Mailing Lists

November 22nd, 2022 — Josh


Where do the experts hang out?

When I first started eating my computing cereal I thought they congregated on Quora, and so I read it like a madman while on the train. That wasn't quite right, even though Alan Kay seems to like posting on Quora for some reason. I also wondered if that was them talking about apples in the Java programming tutorials on YouTube.

Then I thought all of the experts were dead. I could only find them in books or on defunct web pages only viewable through the Wayback Machine. I read legends about them on Eric Raymond's website and in Steven Levy's "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution". I found myself in Fravia's fortress but I was alone. I even stumbled onto the sea of spam and wisdom that was Usenet, hot on the trail of Mark V. Shaney's schizophrenic postings, but there was nobody here.

At some point I fell head first into the blogosphere, where many Internet homesteaders mused about various topics dear to them. I learned a lot, but I was still lonely spending my time peering into people's windows. Recordings of talks on YouTube were a bit more lively but shared the same problem.

I considered the possibility that my professors at school were the experts, but was quickly disillusioned by how prolific most were at reading off of slides for 45 minutes. (A few of them were really cool though -- they taught me a lot, and I was impressed by how well they hid their annoyance in their replies to my fat emails).

I gathered hundreds of whitepapers that are sitting unopened collecting spacedust in my digital closet. I'll let you know if the experts are in there, the tentative deadline is somewhere in the next couple of decades.

I finally succumbed to reading the orange website on a daily basis, though I have mixed feelings about it. Well, Everyone's a Critic. An expert... usually not.

My moka pot of a brain has begun to sputter, so let me discuss another form of media which I've really come to enjoy.

moka pot

Mailing Lists

I had to somewhat contort the order of things above so I could discuss mailing lists last, as that's what I intended this post to be about (asking for mailing list recommendations).

A few years ago, at the recommendation of Doug McIlroy, I subscribed to the TUHS mailing list (and shortly after to the COFF list). These are two forums where experts and interested parties discuss UNIX history (Rob Pike, Doug McIlroy, and Ken Thompson have occasionally participated). Although for the first few months I could not understand what was being said, I got a lot from being exposed to this atmosphere. There's something great about sitting in on a room of knowledgeable people candidly talking to one another, it's different from tones of writing you'd find elsewhere. The implied level of competence required for participation gives people the freedom to speak naturally.

I'm also subscribed to the Groff mailing list, which is equally as interesting (though I'm still not fully over that initial learning curve). Reading G. Branden Robinson's deep excursions into even the most modest issues is inspirational, I've learned a lot.

Another reason that mailing lists are cool is that they come to you -- I wake up to a few interesting messages in my inbox each day. The same could be said about RSS feeds, but I haven't gotten around to using them yet :-). The other part of this is that the conversation is happening in real time, which is something my brain is more receptive to. I've also neglected to mention a most important point, which is that you can actually participate in these discussions!

So, it is with the highest enthusiasm that I recommend to you these mailing lists. Are there any mailing lists which I haven't mentioned that you enjoy? I'd be really happy to hear about them if you wanna share, my email is josh [at]

Other Streams and Pastures

I'm excited to find other hyper and hypo-venues to explore and siphon information from. There must be others, both with living experts and dead ones.

The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne!