Discourse vs Newsgroups

We’ve done a lot of comparing Discourse to mailing lists, but a decent number of the old guard, and respected Mozillians probably use newsgroups still, not the mailing list or google groups functionality of the current solution.

How closely can Discourse replicate a newsgroup experience? Can Discourse be actually used through a newsgroup just like it can via email? If so what would that cost?

There’s a discussion about this topic on the Discourse Meta forum, which predictably goes off into the weeds in several directions. However, this post has some substantive analysis.

I was talking to Gerv, who uses newsgroups, and one piece of his feedback I want to share now, is that it’s not so much the protocol that people like, but it’s the UX. I wonder if we could make an add-on for Discourse that would make Thunderbird behave the same way it does when handling NNTP?

Can you be more specific about this? What specific UX elements are a key factor?

He called out specifically having to set up email filters vs subscribing to a newsgroup. I think also Thunderbird’s newsgroup view has a better conversation view than threaded emails currently, but it would be helpful for people who use Newsgroups and mail in TB to make a better list.

Allow me to expand :slight_smile: I currently read or monitor 51 of the over 300 groups listed here: https://www.mozilla.org/about/forums/ . Here are some of the things using NNTP to read the forums gives me:

  • A separate account in Thunderbird where all the groups are listed in a sensible order with name abbreviation
  • Segregation of discussion forum messages from my work and personal email
  • An easy way to subscribe to or unsubscribe from a group with a couple of clicks; no “email dance”, and no need to make or remove a new filter
  • Local message storage, which gives the ability to read through messages very, very quickly (which I’ve never seen in a web-based interface) using key combination wired into my brain
  • Proper unread message tracking with clear indications of what’s unread and what’s not, and a “Next Unread” button
  • The ability to easily forward a copy of a message to myself for later action
  • The ability to see at a glance how many messages there are to read, and in what groups
  • The ability to be confident that I’ve read everything
  • Proper message threading

Web-based or email-based workflows for discussion interaction all fall down on several of these points.

As advised at Mozlando, I asked @KaiRo for some feedback on this and he pointed out something really insightful that I hadn’t thought of before

mailing lists fill my inbox (or at best a filtered-to folder), they are or feel like a push design, newsgroups I can read lazily whenever I have time without being bothered, it’s a pull design and gives me less stress

What’s funny is that before he said this, I was feeling the same problem with the large telegram groups. Even with notifications off the client is still counting messages in those groups as missed messages and I have to click on them to clear the number out. It’s distracting!

I very much see the value in being able to choose which categories are pushed and which you pull.