In a recent tweet Matt Jukes alerted me to the MarkMail service. As Matt forms part of my trusted “interesting Web applications alerting services” I went to the Web site. What I found was a search interface across over 4,300 mailing lists. A search for ‘ukoln’ provided me with not only various posts containing this string, but also details of the person who made the post, the lists posted to and also, as shown, a graph of the numbers of posts over time.
Initially I felt that the graph supported my view that email is dying, but a search for a more general term, “web”, showed me that this was clearly an inappropriate conclusion to make based on this evidence.
But perhaps of more relevance is the main point that Matt made in his tweet:
just discovered http://markmail.org/would be cool if jiscmail lists were searchable here as well..
Yes it would be great if JISCMail exposed its mail archives to third party indexing services such as MarkMail. But to do that (or rather to do that effectively) would require the JISCMail mail archives to provide ‘cool’ application-independent and persistent URIs (which they don’t currently do) and allow robot software to access the resources. Doing this will, of course, require the service to commit resources to develop work and make changes in policies. A popular and large scale service, such as JISCMail, would only be in a position to do this if they could see tangible benefits to their user communities. I hope the example of the MarkMail service illustrates the potential benefits of opening up one’s data to third party services. I have to admit that I find the JISCMail search interface so poor that I seldom use it. Exposing the data to other services (whether MarkMail, Google or whatever) would enhance access to data available in the JISCMail Web archives, without JISCMail having to wait for the underlying Listserv software to conform with fundamental Web architectural principles.