[llvm-dev] Mailing List Status Update
Philip Reames via llvm-dev
llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Wed Jun 9 10:50:57 PDT 2021
I have concerns about this proposal. Those concerns aren't necessarily
unaddressable, but I do want to share them. My concerns fall into two
The first category is the process one. My understanding when the LLVM
foundation was established was that the role of the foundation and the
board was to support the community, not to make major decisions for the
community. I understand there is a degree of pragmatism we have to
accept - e.g. sometimes the situation forces our hand, and we need to
act, even if in a sub-optimal way - but this runs dangerously close to
the edge of the board dictating the solution to the community. I do
want to acknowledge that I truly do thing everyone on the board is
acting in good faith here. I'm not so much worried about the intentions
of anyone involved so much as the appearance and precedent this sets.
The second category is the proposed migration itself. I'll start by
saying that the restriction in the proposal text to the *-dev lists
(explicitly excluding the *commits lists) does soften my concerns
substantially, but I'm left wondering about the long term plan for the
commit lists. As has come up in recent threads around phabricator, I
feel the commit lists play a critical role in our development practice
and, almost more importantly, *culture* which is hard to replicate.
I'm a bit worried that this proposal if accepted will be the camel
getting his nose under the tent as it were.
Specific to the dev lists, I'm very hesitant about moving from mailing
lists to discourse. Why?
Well, the first and most basic is I'm worried about having core
infrastructure out of our own control. For all their problems, mailing
lists are widely supported, there are many vendors/contractors
available. For discourse, as far as I can tell, there's one vendor.
It's very much a take it or leave it situation. The ability to preserve
discussion archives through a transition away from discourse someday
concerns me. I regularly and routinely need to dig back through
llvm-dev threads which are years old. I've also recently had some
severely negative customer experiences with other tools (most recently
discord), and the thought of having my employability and ability to
contribute to open source tied to my ability to get a response from
customer service teams at some third party vendor I have no leverage
with, bluntly, scares me.
Second, I feel that we've overstated the difficulty of maintaining
mailing lists. I have to acknowledge that I have little first hand
experience administering mailman, so maybe I'm way off here. However,
there are multiple commercial vendors which provide mailman hosting.
TBH, this seems like a case where the foundation should simply pay for
commercial hosting and migration support to mailman3. It may be this is
a lot more expensive in practice than I'm imagining, but this feels like
it should be our default answer and that anything else (i.e. discourse)
should require major evidence of benefit over that default to be considered.
Third, I'm worried that there are culture elements very tied up in our
current usage of the mailing lists. As some specific examples, consider
each of the following:
* Discourse does not allow private responses via email. You have to
use their web interface. I spent a lot of time replying privately
to other contributors. I'm worried that, in practice, the extra
step will cause me to follow up less, and miss even more responses.
I'm particularly concerned about the impact for new contributors.
(Existing contributors, I probably have an email address for already.)
* Discourses does not allow cross posts (or at least, it's not clear
how to do so). At least a couple times a year, we have design
discussions which cross between sub-projects. This can be addressed
with a process change, but it needs some discussion before the
It's not that we can't adjust our processes to the limitations of
discourse; we clearly can. My concern is all of the subtle things we
loose along the way.
Now that I've finished up, let me explicitly state that I don't intend
my comments here to be blocking. I don't think this is a good idea, or
at least needs further expansion before acceptance, but I'm also not in
place where I can really invest in providing a realistic alternative.
At the end of the day, pragmatism does require that we give discretion
to the folks actually investing their own time, and energy to keep the
On 6/1/21 1:50 PM, Tom Stellard via llvm-dev wrote:
> We recently ran into some issues with the mailing lists that caused
> us to disable automatic approval of subscriptions. Over the past few
> months, the LLVM Foundation Board of Directors have been investigating
> solutions to this issue and are recommending that the project move its
> discussion forum from mailman to Discourse.
> The proposed migration plan is to move the discussion lists (e.g *-dev,
> *-users lists) to Discourse as soon as possible. The commit email lists
> (*-commits lists) will remain on mailman until a not-yet-determined date
> in the future, after which they will be replaced by something else.
> Some commit lists alternatives include Discourse and GitHub commit
> comments (but there may be others).
> Here are the reasons why the LLVM Foundation Board of Directors is
> recommending this change:
> - The LLVM project discussion lists cannot be adequately maintained by
> current volunteer infrastructure staff and without changes we run the
> risk of a major outage.
> - We are able to make this change without significant impact to user's or
> developer's daily workflows because Discourse supports email
> and posting (NOTE: if you are concerned that your workflow may be
> by this change, please contact the Infrastructure Working Group, so
> they can help test your workflow with Discourse.)
> - Discourse gives us additional features that will benefit the community:
> - Easy to signup and subscribe to categories
> - Better moderation tools.
> - Web-based user interface.
> - Ability to send announcements to multiple categories to avoid
> having to
> cross-post community wide announcements.
> - A subset of the community (MLIR) have been experimenting with Discourse
> for over a year and are able to provide feedback about this experience
> to the Board of Directors.
> We did also consider one alternative, which was migrating our lists to a
> mailman hosting service. However, we concluded that with all the work it
> would take to migrate our lists to another service, it would be better
> if we moved to a service (like Discourse) that provided more features
> than what we have now.
> We understand that moving to Discourse is a change for the community and
> that people may be worried about this having a negative impact on their
> participation in the project. As mentioned above, we believe that this
> change can be done without significant impact to anyone’s workflows.
> If you disagree, please contact the Infrastructure Working Group, to
> document the impact to your workflow, so we can work together to find
> a solution for your issue.
> If you have any other questions or comments you can raise them on this
> thread and please keep criticisms constructive and on topic.
> LLVM Foundation Board of Directors
>  https://lists.llvm.org/pipermail/llvm-dev/2021-March/149027.html
>  https://www.discourse.org/
>  https://github.com/llvm/llvm-iwg
> LLVM Developers mailing list
> llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
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