phdru.name / Software
Email vs web interfaces
The advantages of email:
- Push technology: it's delivered to my mailbox and I don't need to
visit the discussion site.
- I can filter incoming messages and deliver them to whatever mailboxes
- I can read it in any interface I prefer -- there are mail user agents
with Web, GUI, TUI and command line interfaces.
- I can filter and sort message in whatever order I prefer -- by
discussion, by subtopic, by date, by author.
- I can download the entire mail archive or its part to process it
offline -- read it, search through it, write messages while offline
to send them later.
- I can edit messages in my preferred editor (browsers with extensions
also allow that though I consider that less convenient).
- I can pipe messages through different programs -- pagers,
encryptors/decryptors, decoders, antispam filters.
- I have to invest some time into my tools (some people consider that a
major disadvantage of email) but then I can use these tools for every
mailing list in the world.
- Distributed technology: there are many servers and I can run one myself if I
- I can have as much email identities as I wish; with carefully configured
tools I can have my tools switch my identity automatically based on
recipient address and other conditions.
The disadvantages of email:
- One has to invest time and brainpower to learn and configure the
- People who learned only the technical part constantly break
netiquette rules: top-posting, overquoting, replying to digests,
replying to unrelated thread instead of starting a new thread,
breaking thread by not replying to correct message.
- In long discussions threads can stray far and wide.
- Plain text, no support for rich text; HTML is at most tolerated, and is
usually ignored when not forbidden.
- Distributed technology: the protocol is hard to upgrade.
- Not so much distributed these days: a few major email providers
dictate how email should work.
The advantages of web interfaces (trackers/forums/chats):
- Everyone now has a browser and knows how to use it.
- Markup (wiki syntax, HTML, reST, or Markdown) with colors, fonts, images,
links, tables and programming language-dependent syntax highlighting.
- Integrated trackers are that - integrated. One can use concise wiki syntax
to link between code, discussions (issues and code reviews) and
documentation (wiki pages).
- They send email notification, and some of them allow to reply or even
to create new topics over email.
- Single thread of discussion.
- A moderator can move a discussion or its subpart to a different topic
while in a mailing list that requires cooperation from all
The disadvantages of web interfaces:
- They force me to always be online.
- Very limited functionality for message filtering, sorting and searching.
Very limited support for discussion threads.
- Very limited support for themes in the interface -- I can only read
messages in whatever web interface the servers and the browsers give
- I have to adapt to every new web interface they give me. Including
changes in the web interfaces to which I'm already accustomed. One
site uses Markdown with proprietary extensions, another uses limited
subset of HTML, web forums settle with BBCodes, and every site uses
its own emoticons.
- Not distributed: there is always a central server. Once the server goes
down all communications stopped and all archives are lost.
- I can only login to a site once. To switch my identity I have to relogin.
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