1. 29

Well, e-mail for now.

In your settings is a new option that will turn on mailing list messages. All new stories and comments posted to lobste.rs will get e-mailed to you as though they were posted to a mailing list that you are subscribed to, including the text content of story URLs (as retrieved through Diffbot). Your tag filters still apply, and you will not receive e-mails for stories or their comments that would not be shown here on the website.

Comments are delivered with proper References headers so if your e-mail client can thread messages, they will display properly:

screenshot

Comment view:

screenshot

Reply by e-mail

If you reply to your mailing list address (which all e-mails appear to be sent to, and have their Reply-To header set to), your e-mail message will get converted into a comment that will get posted to this site as a reply to the corresponding comment or story (assuming your e-mail client isn’t completely braindead and sends a proper In-Reply-To header).

Most mailing lists just authenticate list postings by the From address, but all list subscribers can view the headers of those messages to see whether they are authentic. Since that wouldn’t be possible for comments posted here, I chose to authenticate users by giving each one a unique mailing list address. Any message posted to that unique list address will get posted here through your account, regardless of your From address.

Just to make it clear, this doesn’t behave like a normal mailing list, where your e-mails are directly broadcast to every other subscribed user. When you reply, your message is processed, the text extracted, your mailing list token is looked up, and a comment is posted with your account and comment text. A separate process sees the new comment posted (just like any other comment posted to the website) and sends out a new e-mail to everyone by generating a new message with their unique mailing list address headers. Your actual e-mail address, name, and hopefully e-mail signature (assuming you use the standard dash-dash-space-newline separator) will never be seen by anyone else. If there is some error in your reply message, like it has no text/plain part, your list address is invalid, or your mail client didn’t send a proper In-Reply-To header, you’ll get a bounce back.

Why?

I’m a big mailing list user and for many technical subjects, I prefer subscribing to a list or reading a Usenet archive over reading pages and pages of forum archives. I’ve found that many other technical people share this preference and its format may encourage more discussion than this website currently gets, while still including users that prefer a web format.

By receiving stories and comments as e-mails, it will allow readers to queue up unread discussion and participate at their leisure, rather than just whenever the story is at the top of the website. The story text extraction also makes it possible to read the content of websites in an e-mail client, offline, or however you prefer to read them. Being able to compose replies in a familiar text editor can also be beneficial when composing long replies, rather than feeling constrained by a small text box on a website.

Limitations

Currently there is no way to submit a new story by e-mail. I don’t think I’ll be implementing this, since our story submission page is well optimized for picking tags, automatically fetching the story title, and displaying errors. Chances are you’re probably in your web browser anyway if you have just looked at a URL you want to submit.

There is no way to vote by e-mail, but I’m not too concerned about this. I’d rather have a story with no votes and 10 comments than a story with no comments and 20 votes.

The program that turns replies into comments tries to strip out e-mail signatures, but inevitably there will be users that don’t use dash-dash-space-newline and their signature will get posted with their comment.

  1.  

  2. 4

    I really love this feature. Great work.

    1. 3

      Well, lobsters just got a whole hell of lot cooler. This will even make it easier to reply on your phone.

      1. 1

        Without actually trying, is Markdown supported in your reply like with normal comment submissions?

        1. 1

          Yes, you can use markdown.

        2. 1

          love it!

          long live email ;)

          1. 1

            I would really like to see the ability to vote added.. no idea how it would be implemented.. but man that would be hot!

            Also minor gripe – many characters get converted into “?” – anything to be done about that?

            1. 2

              Also minor gripe – many characters get converted into “?” – anything to be done about that?

              I implemented a change earlier today that should help with this (it seems to have helped the last few stories). It does a bunch of manual gsubs on “smart” quotes and em-dashes and things before cramming other utf-8 data into us-ascii. I’ll keep an eye out for more un-convertables that become question marks and add more gsubs.

            2. 1

              @jcs I would be interested to know the impact implementing this had on http traffic going to your server. Did it decrease?

              1. 2

                It hasn’t decreased any measurable amount but since the traffic to the site is increasing a bit each week, it’s hard to tell.