I am genuinely interested in anything that can replace the aging system I developed for these lists. Here are the requirements, as defined by Softpress initially, but further curated by me over time. Since I built it all from scratch, Mailist is honed to make my personal interaction with the system as straightforward as possible. If you can recommend a system that hits a majority of these requirements, and particularly if you have personal experience with integrating them, I am all ears.
###E-mail-only workflow possible:
A user can interact with the system entirely by e-mail, without ever seeing the Web interface (if they want). If this workflow is chosen, the user will automatically get every message sent within any “forum” (mailing list) they have subscribed to, as a series of threaded e-mail messages. You do not subscribe to individual threads, rather you follow the entire list. Each topic in the forum creates a new message thread in e-mail. This setting is per-list – you can be subscribed to some lists in the Web interface, and others in both Web and e-mail.
This has an additional benefit over traditional forum workflows, which this system was designed in reaction to: people tend to stay engaged with the entire range of questions and answers, rather than dipping into a single question, getting their answer, and then never returning. It promotes community and wider understanding, in short. It also turns the usual paradigm of searching for an answer on its head – members are exposed to all of the questions (not just their own), and may find that they can answer someone else’s questions while they are getting their own attended to. It’s a virtuous circle.
###Private by default to the outside world:
Individuals can choose to show the public their contact information, but they don’t need to. Their e-mail address is secured from harvesting by unauthenticated users. (In the current system, anything that looks like an e-mail address in the subject or body of a message is replaced with email@hidden unless you are a logged-in user.) All content is public, and heavily indexed by Google and other search engines.
###Searchable across all messages ever
The database contains messages going back a great number of years. They are indexed every 15 minutes by Sphinx, which is an open-source search engine for MySQL. This system provides all the geekery a search engine can traditionally handle: a real Porter stemmer for English and other languages, a robust set of boolean operators (which also allow a limited set of faceted searches based on topic), and weighted results (configured so newer things are more likely to be on top, even if they are not as relevant based on the search terms – this is important for the type of content we publish). Search results are only returned for the lists you have subscribed to, so you won’t see answers for how to tune your dulcimer if you are only interested in CSS advice.
Since the output is going to be presented in both a Web and plain-text environment (e-mail), center the authoring experience on a format which looks good in either. Markdown was designed to mimc the sort of inline “formatting” that you may use to structure an e-mail message for easier reading: bulleted lists made with asterisks, numbered lists, blockquotes (using the same characters that e-mail clients already use and respect), headlines, emphasis, and links. It does this without littering the text with non-content or nonsense characters, as does HTML.
###Extensible code highlighting
Code examples are displayed in a friendly manner, and are scrubbed through a whitelist to avoid XSS and SQL injection attacks. Since Freeway Actions are code, but not HTML or any other standard syntax, we can extend the system to recognize these specialist terms.
###Read and Unread indicators
The design model for this feature was Apple Mail, with a separate “mailbox” for each of the lists. You see little red badges on each list, indicating how many unread “messages” you have while reading the Web interface.
###RSS feeds per list or thread
Nice-to-have in this day and age, although RSS is staging a bit of a comeback lately. Paul Dunning requested this, as he was used to reading the lists in his RSS reader.
Now as to new features that I really wish I had in the old system:
- A way to moderate spam that could leverage the community rather than a few hand-picked moderators.
- A way to “favorite” or “star” or otherwise personally curate posts or threads that I was interested in keeping for future reference.
- Some sort of authority ranking system, such as in Stack Overflow, based on how often, or how credibly you answer questions for other members.
Thanks again for your interest in improving FreewayTalk. I’d love to gain your insights and help in making it happen. As you can tell by the rate of change around here, I am not interested in new and shiny just because it is new – it really has to tick off the boxes and add value beyond that. And it needs to be something that can fit into what this is for me: a labor of love, and a volunteer effort. I have limited spare time to devote to this community, but a lot of experience and understanding to share with people who ask for it.
Finally, as a Web application developer in PHP, Python, and Ruby for the past 20 years, I have seen and worked on many integration projects where an “off-the-shelf” system was chosen to replace an existing system which had organically developed to solve an evolving problem. These always start off with a great deal of optimism and enthusiasm, but eventually consume some multiple of the original budget just to get the last 10 or 20% of the features refined. It is truly rare to come across a perfect fit between project requirements and an existing product. There are always either compromises (or a lot of work) required in order to be “done”. Some of the requirements above are probably negotiable, if I’m honest about their value. But some are critical to making this community the friendly place that it has been and continues to be, and need to stay no matter how this system runs under the hood.
On Sep 14, 2017, at 7:10 PM, FreewayPro_User email@hidden wrote:
Much like the Discourse suggestion, I didn’t figure it would go anywhere, so just mere conversation I guess.
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