The discourse
system gave me orders, telling me to remove links from my messages,
telling me to wait before posting, telling me not to link to one of my
own blog posts. All of that is demotivational. I’m sorry for putting
it bluntly, but you shouldn’t operate a system that gives orders to
contributors like that.

Another notification told me another member clicked the spam button
and so nobody is allowed to see any messages I write now. I’ve never
encountered an issue like that on a mailing list. It is definitely
demotivational.

While I have spoken up about these problems, other people would just
feel that Open Labs doesn’t want their contribution and they would go
and do something else. Given that a lot of effort has gone into the
recent OSCAL event and there may be other people struggling to get
involved through discourse I think it is a great time to get the
situation under control before other people are potentially turned
away by these errors.

I agree that these are problems for someone who isn’t a spam bot to
encounter. I think this might be because of some of the anti-spam
features. I think this can likely be addressed by a few configuration
changes. Hopefully @kominoshja, @elioqoshi, or some of the others can look
more closely at the settings here.

Hopefully these problems can be adjusted and fixed. :slight_smile:

When trying to start a new topic in mailing list mode, it complains

We’re sorry, but your email message to [“forum+english@openlabs.cc”]
(titled whatever) didn’t work.

Your account does not have the required trust level to post new topics
to this email address. If you believe this is an error, contact a staff
member.

@kominoshja, do you think posting by email could be a feature enabled by
default for new account registrations? I don’t think it would be risking
spam accounts abusing this feature, but if it were to become an issue,
it could always be changed or reconsidered later.

It is indeed possible to send private messages to individuals on discourse

1 Like

They are not completely private - they can be read by the Discourse administrator and anybody who finds an exploit to hack discourse. Direct email is not 100% private either, but any forum system, facebook, etc is trying to keep all messages within their platform and that isn’t always what the user would prefer.

That’s because you need to use the forum 2-3 days before using an option which could otherwise be ABUSED by spam bots

This was activated for a reason.
Drawing a parallel line: Our server’s were being attacked by Chinese hackers. They weren’t successful (as you can see). Does that mean we don’t have to enforce the firewall, just because the didn’t breach YET?

I reassure you we do NOT in ANY WAY CHECK YOUR PRIVATE MESSAGES! Remember this is a community which, among other rights, promote the right to have privacy. To be honest i find this a personal attack

Assuming that people are spam bots may not be a great way to start a relationship with new contributors. None of the other online communities I’ve joined have handled communications from new users that way.

If Discourse is a magnet for Chinese hackers and if moderators don’t have time to investigate every new post and new user then that may also be a reason to go back to a regular mailing list.

I’m sorry if you felt it was personal, that was not my intention.

Every now and then there is some free software community where some admin does something bad or where the infrastructure gets hacked. In those cases it is really important that community members can contact each other directly. I’m not suggesting that Open Labs is any more likely to experience something like this than any other community, just that it does happen from time to time.

You are right Daniel, sorry for the misconception. It’s however not that easy as in assuming people are bots. Spam attacks are widespread, Discourse or not. I have seen it quite a few times on Mailman as well in the few years I have used it. It’s not something exclusive to Discourse in any case.

I agree we should allow users of any trust level to post via email to the forum. If there is a spam problem, we will investigate it and see what the best approach would be.

Anyway, mailing list mode should be enabled by default, we will look into it to make the experience as smooth as one would expect from a mailing list.

Please remember that Open Labs has grown tremendously in the past year, with international contributors, something we were not accustomed to compared to the 4 years before. As we are exclusively all volunteers, it’s sometimes hard to commit when real life might be in the way. However, I have the feeling that there is a lot of support coming from international contributors, so it’s really refreshing to see the impact of our work. Let’s just keep in mind that sometimes there are no ill intentions, it’s just that we do all of this in our free time.

Having said this, maybe it’s a good idea to open up a donation page for people who would like to support the hackerspace so we can pay rent, utilities, server costs and similar.

P.S: Please try to refrain from double/triple posting as people receive 2/3 emails in a row if they are subscribed.

I can see that people are working hard and trying to do these things and that is one reason why collective solutions (e.g. hosting lists with other organizations in Europe) was suggested. Another organization may welcome having somebody from Open Labs volunteer in their sysadmin team and Open Labs would benefit from their anti-spam practices.

Sadly Discourse is only allowing 2 links in a post, hence the additional reply on the ham radio topic to provide the blog link.

We will look into this to get this fixed. Thanks for the headsup. [quote=“pocock, post:14, topic:350”]
I can see that people are working hard and trying to do these things and that is one reason why collective solutions (e.g. hosting lists with other organizations in Europe) was suggested. Another organization may welcome having somebody from Open Labs volunteer in their sysadmin team and Open Labs would benefit from their anti-spam practices.
[/quote]

All help is welcome.

Oops, the mailing list is off now, so the following email was not distributed.

Thomas Levine writes:

It is interesting that this conversation about the relative merits of
email and something else is happening over email.

I think both are fine. We who know email can use email, and other people
can use Discourse. Discourse is free software, as far as I can tell,
so it comes down to more preferences other than freedom and progress.
I am good at email and bad at web, so I prefer email.

Since Open Labs doesn’t want people to use the mailing list and those of
us who are discussing accounting software don’t in fact live in Tirana,
we could move the discussion to another mailing list if they prefer for
us not to discuss this on their mailing list.

Mike Dupont writes:

so switching from an open method called email to non-free software
telegram is progress?

Daniel Pocock writes:

In many communities I’ve seen initiatives like discourse flounder when
the person who set it up goes on holiday or changes job and nobody else
has time to maintain the server. Often the optimal solution involves a
few local groups running a single Mailman server together.

I have always had trouble running Mailman, and I see this as an issue
with Mailman: It is too centralized to be easy to maintain. Last year
I started on a smaller mailing list manager. It might work already, but
I didn’t test it enough to trust it never to lose information.
The present discussion reminds me to continue the testing.
https://pypi.python.org/pypi/ypotf

And now I reply to some other emails that I have now read.

Daniel Pocock writes:

It could be more productive to simply help people use existing
technologies more efficiently, for example, training people to use
procmail or another tool to filter their emails. This one skill would
help them with the emails from Open Labs and the emails from any other
community they decide to participate in such as Debian or Fedora.

Teaching people to use email is indeed a very worthwhile pursuit.

It turns out that the teaching doesn’t need to be nearly as involved as
“training”. Different people use computers in totally different ways,
so simply showing how you check your own email is invaluable.


https://thomaslevine.com/!/computing/tom-colloquium/

Many times, upon seeing how I check my email, people who are interested
in using email better have asked me for help setting up a better email
system. Already appreciating the benefits of a good email system,
they usually come up with a decent configuration for a mail user agent
(MUA, or “email client”) within a few hours and a good one within a few
days. Then they move on to setting up systems for synchronization among
computers. Through this whole process, I mostly just tell them which
software to install and point them to tutorials on how to configure the
software.

Anxhelo lushka writes:

I would like to disagree with you there, while mails might be faster, Discorse
is more up-to-date with today’s demands, it has more features (fully open
source and self-hostable) and it also has the ability of acting as a mailing
list so you get emails like you used to in Mailman or others, so I invite all
of you to use it, our community will NOT revert back to older ways of
communication and will only use Discourse from now on as its main method of
formal communication (apart from group chats, such as in Telegram). Thank you.

Like the other two things in my list of three things that people who
want to learn computers should learn, email has long had many features
that tech companies have poorly re-invented over the past 20 years.
Since you have not listed the new features that concern you, I present
my favorite examples: return receipt and disposition notification
headers. These can specify that an email should be sent back to the
sender to indicate delivery or reading of an email, which is very
similar to the Web 2.0 view count feature. No special headers are truly
necessary for any of this of course; they would mostly make the process
a bit more smooth when different MUAs are involved. To produce
something like a Web 2.0 voting button, a MUA could be implemented such
that notifications are sent upon the clicking of a special button.

I am curious about what features you prefer in Discourse. If you tell me
what you like about Discourse, I can incorporate that into presentations
on email.

Daniel Pocock writes:

Looking objectively at the problems with mailing list mode:

  • it isn’t offered to people when they join, they only discover it if
    they go looking for it

  • there is a lot more effort than joining a Mailman list (need to
    choose a username, choose a password, etc)

  • the sender address is obfuscated and the reply button chooses some
    opaque address and the messages were full of links, so it wasn’t clear
    to me if replies would go to the list

  • people are forced to communicate through the platform and can’t send
    private messages to each other or forward attachments directly to each
    other

Can any of that be resolved through configuration changes?

Much of this can be resolved through documentation, though you still
have to determine whether it is worth learning a new system. Since most
people whom I know don’t really use email, I have gotten used to dealing
with the last of your points. While I don’t write very much on Web 2.0
websites, I sometimes read stuff on them, and then I reply to them by
sending emails to their authors, including the text that they had
written so that it is easy for us to reference when the Web 2.0 service
goes down. And that is what I am doing here.

on of the things that drives me the most crazy in kosovo is that no one ever answers an email.

Mike Dupont writes:

on of the things that drives me the most crazy in kosovo is that no one
ever answers an email.

That drives me crazy everywhere. Do you know of places where people
tend to answer emails?

@kominoshja, @elioqoshi, the email I sent on 17 May at about 20:47, “Open Agriculture (OpenAg) Initiative / Building a food computer in the hackerspace”, still hasn’t appeared as a forum topic

Has Discourse completely lost the message, does it appear in moderation or is there some other problem? Can anybody check the logs to see where it went? I didn’t receive any bounce notification so this is another issue that undermines my confidence in the discourse system. Normally Mailman sends an alert to sender if their message is held for moderation or if they add an attachment bigger than the limit.

The reply on the other topic (accounting) from @tlevine was an attempt to reply to the weekly email summary. That is something that also works with Mailman lists but it hasn’t worked for @tlevine’s attempts. His first reply (at 15:17 yesterday) looks like he has manually selected who to reply to. In his second reply, at 21:22, he has tried using the address “Open Labs Forum summary info@openlabs.cc” and individual CC to several people and my email client has put it in the thread that started on the Google Group mailing list (probably because he added that message ID) and it doesn’t appear anywhere in discourse.

@tlevine, maybe discourse is trying to force you to log into the web interface and post your comments about ledger-cli into the topic there?

Hi there, Is the email interface working? I am confused.