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Why are mailing lists still utilized?

Discussion in 'E-mail Discussions' started by sparek-3, May 4, 2014.

  1. sparek-3

    sparek-3 Well-Known Member

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    I'm curious. Why haven't legitimate mailing lists, mailman discussion lists, moved to a forum setup or a blogging format?

    Am I the only one that sees discussion mailing lists as a relic of the 1990s? Shouldn't we be moving past this? Do people still seriously have to depend on an email arriving in their inbox to get the latest? They can't take 10 seconds out of their day and visit a forum based website for the same discussion?

    I really am curious as to what purpose a discussion mailing list has in 2014.
     
  2. vanessa

    vanessa Well-Known Member
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    For one, some people still prefer the concept of receiving notifications on topics they want to hear about, rather than having to go check a forum for updates. For example, if you run an organization and need to announce something immediate, you're not going to rely on your members to regularly go to a website and look for a blog or forum post - you're going to want to send them an email directly, and even perhaps encourage discussion.

    Some reading for you:

    communication - Why do programmers still use mailing lists? - Programmers Stack Exchange
    Mailing List or Forum? A theory... | Seattle Drupal and Web Development by Freelock Computing
     
  3. sparek-3

    sparek-3 Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps. But you're speaking more of an announcement list - where one person (or one group of persons) are allowed to send a message to the list. A discussion list is where anyone on the list can send and discuss on the list.

    (This post got broken off from the DMARC discussion also in this forum, which I think applies to this).

    You've got people complaining about all the spam they receive. Then when a company like Yahoo or AOL makes changes to stop a lot of spam, then all of sudden you've got everybody crying because it breaks their mailing list.

    People cannot have it all.

    If you want less spam, you're going to have to start consider retiring some of these older communication methods. Like discussion lists.

    If someone is that interested in a topic, why wouldn't they go to a forum that discusses that topic? If they're not that interested in a topic...
     
  4. vanessa

    vanessa Well-Known Member
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    I believe my reference to "encouraging discussion" implied that I was in fact referring to a discussion list. As I'm sure you're aware, software like Mailman can be utilized either way.

    Valid point, however, typically those that describe to mailing lists do so because they want to be involved. Naturally, this method of communication does get spammy, so unsubscribing or using filters is typically how I think most people deal with this.


    If you look at the really successful lists like NANOG and Full Disclosure, the use of a discussion list is an established part of the culture.

    Forums and mailing lists both have their applicable use cases, and yes, mailing lists are old school. I wouldn't say that the concept should go away though.


    I guess what I'm wondering is, what you're trying to accomplish through your question in the OP. Is this thread intended to prevoke debate on the topic, or are you having trouble making a decision on the proper method to hold a discussion? I realize my last statement sounds condescending - it's not intended that way, I'm just trying to figure out how I can help and/or better answer your question.
     
  5. sparek-3

    sparek-3 Well-Known Member

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    The question was originally asked in the DMARC thread (http://forums.cpanel.net/f43/yahoos-new-dmarc-policy-causing-mailman-bounces-402751.html). I'm not sure why it was moved out, although I suppose I can see where it is a bit of a different topic.

    The point I was trying to make, is that everyone seems to be all riled up because Yahoo/AOL/other mail providers changed something that broke mailman mailing lists. Mailman has released a "fix" for this, and cPanel is wanting to implement this "fix", I just question whether or not if that "fix" should even be applied.

    If you look at this question from that thread, I think it makes a little bit more sense.

    I suppose to really answer your question, I am intending to provoke healthy debate on the topic. I stress healthy debate. I guess I just don't understand why someone that wants to provide a medium for discussion of topics, chooses a mailing list instead of a forum (or a facebook group, or some other medium). If the answer is simply because they don't want to, or it's too much effort, I guess I just question how invested they are in providing that discussion medium.

    At some point, all mediums have be retired or investigated as to their worthiness. Frontpage Extensions for Apache is one. That technology has gone away, what do you tell the people that were using it? Dialup Internet, hasn't gone away completely, but when someone on dialup complains about your website loading slow, what do you tell them?

    I prefer forums over mailing discussion lists any day of the week, so there's no question that my views are biased.
     
  6. sneader

    sneader Well-Known Member

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    When someone posts a question to one of our mailing lists, I get an email nearly instantly with that question, and I can hit reply and give them their answer, again, nearly instantly.

    Compare this to a forum. They post a message. Then original poster has to keep coming back to the forum, every hour or so, waiting to see if someone has responded. Eventually, hopefully someone will stroll by and see that posting, and they will compose an answer. Then, hopefully, the original poster will see that someone responded to the forum message and they'll finally get their answer. Not very efficient UNLESS this forum happens to use email notifications of postings... then I see this as no different than a mailing list (same amount of emails and I thought email was old school). Or maybe you are using RSS notifications?

    Many forums are public, and often there are groups that would prefer that their discussions are not as open.

    Many forums are searchable, but sometimes the discussions on mailing lists contain information that really does not need to be searchable, and actually causes confusion if found via search engines, because the information is dated and contains information no longer appropriate.

    Lastly, several of the lists I am on have a large "older" audience. They understand how to send and receive emails, and it is easy for them to participate in discussions via email. Forums may be more difficult for them, especially with the various logins and passwords needed.

    In short, there is no right or wrong answer. I am glad that forums are so great for you, and I encourage you to keep using them. There are many of us that still use email lists for some situations, and forums for other situations, because there is no perfect tool for every need. In my opinion, Mailman is a great tool for many groups to have lively, effective discussions.

    - Scott
     
  7. cPanelMichael

    cPanelMichael Forums Analyst
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  8. SageBrian

    SageBrian Well-Known Member

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    Awesome topic. And I agree with wondering why the clinging to the past.
    Tradition? Well, there used to be a tradition of tending to your horse carriage, and shoveling coal.

    Efficient? Maybe, for those that stick to only email. ICQ is super efficient also. And, uh, AIM

    Not searchable? Private? Uh, umm, this is done many ways with many tools. And private is not really private, ever, unless you are dealing with encryption.

    Notifications? Modern techniques (forums, twitter, groups) usually have some sort of notification setting, and you may be able to tweak it to every message, only replies, daily summary, etc. And Google seems to be melding texting/messaging/email, into one Hangout.

    I think, in the end, it comes down to preference, perhaps reverence to the past, and for some just plain old "ain't gonna change". And they are not going to change until it flat-out completely breaks to the point of no repair.

    Slightly off-topic: I always find it funny that vBulletin (and other forums) still have fields for AIM and ICQ, and maybe even Yahoo.
    I'm waiting for POP3 to tossed to the side also, eventually, based on how mobile everything is now.
     
  9. sneader

    sneader Well-Known Member

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    I guess in all of that, you didn't give me any compelling reasons to change to a forum instead of a mailing list. What is actually wrong with a list? What problem are you fixing?

    I agree with you on POP3. Some of the newer Microsoft clients (Live Mail?) don't even have a POP3 option anymore. As a web hosting provider, my main concern is customers never deleting mail and filling their mailboxes. We already have many customers with multi-gigabyte mailboxes. It will definitely shift our business model, if this trend continues. We may also have to change the way we do backups (currently every site has multiple revisions available, both off-site and on-site).

    - Scott
     
  10. SageBrian

    SageBrian Well-Known Member

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    I don't have any real compelling reasons not to use a list. Especially if you are already familiar with it, and it is not giving any delivery problems.
    For new people though, I would say to look at the newer options for communication. It doesn't negate the old ways, but the new ways may offer more options.
    Oh... wait. Reason for forum vs mailing list. What if the people on the list don't want emails as they are on email overload? Having an option for them for a forum is a plus. Not a mailing list forum which can be a pain to follow for some, but a modern, user configurable forum or community.

    Using Google+ as an example (not as an answer), we have the option to get notified of messages in various ways... and can reply in various ways. email/IM notify/web stream (not quite RSS since it is on G+), or any combo of the above.

    Whatever works for all on the list, great.
     
  11. SageBrian

    SageBrian Well-Known Member

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    Yup. The ever growing mailbox, and the assumption that storing 1000's of messages and gigabytes of data should be part of hosting like it was 20 years ago.
    I don't even setup new clients with pop/imap. Instead of have them use Google Apps. One went with Outlook.com. Others may go with hosted Exchange or their own internal server.

    Like those holding onto 'mailing lists' from the 90's, some of these clients cling to IMAP and POP because it's what they are familiar with, but they want all of it to work with their multiple mobile devices of the last 5 years seamlessly.

    Everyone I have switched over from their hosted POP/IMAP mail to Google Apps have been happy. I get much less support calls, and usually those calls are "is google out?"
    Sure, it costs more (though some wisely took my advice years ago when you could still get Google Apps for 'free'), but you are getting so much more than email. You are getting syncing across multiple devices, not just for email but contacts and calendar.

    It's all about the right tools for the job, not what we are most comfortable with.
     
  12. ThinIce

    ThinIce Well-Known Member

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    I think it really does have more to do with personal preference, usage history and the way you personally perceive these things than anything else. For me, the important mailing lists I'm subscribed to get special folders / labels, I see their news immediately as long as I have connectivity. It's like a firehose at a teacup out there with information and things that reach those folders get my attention.

    As an example I love forums, but they seem to be a somewhat abandoned middle ground these days. For example I like these cPanel foums, but you have to wade through a fair amount of crud to see the gems, as such they're much better for something you dip in and out of in my view.

    Things like the centos security announce lists, or hostingseclist etc are absolutely invaluable at least to me as a crude form of push notification. Maybe google alerts or some such could do it better, but I just don't trust that as much. Subscribing to security alerts issue with rss or mail alerts in a forum would be exactly the same, i.e. reliant on email to actually alert me that I need to move from the sofa to the desk and take an action :)

    The benefit of the mailing lists to me is that there are probably tens of thousands of people who would scream as loudly as I would if a provider or group of providers suddenly broke deliverability, I can see however that you could argue that this rather prejudices the status quo...
     
    sneader likes this.
  13. sparek-3

    sparek-3 Well-Known Member

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    I suppose I'll waive the white flag on this. Apparently there are more people that still use mailing lists than I realized.

    I suppose my overall point was that just because you can fix something, I'm not sure if that is always the best solution. Frontpage extensions is a good example of this. Microsoft used to support these, then they stopped, then cPanel or somebody else (I don't know who) picked them up and kept providing them for Apache for long time users. Instead of forcing those Frontpage extension users to choose another way to put up their website, they were coddled and extended with Frontpage extension support for years and years and years. Now they don't understand why Frontpage extensions are going away.

    The DMARC situation as it pertains to mailman mailing lists, maybe instead of fixing it, maybe it's a better opportunity to encourage users to look for alternative communication methods. As for being able to get message instantly versus a forum where you have to "look" for it, what about facebook? How many people are glued to facebook these days? Or twitter? Or Google+? If someone is really that interested in "antique tapping shoes", I bet they'll seek out posts and content pertaining to that subject.

    One of the issues I have with mailing lists, a lot of times I get replies to messages before I get the original message. This is all due to email delays throughout various email providers. That annoys me.

    But, apparently people still use mailing lists, so I'll let this go. I just think it would be a good idea for people to think any time a new issue comes up. Is fixing that issue the best solution? Or is exploring alternatives to that issue a better solution?
     
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