[llvm-dev] Mailing List Status Update

Christian Kühnel via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Tue Jun 15 04:04:55 PDT 2021

Hi folks,

Since there are several questions around using Discourse, I tried to
summarize these into a user guide for a potential migration. The document
still contains TODOs where I don't have seen a good answer, yet:


I'd be happy to get feedback on this document. If something is missing or
if you have a solution to one of the open TODOs, please let me know or
create a Pull Request.


On Wed, Jun 9, 2021 at 7:51 PM Philip Reames via llvm-dev <
llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:

> I have concerns about this proposal.  Those concerns aren't necessarily
> unaddressable, but I do want to share them.  My concerns fall into two
> broad categories.
> 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 migration happens.
> 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 community
> running.
> Philip
> On 6/1/21 1:50 PM, Tom Stellard via llvm-dev wrote:
> Hi,
> We recently[1] 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[2].
> 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 our
>   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
> subscriptions
>   and posting (NOTE: if you are concerned that your workflow may be
> impacted
>   by this change, please contact the Infrastructure Working Group[3], 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
> [1] https://lists.llvm.org/pipermail/llvm-dev/2021-March/149027.html
> [2] https://www.discourse.org/
> [3] https://github.com/llvm/llvm-iwg
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