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I have set up a handful of mailing lists for Plerd, the open-source blogging engine behind Fogknife. All are free and open to the public. (The lists all use tried-and-true Mailman, running on my personal server. So their web interfaces look straight out of 1996, but they get the job done.)
Plerd-announce: A low-traffic, newsletter-style list with posts by me alone, upon which I plan to make announcements or share proposals of interest to Plerd’s userbase. Update, February 2019: I’ve closed this list in favor of the official Plerd news blog.
Plerd-users: The main discussion channel for said userbase, focused on Plerd’s installation, configuration, and use as a blogging tool.
Plerd-dev: Discussion about the development and maintenance of the Plerd software itself.
I hope to use these lists as the main discussion and announcement channels for Plerd. I will continue to post major announcements here on Fogknife (especially when I can work a more general essay on technological philosophy out of it), and discussion about specific issues will of course continue to take place as appropriate in Plerd’s Github repository. But I will steer all other Plerd-related communication to these lists.
If you use Plerd or are just interested in following along with its news, I do invite you to follow one of the links above to subscribe to the list-or-lists of your choice. Some fairly major changes for Plerd are on the horizon — some by me, some based on work by others. I know that enough people besides myself use the software now that I simply cannot make significant changes in good faith without community involvement. (Or, at the very least, community forewarning.)
Some thoughts on the meta-topic of setting up my own dang mailing lists, rather than taking the far easier (and arguably more sensible) route of using an existing service:
Why mailing lists? Well, I initially tried an IRC channel, back when the IRC bug most recently bit me, but it didn’t stick. Idling in
#plerd on Freenode for a whole year did not result in a single message for me. And since I was almost always alone in the channel, it hardly felt worthwhile saying anything myself.
Meanwhile, I consider Slack and friends out of the question for new projects, especially projects that I intend to continue using and developing for years to come. I have no interest in migrating from one flavor-of-the-month chat system to another as public tastes change, and I tire so quickly at keeping up with constant user-experience surprises wrought by services over which I have neither control nor say. Furthermore, proprietary systems like these often have awful accessibility, and I don’t wish to make Plerd users with disabilities feel disinvited from discussion.
Email is ubiquitous, portable, unchanging, and immortal. Any person with the technical chops to run Plerd will also, by necessity, have familiarity with email. I have seen many shinier alternatives to email, when it comes to platforms for asynchronous technical communication. Some manage to pull me away for a time, but I always come back home to email. For projects under my own control, I very much doubt I’ll ever again try a medium other than email.
Why set up a list myself? In the past I would have used Google Groups, but I don’t trust Google to keep anything working, and anyway I didn’t wish to saddle these lists with Google-based domain names. I am aware that many folks use Mailchimp’s free tiers for these sorts of things instead, but my experience with the service has always left me with a bad taste; it is so focused on marketing and campaigns, rather than discussion lists.
Mailman is a bear to set up, especially on a system that doesn’t already have a mail server running. I have done it three times over the past few years, for different purposes, and though I take copious notes each time, I still have to improvise for a wide part of the hours-long installation-and-testing dance.
But at the end of it, I have a solid mailing-list system capable of hosting any number of mailing lists bearing my own domain name: no better sigil, for personal projects, and entirely in-line with my increasing adoption of IndieWeb philosophies. I consider this work at least as much an investment towards future personal-but-public work as something of more immediate benefit. Bruised and battered from another weekend in the Linux-driven DIY thresher, I regret nothing.
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