I hate mailing lists! | Rickard Andersson

I hate mailing lists!

What’s up with open source projects always using mailing lists as a means to communicate? Here’s why mailing lists suck:

  • You get massive amounts of e-mail that are of no interest to you.
  • E-mail clients always mess up threading which leads to discussions often forking into separate threads.
  • You have to access the archives via some website somewhere.
  • Searching sucks.
  • You still have to register.

I hate mailing lists!

32 comments

  1. Posted November 23, 2006 at 00:34 | Permalink

    * You get massive amounts of e-mail that are of no interest to you.

    Filter it into a dedicated folder, or create a webmail/gmail account just for them.

    * E-mail clients always mess up threading which leads to discussions often forking into separate threads.

    Not had that problem with gmail, ever.

    * You have to access the archives via some website somewhere.

    As opposed to, for example, a forum, where you have to access the archive via their search engines, that’s unless they delete all old threads regularly and everything is lost?

    You could archive them yourself anyway, then it’s all searchable however you want it.

    * Searching sucks.

    So, um, what do you propose you do to find old stuff? LAbel it and store it in folders on your own PC so you don’t need to search as you know where it is?

    * You still have to register.

    And?

    Sorry, drive by comment, you’re the homepage for an extension I like, it appears, but I don’t know which one know, whatever, I just recommended it to someone, so we’re good.

    Personally, I much prefer mailing lists to forums and usenet, I can archive conversations how I like that way, and have been known to create gmail clients just for the sake of it. YMMV I guess.

  2. Rickard
    Posted November 23, 2006 at 08:55 | Permalink

    * Filter it into a dedicated folder, or create a webmail/gmail account just for them.

    Sure, you can filter it and whatnot, but that doesn’t change anything. You’re still getting lots of e-mail that are of no interest to you. More e-mail == not good.

    * Not had that problem with gmail, ever.

    Yeah right. You’ve never had one of these?

    http://dojotoolkit.org/pipermail/dojo-interest/2006-November/021449.html

    A reply to some post that for some reason gets orphaned. Happens all the time on the mailing lists I am forced to use.

    * As opposed to, for example, a forum, where you have to access the archive via their search engines, that’s unless they delete all old threads regularly and everything is lost?

    Of course you have to access the archives via the search engine? The same applies to mailing lists. Unless you’re on the list from the start, you’re stuck with the shitty web interface for the list.

    Who deletes old threads anymore by the way?

    * You could archive them yourself anyway, then it’s all searchable however you want it.

    Yes, how very convenient.

    * So, um, what do you propose you do to find old stuff? LAbel it and store it in folders on your own PC so you don’t need to search as you know where it is?

    I didn’t mean searching sucks per se. What I meant was that the searching capabilities in mailing list archives often are very limited.

    ** You still have to register.
    * And?

    People often complain that you have to register in forums in order to post. I was just pointing out that mailing lists are no different.

    * Personally, I much prefer mailing lists to forums and usenet, I can archive conversations how I like that way, and have been known to create gmail clients just for the sake of it. YMMV I guess.

    YMMV indeed. I get too much e-mail already. I don’t want more.

  3. Doodles
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 21:27 | Permalink

    I agree. What the fuck is with using this archaic method? Don’t we have forums nowadays?

  4. Brolin Empey
    Posted November 18, 2007 at 12:36 | Permalink

    I agree with Rickard.

    Mailing lists are even more annoying when you only want to post to a list once. In this case, if one wants to receive replies to his or her post, one must remain subscribed to the list. This means receiving piles of mail one does not care about, just in case someone else replies to one’s post. This is as opposed to a Web forum, where one can register, post once and check a box to request reply notifications, then receive a notification via e-mail *if* and when someone replies. Consider what happens if no one replies to one’s post until a year or more later. With a Web forum, it does not matter even if I forget that I ever registered and posted, because the forum will e-mail me when someone replies. By contrast, with a mailing list, I am unlikely to forget because I will continue to receive piles of mail from the list that I do not care about and consequently do not read. If one eventually gets tired of receiving all this noise and unsubscribes from the list or tells the list to stop sending list posts, one is never notified when someone else finally does reply to one’s post.

    PS: This post is the first result of a Google Web search for “i hate mailing lists” (with the quotes). :)

  5. Posted November 18, 2007 at 15:54 | Permalink

    You’re absolutely right, Brolin. Nice to know we’re not alone in the fight against mailing lists :)

  6. Brolin Empey
    Posted November 18, 2007 at 23:07 | Permalink

    I forgot another disadvantage of mailing lists: one cannot reply to or watch threads from before one subscribed to the list. Sure, one can use Gmane, but why is such a service necessary just to match the base functionality of a Web forum?

  7. Darcy
    Posted February 5, 2008 at 15:23 | Permalink

    I HATE Mailing Lists… its fricking 2008 now!!! Damn!!! I just wanted to post a ‘yes, I am having a similar problem as you mentioned in your messeage, here is some helpful advice’ post and now have to sign up for EVERY single post/topic to come to my email box.

    So, instead of posting to that thread, I searched for ‘mailing lists suck use forums’, found this, and am posting here to vent.

    also,

    +1 openid on forums

  8. Adeb
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 10:14 | Permalink

    I can only totally agree! Darcy, I was also looking for companions with the phrase “i hate mailing lists”. Good to know I’m not on my own.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted November 27, 2008 at 22:29 | Permalink

    One more mailing list hater. I heavily prefer forums and wikis to mailinglists.
    I too found this page by googling “I hate mailing lists”

  10. Posted November 28, 2008 at 00:25 | Permalink

    There should be a mailing list for people that share our conviction :)

  11. Kid Charles
    Posted February 22, 2009 at 01:35 | Permalink

    I too googled “I hate mailing lists” and arrived here to vent. I’m having trouble with a piece of software and want to get help, but I have to now dick around with a mailing list to do it. I hate mailing lists!

  12. Posted April 15, 2009 at 19:16 | Permalink

    To witness an open source project (or any project) using a mailing list in 2009 is to witness pedagogical lunacy.

    Open source projects wonder why they don’t attract new users as much as they would like, and behind poor quality software and documentation, mailing lists are the reason why. Good software with mediocre documentation can be remedied by replacing the mailing list with a forum. With a forum, screenshot-based tutorials written by dedicated users can be sticky-posted to compensate for mediocre documentation (or to augment good documentation). Without having to register first, new and potentially new users can view these tutorials and know they have an entry point into learning the software or API. This grows the user base.

    With a mailing list, sticky posts and screenshot-based posts are cumbersome, to say the least. Even if a screenshot-based tutorial manages to get itself posted to a mailing list, few potential new users will see it because many of them will have already been culled at the mailing list registration step. Nobody wants their inbox filled with arcana for an open source project they are only potentially interested in.

    The user-generated screenshot-based tutorial is a powerful learning construct, and it’s 2009 (which really must be reiterated), hence the first sentence of this post.

  13. Jeckel
    Posted December 13, 2009 at 00:20 | Permalink

    Mailing lists SUCK!!!! Its now almost 2010 and people still use mailing lists. This must have been what it was like after someone invented paper, but people still insisted on craving messages on stone.

    I mean really, what is with only showing one post on a page? Do these mailing list people not realize that computer screens can scroll? Maybe if they showed more then one post on a page, every post wouldn’t have to quote one or more of the posts that came before.

    Maybe mailing lists were good back in their time (I’ve never seen anything personally that suggests this, but some people claim it), but so were stone tablets, the pony express, and the telegraph… and in the 21st century I think we can let it go in favor of more modern forums.

  14. Hyde
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 18:34 | Permalink

    I found this post by searching for ‘mailing lists suck’. And yes, they do by the way. For some reason I cannot subscribe to codehaus. I think their subscription service is hosed.

    It’s now 2010 btw, and they are still prevalent and they still suck as much as they did in 2007.

  15. AlphaTwin
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 22:59 | Permalink

    I agree mailing lists are a pain in the a$$. I Googled “mailing lists suck” and this site came up first. I love open source but the damn mailing lists make me want to slam my temple against the corner of my desk.

  16. J-M
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 15:54 | Permalink

    I just wanted to support the poster by saying I also hate mailing lists. Whats funny is that I also Google “mailing lists suck” like AlphaTwin only to see if I was the only one thinking that it was a retarded way of communicating inside a project! It seems that most of you agree too so let’s make a petition or something to make that illegal :)

  17. E71
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 21:59 | Permalink

    +1

    I’m so glad this site is at the top of “i hate mailing lists” search query.

    Surprised it’s not riddled with mailing list advocates though… normally when I have a problem with something about 10 guys pop up from nowhere defending it.

    Yeah, um… Mailing lists blow and are a waste of back & forth bandwidth. With more convenient alternatives like forums there’s really no excuse.

  18. Posted July 2, 2010 at 09:47 | Permalink

    I used to like them years ago when there weren’t any options. It worked well because I was using DOS (I still do) where you set up your own system of dealing with things and it is extremely easy to do that. That answers the first two points, ie:

    # You get massive amounts of e-mail that are of no interest to you.
    # E-mail clients always mess up threading which leads to discussions often forking into separate threads.

    However, most modern OSs don’t have the same facility as DOS. Not only that, but we have since gotten forums and blogs which are simple and direct. That’s way cool. Now I also hate mailing lists. In fact, when I come to one in my web searching I just back right out. It’s just not worth the trouble unless you’re set up for that particular list.

  19. ThatsRight
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 18:12 | Permalink

    I found this website by googling “I hate mailing lists” too.

    Hey, they are software developers!! They can find a much better way to communicate than this messy crap.

  20. Posted November 28, 2010 at 01:30 | Permalink

    AMEN. F***ING AMEN.

    I just unsubscribed from 12 mailing lists, deleted all the archives, and I’m not looking back. Mailing lists are just a drug for people with boring lives who depend on the inbox counter as a means of self-validation.

    It’s kind of like spam, except written by real people.

  21. canduc17
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 21:06 | Permalink

    You’re absolutely right! Use forums!!!

  22. katunk
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 06:13 | Permalink

    I’m trying to learn FreeBSD, and am used to dealing with ArchLinux. Arch has a great forum system, you can find nearly anything there. FreeBSD is supported by the archaic (IMHO) mailing list concept. I have a couple mailing lists I’m on for work, and it’s amazing what time wasters they are. The big thing is that, TODAY, I may not care about lots of things on the list. I will need some of that information NEXT WEEK. So why should I have to deal with it TODAY? The first post here is right on target.

  23. mrfusion
    Posted March 28, 2011 at 12:05 | Permalink

    I found your site because I was googling for “I hate mailing lists” and I want to thank you! The worst thing are Pipermail, Mailman and Co, that are the most user-UNfriendly tools I have ever seen.

  24. Thad
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 17:56 | Permalink

    Fuck mailing lists. I too have had to subscribe to these pieces of shit for information pertaining to open source projects. They are a blight upon the open source community.

    But there is a flip side to this problem as well. I believe the reason for using a mailing list is simply because it it quite easy to maintain and administer. For smaller projects, mailing lists often have a very low volume and make more sense. Forums have to be updated and admins have to constantly check for security updates to ensure there are no vulnerabilities in the forum software. Also many developers of mature projects are “old school” and are used to and comfortable with the mailing list concept. As the newer generation of developers start large scale projects themselves, we should hopefully see more forums.

    So in reality it stems from the fact that project maintainers want to focus on the project and not maintaining the forum. I am not defending them, just giving a reason for all the insanity.

  25. Bob
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 20:23 | Permalink

    I searched “I hate mailing lists” and this was at the top of the search results. This gets a Google +1 from me.

    Mailing lists are ancient technology. In the age of HTML5, there needs to be a better solution. Think stackoverflow. Think http://tenderapp.com/.

    There’s an idea in there somewhere.

  26. JokerAmmo
    Posted August 5, 2012 at 06:22 | Permalink

    Posting to a mailling list is like opening a new thread on a forum every time you wanna post a reply.
    Not to mention the ridiculous ammount of data sent to people NO MATTER WHAT.

    Biggest pile of clusterfuck.

  27. Random Developer
    Posted August 8, 2012 at 08:08 | Permalink

    It’s much easier to make use of the excellent email clients out there to setup proper filters and get all your correspondence in one place. For example, I get all my SourceForge.net notifications (bug items, patches, etc.), all my Github notifications (issues, pull requests, comments on commits, etc.), all of the mailing list help requests and communications, RSS subscriptions, and then regular development and non-development correspondence, all within a single highly-usable interface (Thunderbird, just one of many great email clients), with (usually) very easy to navigate threads and audible/visible notifications integrated into the desktop whenever something new comes in. Also, you never have to worry about having multiple logins (which expire) to all these different websites, you just open your email client and everything you care about is smack in your face.

    Mailing list archive software does suck terribly though, searching is a pain and navigating a thread is brutal. Luckily searching in your email client is usually very easy/powerful (at least for those messages since you subscribed).

    The best solution would be a mailing list/forum hybrid where you can use either interface depending on which you prefer.

  28. Mr Tea
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 16:01 | Permalink

    Its 2013 and I still have to deal with fucking mailing lists. I hate the way they work but they do have a place. There a few good points as to why they are preferred by some. In my opinion it boils down to three points:
    First, mailing lists have been around since the beginning of the internet. Experienced developers who have been around for a long time have used them and are quite satisfied. This is why many projects have mailing lists as the primary method of communication for developers.
    Second, they are simple to setup and generally have less of a problem with spamming and you don’t have the security issues of web forums (bots, spamming, hacking etc.)
    Third, I also believe developers prefer them over forums to filter out the “noise” of the general community and n00bs who post stupid questions like “how I install program to get happy success”. Often you see a forum for general community talk and help and a mailing list where more advanced topics and development is discussed.

    I do wish they could function more like a forum with alerts to a thread or post sent via email. But for now we are stuck with its archaic and shitty layout. Oh well.

  29. Ugh
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 04:51 | Permalink

    Why does every fucking open source project insist on using mailing lists to manage everything? God. Can’t we use a forum or something? It’s 2013, we’re supposed to be in the future by now.

  30. Anonymous
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 09:36 | Permalink

    I’d be the first to sign a “stop using mailing lists” petition.

  31. Big Daddy
    Posted January 8, 2014 at 18:58 | Permalink

    I can’t believe it’s 8 years after the original post, and these turds are still around and going strong. WTF is wrong with these OS projects.

  32. Anonymous
    Posted January 22, 2014 at 17:54 | Permalink

    Still hate them in 2014 :)

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