Nathan wrote:
>So the lesson here is that list archives should not be messed with.

Yes. A thousand times yes.

>I don't think that is news, I seem to remember hearing about the havoc
>potentially caused by selectively editing list archives many years ago
>and once in awhile ever since.

It goes something like this:

* an important enough person makes a reasonable enough request for archive

* a root (<>) tries to rewrite history;

* there are various side effects, almost always including broken links.

In this particular case, we seem to have possibly permanently damaged the
February 2014 archive. The typical side effect is every historical link
being reindexed so that links largely continue to function, but lead to
the entirely wrong post. I think we were fortunate to avoid that this time.

To be clear, this isn't operations' fault, per se, this is largely mailman
being awful. Perhaps mailman intentionally wants to prevent this type of
behavior, though there's a lot more evidence to suggest that mailman is
simply outdated, unloved, and awful. We may also be running an old version
of it, for better or worse.

The operations team is the only group capable of taking any action on
incoming requests such as this, as I understand it, so they get stuck
deciding whether or not to act. What feeds the cycle is that there's
typical staff turnover among operations and the requests are infrequent
enough. The people who do decide to act almost always immediately regret
it and vow not to repeat the mistake, but there's still a (rotating) pool
of people yet to be scarred by the experience.

Broadly, I don't think many people appreciate how important mailing lists
have been and continue to be to Wikimedia. Both in terms of providing a(n)
historical record and in terms of day-to-day workflow. It would not be a
bad investment on the part of the Wikimedia Foundation or a Wikimedia
chapter to improve (or replace) mailman. Perhaps Flow or Echo or some
other four-letter communication tool... one day. :-)

One idea I had was to have a bot or script post the full messages to wiki
pages on Meta-Wiki (e.g., "Mailing lists/wikimedia-l/foo"). This would
provide for much more stable links and provide a few other benefits. But
it didn't quite seem worth it.


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