Is the weeklyOSM alert choking low-volume mailing lists?

First of all, a disclaimer: I have a very high consideration of the hard work performed by the weeklyOSM team, most of our socializing and community building tools focus on the local, and they provide an invaluable global glue function!

This said, I am concerned about the impact of the constant flow of weekly alerts on very small communities, and I wonder if this is not having a choking effect.

All computations here are crudely and heuristically executed, using standard unix tools like sed, grep, wc, so there might be errors, and approximations.

I’ve collected, all talk-xx mailing lists that (for whatever reason) are subscribed to the weeklyOSM alert. It’s the following 32: talk-africa talk-bo talk-br talk-ca talk-cl talk-cm talk-cn talk-co talk-cu talk-de talk-es talk-gb talk-gh talk-ht talk-ie talk-in talk-it talk-ke talk-ko talk-latam talk-mx talk-ph talk-pl talk-pt talk-scotland talk-sn talk-tn talk-tr talk-tw talk-tz talk-ug talk-us

Looking at their activity since 2015, I’ve counted the amount of posts and amount of “noise” if you let me pass the term, produced by the weeklyOSM alerts.

While these alerts are hardly noticeable on active lists like talk-us, where of 7989 posts, 342 were the weekly alerts, or talk-gb, with 353 out of 12777, corresponding to N/S (Noise to Signal) ratio in both cases lower than 0.05, for less active lists, the figures are different!

Looking at the data after 2019, in Tunisia there have been 5 local posts against 185 weekly alerts (S/N=37.0), or 1 against 131 since 2020. Scotland had 24 local posts against 190 weekly alerts since 2019, becoming 13 against 134 since 2020.

How many mailing lists are according to me affected? splitting the data at 2018, then 2019, 2020 and 2021, there’s respectively 16, 18, 21, and 22 lists with S/N ratio above 1.0.

My concern regards the impact of this action, and the logic of matrioska subscriptions. You see, if I’m interested in the weeklyOSM as I indeed definitely am, I subscribe to their mailing list, or something like this. If I’m interested to local Moroccan news, I subscribe to the talk-ma, as I have indeed done. I also receive the talk-latam news, which repeats the weeklyOSM that I already receive. Now should I become interested in Tunisia, or Bolivia, why should I receive yet another copy of the same weeklyOSM? boh?

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I am not subscribed to any mailing list that is dominated by WeeklyOSM but I receive it multiple times on the lists I do subscribe to. One way to tackle this could be to have a well publicised way to subscribe to WeeklyOSM in your favourite language but we would have to explain what is going on to people who are used to getting sent links through mailing lists.

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maybe I am misunderstanding, but are you telling me that the weeklyOSM team tried to achieve the widest audience for the newsletter by subscribing local lists?
why not grabbing the subscription lists for all newsletters, grouping them by language, and “forcibly” subscribing people to the newsletter? after all, what has been done now is also a forced subscription.
the advantage would be that people would: (1) receive a first message announcing the “courtesy” subscription; (2) receive the newsletter just once per language; (3) be able to unsubscribe the weeklyOSM (if felt annoyed by it) without needing unsubscribe the local mailing lists.

who knows sometime the standard distribution of the weekly will be more than a link.

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I find the Weekly very interesting, but understand the issue you’re raising.

What mailing lists do you think the Weekly should stop announcing to?

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I also find the Weekly very interesting (so much that I’ve written a small script that would expand the weekly link to the weekly content, and put it in my mailbox).

in my opinion, how do I make it clearer than I’ve done above, is that no subscription should imply any other subscription. I’m interested in Mailing List X, I subscribe that. No subscription to X should imply a subscription to Y, however interesting Y might be, and however interesting we know Y to be.

must I insist? By this I’m absolutely NOT saying that the WeeklyOSM is uninteresting, my opinion is the diametral opposite of that, but that is NOT the question here. Please indulge me, and use the pipermail archives site to find the last few threads that appeared in talk-ko, Latam, or in Scotland, ignoring the weeklyosm.

if this still does not answer your question, please check what I wrote above: after we do what I describe there (grabbing the subscription lists …), I think that the weekly should stop announcing to talk lists.

Generally speaking, things in the OSM world tend to be produced by a small group of volunteers who collaborate via some collaboration tool. There’s always far more work that needs doing than there are people to do it and because everyone’s a volunteer, no-one can tell anyone to do anything.

If you think something could be done better, the most effective way of making that change happen is to contact the people involved and ask “How can I help?”. In the case of WeeklyOSM, there are various links here that should work. Talking to the people directly, as opposed to talking about them somewhere else, is much more likely to have a positive impact.

That said, one thing that I’d expect that people would ask would be "has anyone from Korea / Scotland / wherever complained about receiving WeeklyOSM posts to that list? If no-one has, then there’s not really a reason to stop, is there?

Regards,
Andy (occasional WeeklyOSM contributor)

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First, thanks for the well-researched post! It’s good to have clear numbers, and it’s certainly not great if a mailing list consists mostly of WeeklyOSM updates. Of course, that doesn’t mean that these lists would be more active if it wasn’t for those updates… but it’s hard to know whether or not that’s the case without running an experiment.

I can see a few problems with that solution:

  • It cannot be a one-time action because people joining the community in the future should learn about WeeklyOSM as well.
  • It requires either handing over the addresses of subscribers to WeeklyOSM (breach of privacy) or the WeeklyOSM newsletter being operated by the OSMF and WeeklyOSM losing some of its independence.
  • There may be legal issues because subscribing people to a mailing list or newsletter is generally considered to require opt-in whereas sending email to a list they’re already subscribed carries no such expectations. Yes, even if the practical result is not that different.

I do agree that matrioska subscriptions, as you call them, aren’t ideal and I find them annoying on some (non-OSM) lists I’m subscribed to. But I can’t really see a pragmatic alternative. Some platforms, such as the Austrian forum, seem to have settled on posting WeeklyOSM updates as answers to an existing thread instead of opening a new thread each time, which I guess makes them a little easier to ignore if you don’t want them.

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I for one would probably miss most weeklyOSMs if I was not prompted to read them when the emails arrive on a Sunday so I for one like the current system.

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Which one exactly do you mean?

This is a kind of advanced way of subscribing to weeklyOSM and you need to use Linux/MacOS for that.

please not forcibly.

I do not think so. Otherwise mailing list moderators might have blocked that account from sending mails to the list. Also, you can filter your mail and directly move weeklyOSM mails to trash if you want. Moreover, if the mailing list is already dead otherwise, why not unsubscribe from the mailing list itself?

I am subscribed to the Bavarian mailing list. And the list is used to e.g. announce the monthly meeting in Munich. So, accouncements are a common use case for a mailing list IMO.

Maybe if you think the other way round, when a new mapper subscribes to the mailing list, at least there is some traffic, which is not that uninteresting.

How about a series of messages over the next couple months announcing the removal of WeeklyOSM from individual mailing lists. Include tjis an addendum to the normal messages. Include information about change and subscription instructions for the mailing list in the user’s language. This should be enough to make sure most users aware of the change. Those who are interested in continuing to receiving updates about WeeklyOSM only need to follow the Included instructions on how to subscribe.

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@Strubbl, you have not checked out those lists, have you? they are just as interesting as the weeklyOSM, which is very interesting, but if I’m already subscribed to it, why subscribing again?
… either I do not manage to make my point, or I managed perfectly, and nobody wants to listen.

in both cases, I guess I should just give up.
and remove myself from a few talk-xx mailing lists.

in sociologic terms, we are running that experiment, and even if I do not pretend that my quick check amounts to running a through analysis of the available data, what I measured does suggest that the answer to the question I’m asking here is “yes”.

if we wanted to test my suggestion,

  • we could couple measurements of monthly traffic per mailing list, checking whether the day when each list was subscribed to the weeklyOSM did have a choking effect on smaller lists.
  • or we could spend the next 5 years and run the opposite experiment, de-subscribing all lists, and see what happens.
  • or running a survey, among the subscribed mailing lists.
  • or even testing whether any of the links are ever perused, that’s easily done.

or we could have decided that the answer is “no” and that no further study is necessary. which is also fine, not a particularly scientific approach, but who am I to judge?

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+1 to the comments asking for better definition of the problem that is asked to be solved here.

For me the main question to ask is “Do these posts negatively affect low volume mailing list? Why and how?”

An additional question I might have is “Why WeeklyOSM needs to be posted in that many mailing lists?”

Here I have an assumption: WeeklyOSM wants to have as much exposure to OSM contributors as possible, and the existing multi-list ecosystem makes them opt for this approach because a lot of contributors only follow their local mailing list.

I’m also thinking that now that these forums are online and provide a more cross-community approach, we might want to have the full WeeklyOSM articles posted on #general with a weeklyosm tag so people can easily comment on the weeklies in a more cross-community way and opt-in/out to get notifications about this tag.

How does this sound?

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Completely unrelated to mailing-lists :grinning:

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I understand the connection might not be super direct and that’s why my message had two parts:

  • One asking a question about the issue brought in the original post
  • And another one trying to understand if there is a better way to WeeklyOSM to get more exposure and engagement, which might result in a reduced need for mailing list exposure if identified as a problem for some low volume lists.

@nukeador’s reaction is IMO very to the point: he addresses the question I’m raising, from a slightly different, slightly wider point of view. That I call a constructive reaction.

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I’m in the OSM Korea community, so subscribing talk-ko (87 members) and the osmKorea Telegram channel (129 members).
In my observation, members in the Telegram channel rarely use talk-ko, since they are unfamiler with ‘mailing list’, but familer with ‘chatting room’.

So, I think

  1. the WeeklyOSM announcement don’t prevent our from communication on the mailing list, but
  2. the mail seems not to be usable for announcement, al least on talk-ko (because I also announce the new WeeklyOSM article at the Telegram channel every week).
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My though two discussions going on here;

  1. General announcements about WeeklyOSM spamming a particular method of discussion!
    Determine which mailing lists it is creating to much noise. Transition WeeklyOSM on those lists to opt-in subscription.

  2. Move most of all regular WeeklyOSM discussions here. At least combine discussions based on region/language and share them here. That way decisions made at the regional level can be shared and translated in one place.

As someone who read some of this low-volume lists.
I’d rather have the weeklyOSM than not.

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