[gmx-users] Mailing List Search on the new website

Mark Abraham Mark.Abraham at anu.edu.au
Wed Sep 30 04:36:14 CEST 2009

Rossen Apostolov wrote:
> Hi,
> It is now possible to search the mailing list archives from the new
> website: http://www.gromacs.org/Support/Mailing_Lists/Search . There is
> a link to it at the "Quick Links" section on the front page also.
> Currently:
>    * Only the [gmx-users] mailng list is being indexed.
>    * The index is updated every 2 hours.
>    * The search input is not parsed, rather search is done only for the
> exact string.
>    * The results are displayed in descending order of the date. You can
> change the sorting by clicking on the column names.
>    * For some postings, the contents section in the table is empty but
> following the link will display the full contents.
>    * It is likely that the interface will be implemented into the
> website differently.

That's great. Hopefully we'll get more content and functionality soon too!

> Also, almost all of the information from the old wiki/www sites is now
> transfered and incorporated, although many pages contain broken links to
> them. They will be fixed one by one, but everyone is welcome to update
> them when you come across such.

I would have approached this process differently. The MediaWiki content 
was intrinsically free-form, and now we're apparently trying to shoehorn 
it into something hierarchical. This process converts hundreds of links 
that are now defunct because they were created as relative links to 
targets in a free-form database, and have now been automatically 
converted to what look like hard links to non-existent targets. The 
correct targets are presumably placed somewhere in a fairly arbitrary 
hierarchy (e.g. what's the difference between "Best Practices" and 
"How-tos"?), which anyone wanting to spend the time to fix now has to 
memorise. These categories existed in the previous wiki, but nobody 
adding content or links was forced to use or know them. That's a big 
change in philosophy.

I've spent a lot of time over years creating and maintaining a large 
slab of this content (with other notable contributions from quite a few 
people - Dallas Warren in particular) and feel that this new imported 
format greatly reduces the utility of the information. While some 
curated hierarchical indexes are good things for helping to find 
content, I think preserving the underlying lack of hierarchy is a much 
better approach to preserving the usefulness of the content. The 
alternative is appointing a curator and having them spend lots of time 
organizing and fixing links. Given the slow rate of transition of 
GROMACS web content from old to new forms, I think we should be very 
keen not to make more centralized work, and to preserve the goodwill of 
previous "external" volunteers :-)

I'd much rather see the Documentation section 
(http://www.gromacs.org/Documentation) have links to
* the paper manuals,
* either a compatible Wiki, or a flat wiki-style import of the previous 
wiki (so that automated link conversion can just work - even if it's 
done with a simple perl script!),
* some new and updated index pages for that previous wiki,
* and if necessary, any other non-wiki content.



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