To my mind this is a ridiculous state of affairs, and I propose to remedy it, like so:
- Extend the OpenACS Forums package to support importing mailing list archives and displaying them as read-only web Forums.
- Also add the ability to take arbitrary mailboxes of saved emails and import them as if they were a list archive. Distinguish and filter out duplicate emails.
- Add admin UI to control permissions, categorization, content editing, etc. of such imported email data. (For private non-list emails, on initial import default the permissions to those users who actually received the emails.)
- Extend the functionality of Forums search. In addition to
plain full-text search, it should support searching for content by
particular authors, within particular dates, in particular
combinations of Forums, possibly by various metadata tags, etc.
The above features should make OpenACS very useful for archiving and searching the bazillions of emails saved at most companies and other organizations. Important business or technical details are often contained only in emails, which are then mis-filed and effectively lost. Yet most employees have big folders of old work emails lying around, they just can't organize or search them effectively, and can't let anyone else do so either.
But that's a solvable problem... Take all of those email folders, automatically suck them into your single centralized store, and type some queries into the "search" box.
- Add functionality to also export web-based Forums content
to email archive and/or Usenet format.
A very serious drawback of all current web-based forums is that they are 100% centralized, there is no easy built in distribution or redundancy at all for all that data. This has always worried me...
When ArsDigita went away, its years of BBoard content did not survive in any format amenable for importing into openacs.org or another OpenACS instance. We were lucky that any of that content surived as static HTML pages at Red Hat at all. If the OpenACS server ever melted down, would we lose content? I don't know, but I do know that we would be 100% dependent on retrieving a recent PostgreSQL backup, etc.
It shouldn't be that way. I should be able to provide a read-only mirror of all the OpenACS Forums content, by just asking the openacs.org maintainers to flip one switch.
I haven't actually looked at the OpenACS Forums code at all, so I don't know how difficult this would be. I believe OpenACS and/or Tcllib also both have various email handling functions which should help this work, but I'm not yet familiar with those either.
I would like to work on this, but probably won't have time until summer 2006. Anyone else also interested in this project?
Any comments or further thoughts?