[mesa-users] Seeking community input on MESA's web presence

Alfred Gautschy alfred at gautschy.ch
Tue Jan 17 13:39:03 EST 2012

On one side, I personally find the current mailing-list system
informative and helpful; on the other hand, it is terrible to keep track
of a particular topic the mailing-list. At least to me, it is a pain in
the neck or even deterrent to try to follow a thread that develops over
a number of days or a series of back-and-forth exchanges between
parties. Things get particularly bad if all the previous levels of
discussions are attached to the messages and/or links to useful
informations are skipped or get lost. 

The best illustration of the above whining is how I have to answer to
the current thread, which really takes some will to contribute: I am
forced to write the mail in an external application, copy&paste the
thread title to the "concern" line, and send it to the mailing-list
rather than being able to just click on something like "Post Reply"
which opens a submission window (as it frequently/usually happens in a
forum) and lets me contribute to the topic at hand. 
[Somehow, I never get past the "mesa-users *(read-only)*" status in the
email archive; if somebody manages to interact in a more sophisticated
way, one of the elderly-ones (aka the writer) would appreciate to learn
about it.]  

Resorting to a forum (such as supported in sourceforge and ready but
essentially unused in the case of MESA) would at least eliminate the
problem of fogging-in the evolution and hopefully the resolution of a
particular thread on whatever topic concerning MESA. If each thread
would get a proper title, the temptation to repeatedly chew on a
particular topic, or open a knew thread each time, would be considerably
reduced. Furthermore, since forums also have the possibility of fulltext
searches it would be rather easy to find (or not) topics fitting user
search-words. I think that a forum could essentially serve most needs to
help users and to motivate users to contribute rather painlessly while
maintaining a decently manageable order in the whole collection.

As an example, to me one of the best expriences with forums is that
associated with the Yorick project: See e.g.


It is simple enough to let me find my way with ease even when visiting
it only casually; it is comprehensive enough to have served essentially
all the needs I ever had.

A digest of the forum activity might still be mailed off to mailing-list
subscribers to satisfy those who want to be actively pushed towards MESA
activities; or at least being informed on topics of current concern. 

Running an elementary FAQ on the *MESA webpage* itself would certainly
be helpful, in particular when dealing with elementary installation and
start-up issues for those who consider earnestly to jump this

IMO, a MESA manual for educational purposes, which was discussed
recently, would probably be best served via a Wiki installation with a
diligent, critical, but supportive curator in the background. The wiki
could be open to all users who have applied to get access to the forum
(i.e. to registered users) - hence, one could probably get rid of much
potential misuse that way already. However, it appears to me that MESA
is still changing so rapidly, and these changes are not easily visible
to the common user since they appear to happen along multiple fronts and
sometimes deep down in the code, that it will be challenging to maintain
an up-to-date manual at the present stage of the development. 


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