Archiving the bitcoin-dev mailing lists

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Mattias Geniar, March 24, 2019

Follow me on Twitter as @mattiasgeniar

I’ve started yet another effort to index and archive a public mailing list in order to present it in a more readable, clean format.

The road to mailing lists

Why do I keep being drawn towards efforts to parse & present all these mailing lists?

Well, looking back at older posts, I think this piece of knowledge I apparently had in 2015 sums it pretty good.

There are no (well: very little) trolls on mailing lists. Those who take the effort of signing up to a mailing list aren’t doing it to curse at others or to be violent. They do so to stay informed, to interact and to help people.

This still is true for me regarding mailing lists: quality content, smart & dedicated people and overall an attitude of helpfulness towards others. Something that’s very rare on Reddit or Hackernews discussions.

In 2016 I started an e-mail archive and cancelled it again almost 2y later. The main reason is that the tooling like mhonarc, Pipermail, … is just really bad. I couldn’t find a proper alternative in all these years, so I’m building my own this time.

Solving the mailing list readability problem

What bothers me about mailing lists is the way we browse and look at them online. It’s an ugly format, split and archived per month which makes you lose threads if they happen to span multiple months.

Most of us consume mailing lists via – can you guess it? – email, obviously. But if you want to share a story posted on a mailing list, I’d want it to be easily readable.

I don’t claim to be particularly good at design, but anything is better than pre-formatted text wrapper in pre HTML tags.

The end of mailing list support at the Linux Foundation

One thing I learned from the mailing list, is that the Linux Foundation is slowly deprecating their support for email.

The Bitcoin mailing lists will migrate to groups.io as announced on the bitcoin-dev list. For mailing list users not much should change – it’s still a mailing list (I think?).

However, it presented me with yet another opportunity to go ahead and create my own online archive.

Mirroring bitcoin-dev, bitcoin-core-dev and bitcoin-discuss

I created a new repository that handles the parsing and displaying of the mailing list (and soon, other Bitcoin related projects): github.com/mattiasgeniar/CommunityBitcoin.

The name needs work, but it’s the best I could think of.

The mailing lists are now mirrored here: mojah.be/mailing-list. The domain mojah.be refers to an old World of Warcraft character I had. Since I couldn’t decide on a proper name yet, it’s now hosted on that domain I had lying around for years and did nothing with.

The project features a couple of things I appreciate;

  • A one-page view of an email thread, that can span across multiple months (example)
  • Gravatar support (example)
  • A filter by email author (threads + messages, example)

I can use some more features that I’d happily accept contributes to. I think an RSS feed would be nice, it opens the way for IFTTT-style automation and a Twitter bot. Also pagination is a must since pages get really large.

The goal now is to experiment with the Bitcoin protocol and use this repository as a playground to throw some stuff online and see what sticks.

I’d be more than happy to accept PRs to this project to add functionality!



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