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  #31 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 08:31 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Hal Levy
I have noticed that parts of the web interface seem to have survived in some places. I am told, however I don't know for sure, that most of the last two months of messages are missing from the archive. I do know none of my April posts on design_patterns are in the archive.
The archives were created by a separate process running on the webserver, which wasn't as stable as we'd have liked (though "daily reboots" are far from the truth). This process probably failed some time towards the end of Wrox's existence, which is probably why those posts don't show up.

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Hal Levy
I even asked them dead-on about why the Lyris system (and web site) came back online for a short time. They told me they got some of it and tried to get it running and they couldn't keep it online and that the web interface was crashing.
The web interface was pretty much hard-coded to work on Wrox's network only, relying on fixed IP addresses, system DSNs and suchlike for it to work correctly. I'm not particularly surprised that Wiley couldn't get it back up quickly after transferring it to their servers, but with a bit of work (and help from me, if they needed it) I'm sure it could've been put back into service for a short while at least until a newer interface was ready. Some documentation was also available on paper, but I doubt that Wiley had access to that.

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Hal Levy
Um, I know I have not spoken to you or Stephen or Dan directly about the P2P stuff and the machines and reboots. I spoke to Jan about the webserver at one point and he told me that he thought it was rebooted daily because there were stability issues. However, at this point, I am not so confident I am remembering everything correctly.

If this is incorrect, I certainly don't want to be a person on record insulting your work as being unstable when it wasn't!
I wouldn't say that the P2P web interface was the most stable thing I've ever written; it was the first large-scale ASP site I ever worked on, and as such the code wasn't particularly clean, but it did work - two years and over 20 million page views (if I remember correctly) aren't to be sniffed at.

This "daily reboots" thing is indeed just a myth; IIS might've needed a restart every few weeks, but as far as I know that's pretty much necessary on most IIS installations every now and again. Not to be insulting to Jan (I worked with/for him for a significant amount of time at Wrox), but sometimes he exaggerated things just a bit :)

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Hal Levy
Perhaps APRESS will come out with a Developers forum using a true mail listserv.
I'm wondering whether, between us, we could do this on our own, if Wiley don't want to implement such a thing... hosting/bandwidth costs are the only real problem here, using free software would take care of most of the actual work involved. Pete Aylward from Friends of ED kept the FoED forums running after the collapse of Wrox, and now Apress seem to be working with him in carrying them on in the same format - see http://friendsofed.infopop.net/

Dave.
  #32 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 08:43 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by David Long
The archives were created by a separate process running on the webserver, which wasn't as stable as we'd have liked (though "daily reboots" are far from the truth). This process probably failed some time towards the end of Wrox's existence, which is probably why those posts don't show up.
In fact, looking at the archives, it seems that posts up to March 26 were archived correctly. Seeing as there was nobody at Arden House to administer the machines from close of business on March 14 (the day of the announced bankruptcy) onwards, that's pretty good going for a system that needed "daily reboots" ;) The Lyris server survived even longer than that from what I know, but unfortunately I think all those messages have been lost now...
  #33 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 09:44 AM
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Hello all.

I want to take a few minutes to respond to some of your questions and concerns but first I want to say that this will be the last time that I do so. These questions have completely taken over the focus of Halís post which is a request for help in adding a feature that so many of you say that you want.

1. I can answer most of your questions simply by saying that we bought the Wrox assets from a liquidator that had no technical knowledge of what they were selling us. What we got was incomplete, corrupt, and came with little or no explanation.
2. Yes we do have all of the source code for the p2p website. What we said was the dump from the postgress database that we received was corrupt and we were unable to get a new dump.
3. The only thing we new about the web interface was that from the time we started work on the conversion (In May) an IIS reset we required each morning on the server(s) in the UK. IIS reset is something a site should never need, our primary web farm currently hosts 17 websites and I have not had to reboot the servers or do an IIS reset in 8 months.
4. Whether you disagree with our decision or not we have stated many time why we made the decision to switch to the web forum.
5. As for Help in getting the old site up and running, we did hear that someone would be willing to help. But since we were told the servers were leased (which we were told on several occasions) the skill sets required for a new implementation of the site on our standard systems would be very different than the skills needs on the old system. But the time to re-develop the backend database, front-end website, and other features was just too long and expensive.

What this all means is that for all of the information flowing back and forth, there is still ONE feature missing from making this site the best of both worlds. I would ask again that if the feature of replying is truly wanted than please lend Hal your help in solving the 7 issues and we will be happy to implement the system adding back the ability you are lacking.

Thank you,


James Sample
Director, IT-Infrastructure
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
  #34 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 10:21 AM
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Please accept my apologies for taking this thread off-topic, but I, Dan and Stephen thought it best to try and clear up things that had already been mis-reported.

Back on topic: Many suggestions have already been given in this thread, but some of the problems seem unsolvable:
  • Authenticating users by something other than the "from" address - not difficult when dealing with replies (the authentication code would just be included in the reply) but new threads started by email would need something extra included in the body, which people just won't remember. We tried reminding people on the old site to cut down on the amount they quoted and to not quote headers/footers, but it just doesn't work, people just want to type their message, send it and forget about it - they don't want to have to take extra steps just to post to a mailing list, especially if they don't have to do that on other mailing lists they use.

    The "registered IP address" mechanism probably won't work reliably in most cases due to SMTP relays (this will affect most users to some extent, I'd have thought), and insisting on PGP signatures will alienate users who currently don't use them. I can't see an alternative, workable solution for this, and nobody else has posted one in this thread either.
  • Detection of overquoting is never going to be foolproof. I tried many times to write some code that could handle any quoting mechanism so the archive would be a bit neater, but I gave up in the end as I figured it's just not possible - there's simply too many mailers out there that do it in different and incompatible ways.

    If you really want to achieve this, I can't see how you'll do it without a human operator in the loop to figure out exactly which bits of the original message are relevant, and which bits aren't. A computer program would basically need full understanding of the English language in order to be able to do this successfully, even if you can figure out which bits of a message are quotes and which bits are new text - say you know you've got 1000 lines of quoting and 10 lines of new reply in a particular message, which of the 1000 lines do you keep, if you can't understand the context?
  • Figuring out replies to topics and attaching them to the correct threads is technically possibly by subject line (this is how the old web interface list browser and archive worked - strip "Re:" and similar prefixes and all whitespace to give you a unique topic string), though it's not 100% foolproof. It did work well enough for us, most people use unique enough subject lines to be able to figure it out.

    Alternatively, you could include a unique identifier at the start of the subject line, which would be intact in the reply. You could even use this to implement true threading rather than all replies being attached to a single root-level topic, but as far as I can see Snitz doesn't support this anyway.
  • Out of office and other automated replies can mostly be blocked by scanning incoming messages for known substrings, but again this won't be 100% perfect. There'll always be someone with an out-of-office reply in a foreign language that doesn't get trapped with this method.
  • Spam filtering can be achieved by placing SpamAssassin, a Bayesian filter or some similar software between the receiving mail host and the software that puts the message up on the forum. Again, this isn't going to be 100% perfect; determined spammers will always find a way around automated checks eventually (if they couldn't, spam wouldn't be a problem for anyone!). But, like we've already said, spam wasn't a problem on the old forums, and with a few extra checks in place, I can't see it being a problem on the new ones either.

As has already been said, the easiest and cheapest way to integrate this would be to use a mailing list manager that someone else has already written, then try and write an interface to bolt it into the Snitz forums, but if Wiley don't want to use a third-party product, then I'm stumped as to how to proceed further with this, especially the authentication requirement.

Finally, credit must be given to Hal for talking to Wiley and trying to make the forum usable for the masses by taking it back to the ways that everyone was familiar with. I don't think I'd have taken on that job :)

Cheers,

Dave.
  #35 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 10:35 AM
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I would not say that we will not consider a 3rd party product. We already use Lyris List manager here in Indy so we would definitely consider using it. What we said we wouldn't consider was dumping the web forums that are there for a starting over in developing a web front end to Lyris. For good or bad we have already started down one path and don't want to backtrack.

As far as some things not being fool proof I can say that nothing ever is. All that can be done is our best and we can see how good a job it does and if it is good enough to implement anyways. The contraints cannot be ignored but I think the level at which they are addressed is certainly up for some debate.

Thank you,

James Sample
Director, IT-Infrastructure
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
  #36 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 10:44 AM
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OK, so we can basically ignore all the constraints except the authentication one for now, as I think we've solved those to at least some extent in this thread. Does anyone here see how the authentication requirement can work without being too intrusive on the users?

From the suggestions posted so far, IP address checking just won't be reliable enough, so that leaves you with either PGP (most people don't use this, and good luck in trying to convince them to just so they can join a mailing list) or passwords/unique codes in the message body (most people will forget to add these after their first posting). Are there any other workable alternatives?

This is really the only sticking point with the list of requirements. If there's no feasible technical solution to this authentication problem, does that mean we won't be getting an email interface to this forum? Have the developers at Wiley seen this thread? I'd be interested to get their input on our remarks, especially regarding how they see the authentication process (possibly) working...

Cheers,

Dave.

[edited because I hit send too early, then again because I added an extra sentence]
  #37 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 11:39 AM
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PGP is also a fairly processor-heavy operation. It's fine when only two machines are inviolved, at either end, but as soon as a server in between becomes involved, handling lots of messages at once, it could tie itself in knots, couldn't it?

Or has someone already made that point? (blushes and sidles out)

Dan

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by David Long
 Does anyone here see how the authentication requirement can work without being too intrusive on the users?

From the suggestions posted so far, IP address checking just won't be reliable enough, so that leaves you with either PGP (most people don't use this, and good luck in trying to convince them to just so they can join a mailing list) or passwords/unique codes in the message body (most people will forget to add these after their first posting). Are there any other workable alternatives?

Cheers,

Dave.
  #38 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 12:05 PM
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Does PGP cost anything? Are there licensing issues? Is it available as freeware on all platforms that p2p users might be running on?

If a fully functional version which will run in corporate (e.g. Exchange) environments as well as on the variety of personal systems is not available for free, then many people might not want to participate in a forum system that requires them to go out and buy a piece of software...

Jeff Mason
Custom Apps, Inc.
www.custom-apps.com
  #39 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 12:11 PM
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You have a point here. Aside from the fact that Wiley would have to shell out for the full commercial version, peoples employers' might not take kindly to having 'unofficial' software installed on their desktops, even assuming that the individuals had the ability to do it. Where I work, you need special dispensation even to change the date and time in windows!

There are two secrets to success in this world:
1. Never tell everything you know
  #40 (permalink)  
Old June 24th, 2003, 12:15 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Jeff Mason
Does PGP cost anything? Are there licensing issues? Is it available as freeware on all platforms that p2p users might be running on?
There are free versions of PGP for pretty much every platform - see http://www.pgpi.org/products/pgp/versions/freeware/ for details. But having said that, many corporate desktop computers are locked down to such an extent that users can't install any third-party software, and in most cases I guess the system administrators wouldn't install it just because one of their users wants to post to a mailing list. So that (plus the processing power issue) effectively rules out requiring PGP to authenticate postings. We're left with just the "include a password/unique code in the message body" idea, unless anyone has any more bright ideas on how to solve this.

Edit: chrislepingwell beat me to it, sorry if this sounds like a duplicate post :)

Edit 2: the freeware version of PGP more than likely wouldn't be usable by most people anyway, according to the licensing details at http://www.pgp.com/products/freeware.html
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