Integrating mailing lists to Wikimedia Space

Mailman powered lists.wikimedia.org displays 422 mailing lists, and there are some more unpublished. The activity of Wikimedia lists differ from very active to basically dead. Some lists are archived, some are private…

Discourse offers the technical possibility of mirroring mailing lists handled by Mailman. Discourse can also emulate mailing lists, allowing users to follow a category, post, reply… entirely via email.

Mailing list mirroring

Mailing list mirroring simply reproduces in Space a mirror of the mailing list, an archive in a dedicated category. Space users can search, tag, like or bookmark posts, but they cannot start new topics or reply; they have to do so at the mailing list.

Requirements:

  • Admins and users of the mailing list understand that this is a test and are on board.
  • The admins of the mailing list have accounts in Space and are willing to watch the category for their mailing list and share their feedback through bug reports and feature requests.

Resources:

  • Messages for reaching out to admins and users about mirroring (feel free to repurpose).

Mailing list emulation

Mailing list emulation consists in making Space (actually Discourse, the software powering this forum) behave like a mailing list for a specific category. Users can watch the category (equivalent to subscribe to a mailing list) and they will receive emails for every post just as if they would be subscribed to a mailing list indeed. They can create topics and reply to comments via email or web, as they prefer.

Requirements:

  • If this is about transferring an active mailing list to Space, then we strongly recommend to try mailing list mirroring first, to allow everyone to familiarize themselves with Space.
  • If this is about an inactive mailing list, we need to discuss the potential migration of the mailing list archives to Space.
  • If this is about a new category with mailing list emulation, then we just need to go through a regular request, knowing that this feature is still under testing: How to request a new category or closed group on Space

Background

Now, imagine a World where all public mailing archives would be searchable in Wikimedia space, and where anyone could follow and participate in each list-category via email or web, according to their preferences. Imagine how off-topic threads could be moved to an on-topic list-category. How posts could be tagged, bookmarked, liked… through the web interface. The possibility of creating Closed groups would allow private lists to have their Wikimedia Space integration too.

You can check a couple of proofs of concept:

And a related discussion. There have been previous efforts trying to improve the use of our current mailing lists – see the pioneering experiment at https://discourse.wmflabs.org/.

Now we could start discussing how this mirroring and/or migrating could look like. And we could start with some trials if you wish. Mirroring is easy and doesn’t affect the mailing lists being mirrored or their users. Migrating implies a bit more of social change, but anyway in the past months we are seeing how some groups have decided to go through this transition, leaving Mailman to end up in places out of Wikimedia like Google Groups.

Related tasks in Phabricator (discussion is preferred here):

Interested? Let’s talk! :nerd_face:

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I have created a Phabricator task to track progress and I have commented in another task where the migration from GNU Mailman 2.1 to… ? has been discussed in the past years.

I think we should try. It’s a very good idea to host here only non-private/sensitive mailing list. How should we start?

Would we be able to delete inappropriate messages?

How would moderation work?

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This may be an interesting experience if Affiliates somehow integrated them more readily here, if nothing else than as a central link to those that are out there.

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Mirroring mailing lists

We could start by selecting a couple of existing mailing lists, and mirror them here. Doing this wouldn’t change anything for the users of the mailing list itself, and it would allow Space users (including those subscribed to that mailing list) to start seeing the possibilities in a more tangible way. For this step to be successful, I think it is important that the users and admins of the mailing lists selected are on board.

Emulating mailing lists

In parallel, we could create a subcategory under #about-wikimedia-space called “MailSpace” or something not too serious. :wink: where we could play “the mailing list game” with heavy users of mailing lists, testing and refining the emulation of a mailing list using #discourse, the software that powers this space.

By working on these two paths, eventually we should be able to try a first migration from a mailing list to a Space category, keeping most/all features for email-based users, while providing all the web-based features as well.

In the case of mirrors, the mailing lists and their moderation processes remain the same, and everything would be done via Mailman regardless of the mirror. If a message mirrored here has to be deleted for [reasons], then Space admins can delete it.

In the case of emulation, each subcategory (equivalent to a mailing list) would have their own moderators appointed (just like every mailing list has their admins) and they would be in charge of the moderation, including deleting messages.

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I have updated the description explaining what we can offer to those interested in testing mailing list mirroring and mailing list emulation.

I have asked the GLAM people if they want to test mirroring.

I will start working with #regional-coordination:huwiki on their test of mailing list emulation.

Any update on this?

Yes, there was Testing the path from mailing lists to Wikimedia Space. I have tentatively booked my Friday morning (tomorrow) to create the mirrors of 2-3 mailing lists and a muted test category where users can opt in to test mailing list emulation and file bugs & requests accordingly.

This should be enough to catch the attention of whoever is interested in integrating mailing lists to Space. From this point we can act based on demand from mailing list admins.

Thanks! Would it be possible to mirror our mailing list here? -https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediapt/ It is public

Also, would posts made here be sent to that mailing list too?

The mirror of the Education list has been enabled. As soon as an email is sent to the list, it should appear there as well.

There are two more mirror pending right now. I will create them as soon as the first email arrives to the Education list and everything looks OK.

Yes please! However, we need to get the approval from the mailing list admins. Please open a new topic to request it, or choose any other means that work for the admins.

We don’t get access to the past messages and archives? Only new messages will appear?

It is possible to import archives, but technically more involved:

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This is a real example of an email sent to a mirrored mailing list from an email address (a user) registered in Space: Re: [Wikimedia Education] Exciting update + Call for submission of November education newsletter

Such mirrored posts count as contributions from the Space user, and any likes etc will be reflected in their user stats.

Here you can see what happens when the email address (the user) is not registered: [Wikimedia Education] Invitation for critical reflections on "Education, open participation and democracy", November 27, Berlin

In such cases, Discourse creates a staged account, like a placeholder. If a user registers with such email address, the posts authored by the “staged account” will be assigned automatically to the new user, together with its related stats.

Mirroring the mailing list is a good idea, but I will like to ask: is possible to remove other additional information in the mailing lists, like the recipients of the email, etc. and only capture the “Today’s topic”, senders name and email in the mirrored message? If the above can be achieved, it will help concise the information from the mailing list and avoid cluttering the space with additional details that come with the mails.

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@Uzoma_Ozurumba Yes, the idea is that only author, subject and new content in the body of the email (including attachments) is posted in Space. The rest (addresses CCed, signature, quotes of old replies at the end of the message…) should be all stripped out.

By the way, your comment allowed me to realize that I had messed up with permissions and that the mirror wasn’t read-only as it should. This is why I moved it here to continue the conversation.

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Okay, this is great! Also, It is good to know that I unconsciously helped you correct your mess up.:grinning:

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