Thunderbird mailing-list / NNTP decision rationale

Dan Mosedale dmose at
Tue Aug 3 21:57:26 UTC 2010

It has become very clear from recent discussions that how much (if at 
all) a person is bothered by the lack of a newsgroup presentation of 
Thunderbird-related newsgroups depends heavily on personal working 
style.  For many folks, the mailing list presentation works, if not 
well, at least Well Enough.  However, it's also clear that there are 
non-trivial usability issues in the tb-planning community with the 
current email-only presentation (mostly in Thunderbird, but also in a 
few other clients).

Here's a short summary of the most important interests of multiple 
people in the tb-planning community that are not met by the current 
email-only presentation of group conversations:

* they are not automatically separated from the Inbox, which is 
experienced as clutter
* the unread count for them is propagated to the folder pane, dock, and 
biff, which feels like clutter and is distracting
* it's difficult to interact with historical or in-progress discussions
* there is a barrier to entry and exit for participation
* some tools for dealing with volume (watch, ignore, ...) are missing or 
inferior to that of newsgroups

we've said that we're targeting individual and SOHO (Small Office / 
Home  Office) users.  We've also said that we'll be doing this by 
"focusing on conversations that occur over mainstream and emerging 
communication channels. These include email, web forums, social 
networks, and microblogging services."

All of the interests in the list above are not only our own interests as 
a development community, they are also shared by our users when they're 
having conversations over email.  And those rough edges of handling 
conversations over email are part of our mainstream users' day-to-day 
experience of our product.

While it makes a lot of sense for us as the development community to 
enjoy the benefits of the NNTP experience today, it is also acting as a 
crutch: because we're not eating our own dogfood, it's preventing us 
from having a deeper understanding of how those problems feel to our users.

This in turn makes it much harder for us to make the gut prioritization 
choices for solutions to these issues both individually and as a group. 
And when I say individually, what I'm trying to communicate is that 
while some amount of feature work and fixes happens as a result of 
driver-led prioritization, lots also depends on decisions made by 
individual community members.  In particular, it depends on the 
decisions of individual developers, triagers, bug filers, and designers 
about "what feels like the next most important thing for me to spend my 
own time on?".

So I'd like to be clear that at this point I still feel that the 
decision to leave the NNTP gateways off is the right one, though not an 
easy one.  I understand that this requires some work flow changes and, 
even with those, it won't be entirely comfortable, and I'm sympathetic 
to that.  But it has the advantage of serving the interests of _both_ us 
in the development community _and_ the interests of our users, rather 
than serving the interests of the development community while working 
against the interests of our users.

It's not impossible that I could be convinced to change my mind, but at 
this point, I feel like the bar is pretty high. I have a decent 
understanding of the pain points, and for me to change my mind, I'd have 
to get new information that made me believe that creating those gateways 
really would serve the overall goals of Thunderbird better.


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