Why I love mailinglists

Some people always tell me that “mailinglists are so 1990” or something. And yes, of course, email is an old protocol and everything. But that does not mean that it is bad.

Here is why I love mailinglists

I get a lot mail. About 1k mails per day, whereas most of them are mailinglists. Actually, the most of them are from the linux kernel mailinglist and I automatically drop them into a folder where I do not look at that often. But when I need to, I can.

But that’s not the point of this post, actually. This post is about why I love mailinglists and think mailinglists are a better way of communication compared to, for example, the IRC chat.

When writing in IRC, you have to type quickly, depending on how many people are in the room and talking at this moment. You can hold discussions with several other people, but as soon as several people talk at the same moment but about different topics, things get nasty. That’s not the case on a mailing list.

A discussion often starts with a question, a suggestion or maybe an announcement. Then, people comment on it, the discussion beginns. Because mails are persistent in a way chats will never be, one can talk his time to formulate a response. Discussions are seperated in subthreads, which is way more convenient than talking in IRC, getting from one point to another but never beeing focused on the discussion as one discussion but a chain of.

Also, on mailing lists one can focus on single points others make in their statements by quoting them in a really convenient manner. One can remove parts of the statements of others when replying, which forces everyone to focus on the actual points and not the stuff around it, which may be relevant, but often is not. When people talk over a mailinglist, you can read that afterwards to get a clue what is going on. I often search mailinglists for solutions of my problems rather than wikis or something, where problems are generalized and often do not match with my actual problems.

And, of course, if a mailinglist is open, one can post to it without beeing subscribed, which is really a good thing if you want to solve a problem which occours once but never again. Example: I try to configure my mail client at the moment, my offlineimap configuration, actually. I had several issues (related to eachother, of course), so I posted on the mailinglist for offlineimap, where people help me. After the problem is solved (it is not by now…) I will forget this mailinglist again, as I’m not subscribed to it. I don’t care afterwards about offlineimap, because it should just work for me and that’s it.

So, these are my points why mailinglists are a great tool for getting problems solved, doing discussions and the like. Please note that I do not think the IRC should be abandoned in favour of mailinglists. I love writing with people in IRC, too. But for solving problems, mailinglists are way better for me.