New forums are ready!

Good news! Thanks to cbeard and the folks at Mozilla Labs, I now have placeholder forums where discussion can ensue in a public place, without requiring every post to be approved by me.

For starters, I created three fora: one for Thunderbird Planning, one for discussion of Internet Communications Innovations, and one for random MailCo topics if they come up. We’ll see if those are the right ones as things move along.

I look forward to reading everyone’s contributions there! Feel free to add comments on my blog posts or email me if appropriate, of course.

For people who are new to Thunderbird, you should also check out MozillaZine’s forums, several of which are about Thunderbird — they’re a good place to find day-to-day support and discussions.

Meta comments:

  • The labs forums site was chosen for three simple reasons: 1) it provides RSS feeds, which I see as a requirement, 2) it could be done very quickly with minimal coordination, 3) there’s something experimental about all of this! I’m happy to consider alternatives in the future.
  • I should explain as well why I’m using web-based forums rather than a mailing list or newsgroup. Basically, I believe that newsgroups are too obscure outside of the fairly insular “insider” community, and that mailing lists require too much commitment on the part of participants, whether that’s adding to their email load or requiring them to customize their mail flow to triage mailing list traffic. The market has spoken, and web forums seem to have won when it comes to “level” public discussion spaces (as opposed to blogs). RSS feeds are there for those of us who can’t take yet another destination and need integration.

    (If someone knows how to do a two-way integration between the SMF forums and a mailing list so that everyone can interact with the forums in their favorite way, I’m happy to see how hard that would be to add.)

PS: I have a hard time writing “forums” instead of “fora”, but I’m being good and fitting with the flow!


  1. I did a whole bunch of research on forum software before selecting SMF for the Mozilla Labs forums. There are two modifications/extensions to SMF that you may wish to consider: Post from Email ( and
    NNTP Syndicate ( which will get NNTP replication of the forum posts.

    One of the big challenges is how authentication would work. Be sure to look at that closely.


  2. Sadly, the labs forums still have that legalese on there to register which is just too much for me to read, let alone sign off on.

    That mostly kept me from participating on labs for good.

    I’m convinced that google groups isn’t enough of a web interface to news to make those unusable, too.


  3. I would think that people responsible for Thunderbird would at least use Thunderbird to discuss Thunderbird which means either mailing lists or newsgroups.

    Also has a perfectly functional NNTP server with existing thunderbird forums. At this stage I suggest that it would be extremely ill advised to fractionate the Thunderbird and/or MailNews community even further (given the existence of the Mozillazine forums). I already have to track, irc://moznet,, and the mozillazine forums. I WOULD VERY MUCH HATE TO HAVE YET ANOTHER channel to track.

    Please, Please, pretty please. Too many channels and my head will explode.



  4. Another option is to use a mailing list and have it archived at Gmane provides access to lists via feed protocols, NNTP, and a web-based forums. The Gmane software is FLOSS. As far as I can tell, SMF is not FLOSS and I’m surprised Mozilla Labs chose it. Maybe it is FLOSS??


  5. Roland: definitely, I want full text feeds. Including replies can get messy, but I’ll see if we can find something.

    Axel: I’ll review the legalese, and find out why it’s there.

    Ratty: I empathize with the problem — I have the same challenge, compounded. That’s why I’ve come to really like RSS feeds and RSS aggregators. (Thunderbird does RSS too, so you don’t need a new app or website…)

    Doug: I doubt it — the hope is that it’ll become a vibrant community, much of which would be too much for planet’s purposes.

    Nancy: I guess I need to review gmane — if they’ve integrated Atom/RSS, it might be a good compromise in the future.

    All: Thanks for the feedback! I’m well aware that I can’t please everyone with any forum technology choice.


  6. Axel: I just reviewed the “legalese” on the registration page, and I have to say it seems OK to me. It’s understandable english, doesn’t USE ALL CAPS anywhere, and the intent seems relatively clear to me. What about it do you object to?

    It’s certainly easier to parse than most software licenses!


  7. I am simply not going to review that much US legal text or sign indemnification clauses or such just to participate in a forum.

    Whether this sounds OK or less cryptic than a software license, or my work contract, is kind-of off-topic. This is a web-forum, chosen for a low barrier to entry. And the legalese is not.


  8. I second the Gmane/Google Groups point. The current Mozilla newsgroup/mailing list bi-directional gateway setup is all things to all men. You can read stuff as news, you can read it as a mailing list, you can read and search it on the web using Gmane or Google Groups, or (because it uses standard protocols) you can turn it into an RSS feed, or whatever you like.

    Web-based forums are a reinvention of newsgroups under the “worse is better” principle. For example, none of them do as good threading as native NNTP clients like Thunderbird.


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