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There are many open source projects whose development is officially discussed through mailing lists (the obvious example being the Linux kernel).

Being young and spoiled by nice clean website design, I find many of these threads unreadable, because it is so difficult to follow. Does anybody know of some kind of mailing list browsing software that I can use to make them a little more readable? Maybe something that can render a mailing list as a messageboard thread? I think that interface is the most analogous to a mailing list.

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    Heavy-duty mail readers allow you to sort mail into categories, by threads, by sender/recipient, ... But much of that functionality depends on the sender (minimally) respecting etiquette. – vonbrand Mar 17 at 2:27
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    Mailing list archives are not expected to be a primary interface to the list. Normally, you'd subscribe to the list and read it in your mail client, e.g. Thunderbird. Ideally, that client has a threaded view where replies are nested under the original. Simplified views like Gmail's conversation mode struggle to display a branching topic. Some list servers like Discourse or Google Groups also have a passable web interface, but few lists use them. – amon Mar 17 at 7:09
  • amon can I get archives sent to me? If not, that's not very helpful. – Fred Frey Mar 17 at 10:33
  • There are various project management tools with bidirectional binding with SMTP. For example, Redmine. – peterh - Reinstate Monica Mar 17 at 11:48
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    Sorry, but sometimes the right answer to "how do I do X using Y?" is "don't use Y to do X". This may seem unhelpful, but if there's no good way to use Y to do X, what would you like us to say, other than tell you the right way to accomplish X? In this case, the usual workflow is to subscribe to the list then browse your own archive, as it builds up. – MadHatter Mar 17 at 12:30
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I agree that the threaded reading and search facilities of many mailing list web interfaces vary between bad and appalling. But the principal advantage of mailing lists over web fora, however good the forum, is that with a mailing list the choice of client is yours, whereas with a web forum you get whatever software the admin has decided to run, for better or for worse. I thnk this observation goes far in explaining the very strong preference for mailing lists (and consequent dislike of web fora) amongst a certain generation of sysadmins. The recommended workflow for doing what you want is to subscribe to the list, build your own archive, and then browse it using the mail client of your choice.

Sites like the dear, departed Gmane were very useful for keeping archives of important mailing lists open to the major search engines, so that questions with explicit answers (eg, "What's the best path to upgrade a NetApp filer cluster from 8.3.2P9 to 9.3P17?") could easily find those answers if they'd already been posted. But they weren't, as you point out, great for browsing.

Don't let me stop you searching for the perfect web tool to search your personal archive of any given mailing list, though such a search is off-topic here. But I think you'll find that a mail client with good threading capabilities - though I don't use it myself, people speak highly of mutt - is your best bet for doing what you want.

I stipulate that this answer ducks the question of how you get hold of the list archives, but you ducked it in your question by presuming you could get them to run your own web tool on.

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  • I will accept this, because I don't expect there to be a better answer. – Fred Frey Mar 18 at 15:15

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