Written by Barry Warsaw in meditations on Tue 21 November 2017. Tags: mailman, change,
I turn my back to the windTo catch my breath,Before I start off again
—Neil Peart, Time Stand Still
23 years ago, I met Guido, fell in love with Python, and took a turn that changed the course of my life and career. You can't ever know where your decisions will lead you, so you just have to set a course and trust the wind.
In the 1990s, as we moved the Python.Org infrastructure from the Netherlands to the US, we inherited the Majordomo list server that was running firstname.lastname@example.org. There were changes we wanted to make and features we wanted to add, but it was becoming increasingly clear that Majordomo had to be replaced. Besides being difficult to hack on, it was written in Perl, so of course that wouldn't do at all. Python was an upstart disrupting its space, and we needed a list server written in Python that was malleable enough for us to express our ideas.
It was about that time that our friend John Viega showed us a project he'd been working on. He'd wanted to connect a popular, local Charlottesville, Virginia band with their fans at UVA, and email lists were an important way to do that. Of course, no one wants to manage such lists manually, and if you're not happy with the existing options, what does any self-respecting developer do? You write yourself a new one! As for implementation language, was there really any other choice? History celebrates this momentous confluence of events: the band became the mega-rock powerhouse known as the Dave Matthews Band, and the mailing list software John wrote is what became GNU Mailman.
(Aside: I'll never forget the time my band the Cravin' Dogs played at TRAX, a Charlottesville music venue. The place …