Proposal to Migrate US Import Mailing List to OpenStreetMap Community Forum

Dear OpenStreetMap Community Members,

I am writing to propose the migration of an OpenStreetMap imports mailing list, specifically the United States (import-us) mailing list, to the OpenStreetMap community forum on Discourse. This idea stems from the belief that the forum format may provide a better user experience and be more accessible to new community members.

Benefits of using the OpenStreetMap Community Forum on Discourse include:

  1. Improved user experience with features such as rich text, formatting, hyperlinks, linking to other topics, and replies, which are handled more effectively in the Discourse environment.
  2. Lower barriers to entry for new community members who may not be familiar with mailing lists or have supported email clients.
  3. A more modern and accessible communication platform that aligns with current internet trends.

As the United States import mailing list has been relatively inactive, with no posts since December 2022 and only a few messages per month, it seems appropriate to start the transition with this specific list. The proposal is to integrate US import discussions directly into the forum using tags to separate import-related discussions from other topics. We can agree upon a specific tag for all import-related posts, making them easily identifiable and separate from other forum content.

I have had preliminary discussions with other moderators regarding the feasibility of migrating old mailing list content to the forum. Due to the site team’s limited resources, it appears that this may not be possible in the short term. However, I believe that we can still move forward with this proposal, applying it only to future discussions.

Following this message, I plan to formally propose this idea on the OpenStreetMap wiki using the traditional process. I welcome any feedback, suggestions, or concerns from the community, and I hope that this migration can benefit our community and enhance the OpenStreetMap project as a whole.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Elliott Plack
US Forum Moderator


I think this is a really good idea. The reach of all the US mailing lists seems to have really declined in the past few years and the inferiority of that medium for discussion has become more apparent.

I think that migrating the email lists to this community forum is a good idea. The US imports list would be a good candidate for starting this transition.

I think this is generally true, especially because of integration with accounts. However, the list has occasionally seen guest posts from unsubscribed, non-OSM-affiliated government agencies offering to contribute their datasets. While we’d counsel these individuals to familiarize themselves with OSM and the import guidelines anyways, it’s nice to have an e-mail address that anyone can send information about potential data sources. Maybe we can suggest that they reach out to OSMUS, who can handhold them on documenting the data source and tee them up with potential community champions.

I think that’s fine. As I understand it, the main reason for migrating the old forum’s post over to Discourse was that it wouldn’t be feasible to keep the old forum software hobbling along, even in a read-only state. But the Mailman instance will probably be around for a while, even if it’s approaching the same state of obsolescence. (We’re on an ancient version of that software.)

Is there a usual playbook for publicly archiving a list? I figure the moderators would like to stop monitoring the moderation queue for spam, which would require shutting off new posts somehow. It would be pointless for subscribers to keep getting monthly password reminders too; maybe best to unsubscribe everyone.

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Hi Elliott!

I’ve actually been thinking about this idea a lot recently. I’ve even proposed to move the international mailing list to the discourse for the same reasons you list here.

The reality of the mailing lists that I’ve observed is that all the people who actually legitimately use the mailing lists to discuss topics frequently also have an account on the discourse as well.

The mailing list can at times be difficult to parse what is happening in a conversation, especially on a single import thread, since the archives only show messages from a single month, while a discussion may last several. Additionally, you can only view one message at a time, further limiting readability.

Revisiting this because I realize we never settled the topic.

@iandees I think is the mod for the talk-us and imports-us list. Ian, do I have that right? Is it technically possible to close the imports-us list and maybe even have an autoresponder pointing users here?

I think such a thing is possible, but I don’t have mod on the imports-us mailing list (only imports, dev, and talk-us). Let me see if I can get added to imports-us too.

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Thanks for checking! Here’s what I’d propose for an order of operations mainly for myself unless noted:

  1. Update the import wiki to mention this change for US-based imports
  2. Sunset the imports-us list @iandees
  3. Set up auto responder if possible
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