Do we need a Discourse when we have a mailing list?

There is clear need for discussion outside of GitHub.

As you know, Ondrej set up a mailing list several days ago:

In the meantime I also set up this Discourse instance.

Since there is considerable overlap between the purpose of the mailing list and the Discourse–general discussion about anything Fortran–I wonder if there is need to have both, and if there are adverse effects to having both.

There are people who will prefer the format of one or another. Email is lower bandwidth, but is also more rudimentary and lacks rich text features. On the other hand, Discourse introduces much more friction, at least in the beginning. I consider myself technically literate, and I find the Discourse UI quite busy and will take some time to learn.

A downside to email is that it’s more difficult to moderate. When there is clear violation of Code of Conduct, we can prevent the poster from sending emails again. However, violating emails that have been sent can’t be unsent or deleted retroactively. On Discourse, we have more control to moderate properly.

As this is an experiment, we need to try both and see what works. I think that we’ll end up using both, with somewhat different but also overlapping audiences on each.

What do you think?

Email lists are more suited for one-way communications. They’re not particularly good as a discussion medium. Forums are much better as a discussion medium, but not very good at mass notification. So I think there is definitely room for both.

I will say though, that there are already several of both out there for Fortran. If we want these new ones to be useful, we will need to make a considerable effort to get people to move their communications to these platforms.


Brad, what other Fortran forums are there? It could be worth it to communicate our efforts there as well.

I at least know of comp.fortran.lang, the google group. One might consider the r/Fortran subredit another. And of course there’s Stackoverflow, but that’s not quite the same thing. For mailing lists there’s already the J3 and WG5 mailing lists. I think I might be on another one too. If we want to try and consolidate more of that into one place it might be a good idea, but we’ll probably have to drag people kicking and screaming.

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I’m all for it! The sooner Fortran discussions move away from Usenet the better! :slight_smile:

Here are a few other discussion/mailing lists I’m aware of:

Okay, I was aware of most of these. Some of them are not quite alternatives to what we’re building and serve a specific and narrow purpose:

  • J3 and WG5 mailing lists
  • Intel Fortran forum

which I don’t think we should aim to “convert”, but merely let know that a Discourse exists and that everybody’s welcome to join.

This leaves us with:

  • comp.lang.fortran–similar scope but not moderated
  • r/fortran–I don’t think I’ve read anything there, but it sounds it’s likely to be news and general discussion
  • Fortran FOSS Gitter–different format (chat) but similar scope

These I think have more overlap with Discourse in scope, and by all means we should welcome everybody in those channels to join here as well.

I think the “kicking and screaming” problem is a kind that solves itself–if we build a healthy and valuable community here, others will happily join.

I think this is the key and a clear answer yes. I agree.


I also agree here - I’m likely to prefer the Discourse, now that we have it, due to its advantages over a simple mailing list. I also think an active Discourse is a good sign to people outside the community who may be thinking of picking-up Fortran since many other modern languages have a Discourse.

comp.lang.fortran have some interesting posts, however I find that discussions often descend into rants and petty back-and-forth (since no moderation) and the community have a tendency towards discussing Fortran history and legacy codes/compilers/architectures - this isn’t a bad thing (I find it interesting) but it means that CLF isn’t very novice-friendly (imo) and it also maintains an image of Fortran as an archaic language (which it is not).

/r/fortran is the polar opposite: reddit has a much younger community which means that most of the posts are those seeking help with Fortran who have very little programming experience in general.

I was not aware of the Fortran FOSS gitter but I think Discourse provides a better format for discussion.


I think some of the discussions on the Intel Forum would also fit Discourse (many threads are not related to the Intel Fortran compiler or libraries). The best part about the Intel forum is that many of the people are very knowledgable about Fortran.

I also think the comp.lang.fortran forum reflects the older community. It is a great source to learn information about old hardware, compiler tricks, and background about Fortran language features, but I find it sort of detached from the modern programming world.

From what I’ve seen on the Julia and Rust pages, Discourse looks like a great format for both very technical discussions, but also just having fun with programming.


I think Discourse is great for high quality discussions, similar to GitHub issues, which also provide high quality discussion (you can format and edit your comments, etc.).

However, mailinglists are a great tool for a discussion with everybody, as well as announcements and general coordination.

So we need both.


@septc, I think I agree. Our mailinglist ( is an equivalent of comp.lang.fortran — a single channel, better for announcement like posts that result in a short dicussion / clarification. Anybody can announce there however and they will get attention of the whole community. So this is really effective and I am hoping people will be using it to announce their new projects and efforts, etc. Also if you want to learn about something, or discuss about something where you want to reach the whole community. Unlike comp.lang.fortran, our mailinglist is moderated (thus no spam, no rude behavior, etc.), and more usable online archives and system (comp.lang.fortran does not seem to allow me to subscribe to it with a non-gmail email).

I like this Discourse, I think it will work out great. Thank you @milancurcic again for setting it up.


@rgoswami suggested in to move more discussion to Discourse.

I am personally completely fine with using the mailinglist for devopment, that was my idea when I created it, but if people think it’s better to use for announcements, and use Discourse for high volume discussion, then I am happy to help enforce it.

Can others chime in here what they would prefer to do?


I think both the Discourse and the mailing list are okay for discussion. Some people may prefer to use one or the other exclusively, and they should be able to do that.

My suggestion for everybody here: Write to whichever medium you prefer. For announcements, I think it’s okay to cross-post on both if you want to reach both audiences. I don’t recommend starting the same discussion in both channels. That would be confusing to many of us who are subscribed to both.


Some interesting use stats between the mailing list and Discourse so far.

Since May 4 to date, the Fortran Discourse has had:

  • 47 users
  • 40 topics
  • 233 posts

Since May 2 to date, the Fortran mailing list has had:

  • 57 users
  • 13 topics
  • 72 posts

Based on this limited data, mailing list saw more signups but significantly less conversation. Perhaps this means the mailing list is easier to sign up–you just send an email to the subscribe address. Perhaps this means that mailing list is more useful for passive reading, like announcements and such. Will be interesting to see what these number look like in a year or so when we have more data.

The Discourse definitely seems to be becoming more popular so I’m happy we started it. I personally look forward to reading the discussions every morning, and this is one of the first tabs I open at the start of my day. :slight_smile:


Looks like it is shaping exactly as we hoped — the mailinglist relatively lower volume, but wide reach. Very useful resource to have. We can re-evaluate in a year.

Hello, just one question… I think this Discourse form is mainly dedicated to Fortran topics, but I am wondering to what extent other “meta” topics related to general numerical / technical computing may be posted? One topic that I would like to ask is about hardware (particularly interested in Ryzen-based machines and performance) and the choice of operating systems (e.g., experience with different Linux OSes). If there are more dedicated forums for the latter kind of things, I would really appreciate it if you kindly suggest some pointers :slight_smile:

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I am also in favor of adding more categories in this Discourse eg. “code review”, “tutorials” and “community” or “offtopic” etc. Regarding your request about hardware, for the moment, it could just be in “uncategorized”. Maybe you could start a new post there with more details.
Finally, there are some forums that you may find useful information and request help for your new build. Check the links below:

  3. (A lot of interesting articles / case-studies that compare Intel vs AMD based systems under heavy workloads, but usually they focus only on high-end workstations $$$)

Good question. Indeed, the Welcome post says this forum is for things related to Fortran (I wrote that).

However, I wonder if we should revise it. The way I think about this is: Something (Fortran) brought us all here. Now, that we’re here, we should be able to discuss anything we want, subject to CoC.

So for now, I’d say please go ahead and start any off-topic thread. We can easily add new tags. I like the ones that @stavros suggested.

@certik @lkedward what do you think?


I agree with @milancurcic here and would be interested to hear from the Fortran community on related technical topics like hardware and other Linux distros etc.


Thanks very much for the links! Because I’ve never built a PC or workstation “from scratch”, the first link on Reddit ( ) seems particularly useful for me. I will check those links first and ask questions (about parts etc) if necessary :grin:

@milancurcic @lkedward Thanks very much for your comments. One of my interest is how people in this thread deal with PC or workstations for their use, e.g., just buy from vendors or build by yourself (totally or partly). I also read this article about Linus Torvalds’ new machine, so wondering if it is rather popular to build such a machine by oneself.

Because this is not a topic much related to Fortran (directly), I will put a tag like “uncategorized” or “off-topic (OT)”. Thanks much :slight_smile:

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