In defence of newsgroups (Re: Gmane)

Gordon Deane Gordon.Deane at
Mon May 13 12:28:50 EST 2002

(donning fireproof suit & devil's advocate hat)

Michael Still wrote:
> On Sat, 11 May 2002, Karun wrote:
> > This list has been added to the Gmane news server see
> Ummmm, what value does having the email list on a news server add? There
> is a web archive already (already indexed by google et al), and the list
> has been quite happy for many years.

Well, I feel someone should go in to bat for this on its merits.

1) This list is a lot like a newsgroup already, albeit with much higher
signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) than what is left of USENET.

The news protocols are designed for efficient dissemination of mail-like traffic
to many subscribers who don't necessarily have time to read everything.  Like
this list.  A pull protocol makes more sense than sending a complete copy of
every message to everyone, and news deals with many of the problems of such a
forum better than mail (eg. Followup-To is more appropriate than Reply-To)

I actually like the idea of being able to read the list occasionally as news,
rather than continuously building up mail that I delete in batches.  Yes, I have
mail filtering, but it still builds up.

No, I haven't actually tried Gmane yet.

2) Newsreaders often have better features for wading through quantities of
mail.  As a GNUS fan, I find a combination of careful scoring regexps and
adaptive scoring worked wonders for ones' effective SNR.  No, I don't read my
mail in GNUS, although of course one can.

3) I've always found web archives of what were originally email to be
cumbersome, and they inherently impose a *different* interface from the one you
originally use to read and reply.  There is often a delay before these are put
together (although not an issue here, as our archives seem to built at least
daily). Even so, Gmane still seems like a better solution to "finding out what
the recent discussion was on a thread I had been deleting, and now find

Besides your "It isn't broken, don't fix it" objection, there seem to have been
two other objections, spoken or implicit, on the thread to date:
 - That a bidirectional gateway will attract spam
 - That a news gateway will attract cluelessness/bogosity

4) On the spam issue:  Karun has detailed what seems like a genuine policy to
mitigate this.  Is it worth giving this a go?  See whether it is a real problem
or not.  I can understand not wanting the risk, though.

5) On cluelessness:  I find it difficult to believe that connecting to a news
server requires fewer cluons than subscribing via the Mailman web interface.

More seriously, perhaps the generally positive attitude on this list (from
newbies through to gurus) is a product of the Canberra community, and would be
at risk if the list had wider advertising.  This seems to me a *different* and
subtler objection to listing on a site like Gmane.

> I also wonder if perhaps it is at least polite to ask people on the list
> for an opinion before adding the list to a random news server.
> Mikal

I agree, it would have been better.  Though I would say that you are assuming
the implied, highly informal democracy of this list that is widely understood,
and consistent with the philosophy of CLUG in general, but nonetheless

There are forums where a formal vote can be resorted to, to settle things (eg.
Debian) or where an oligarchy of moderators wield sole power.  That this list is
informal-democratic is an unwritten premise, and therefore I suggest a polite
response like
"We were a bit offended not to be asked, would you like to say please?"

Rather than the sniping at particular objections that has characterised this
thread so far.


Gordon Deane  <Gordon.Deane at>
Mathematics Honours
Australian National University, Canberra
Rm JD104A  (02) 612-50003

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