Discovering Information via Better Browsing
A great way to get into the thick of a new software project you want to learn or need to use is to check out popular mailing list discussions. Typically these will have detailed answers and multiple points of view. Recognizing this, Grokbase was designed to sort many things by popularity, or activity volume, such as discussions, groups, users, etc. I found it useful enough that I made it the default monthly view and especially like getting a quick overview of a group by browsing these pages on my iPad using the monthly prev and next links.
I was recently chatting with Dave Rolsky, creator of the stalwart DateTime and newer Courriel email distributions, who mentioned it would be great if you could select popular discussions based on time periods longer than a month, such as 6 months or a year. It was easy to see where he was going with this. While sorting across all time is useful for curiosity once in a while, more recent popular discussions are what’s needed to keep up to date,
Needing a break from a larger project, I decided to see how quickly I could implement this. In the end, it took just a few hours from start to deployment, mostly helped by the fact that DateTime performs excellent date gymnastics. Finding the correct date to use was the easiest part using DateTime’s subtraction feature. DateTime’s functionality and excellent documentation made adding this feature a snap. In fact, the only thing it cost me was a little sleep
You can see the results on any of the more popular mailing lists such as Perl5 Porters (P5P) as shown here. Under the popular tab, there are now filters for time periods from 3 months to 5 years and for all time. I have to say I find it fun to dig into mailing lists this way. More than blogs or articles, diving into P5P really makes you feel like you’re at a YAPC.
Right now, this only accessible on the top popular tab. It is also enabled only for more popular groups where this is more likely to be useful. Try it out and let me know what you think.