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I am relieved to hear that development has not refocused on Syllable Server. I don't quite agree with the idea that email is a dying medium of communication, especially in Open Source projects. In all projects that I take part in (AGG, WebKit, Haiku, XViD, FFmpeg, ...), email is the major communication channel for discussions, and IRC for real-time conversations. In my experience, many developers don't like forums in particular, since they have to invest more activity than to simply look at their email inbox. For some to me unknown reasons, many users like to use forums, though, especially in the Haiku project there is a disconnection between the forums and the mailing lists, since almost no developer looks at the forum posts. I have no experience with the AltMe platform, but to me it seems that since communication has shifted there, it made the Syllable project much less approachable and transparent. Of course that's entirely up to you guys, just offering my experience as someone who has been following the Syllable mailing list in the past.
Most of the projects you name are major projects with considerable communities and vested interests. If they also go some way back, it stands to reason that mail was their primary communication system and that has stuck. This has grown out of the academic world, but when something like 95% of all email volume has become spam, and you have to take draconian measures to keep it working, something has gone wrong. And that's just a detail; my real beef is with the (non-)organisation of email.
I recognise your description of the developer/user split between mailing lists and forums. The strange this is that for me, it's the other way around. The last time I preferred email was when I had it in Lotus Notes, and I was running my own Notes server to synchronise it over all my machines and work places. I had to let go of that when I migrated to Syllable and Linux, which lost me all that convenience. Since then, I can only simulate some of the same convenience by going with the web and cloud trend.
There's a reason that I like Syllable and other simplifying technologies. It must have something to do with the reason that regular users prefer web forums. It's distinctly different from the old academic mindset that produced email and Linux. It has always been my mission to offer regular people systems made with a different mindset: more convenient and much more integrated. As you can see, I need network technology for that, so clients and servers, and that's why we added Syllable Server and REBOL to the Syllable lineup. All of them are important pieces of the puzzle.
Regarding AltME: it's indeed what they call a darknet these days. But it's not a darknet because you can't get in, but because people don't bother to visit. So here's the situation: people always claimed operating systems sucked and they wanted better ones, we spent a decade of our lifes creating it for them, but people simply refuse to even have a look at the collaboration system that we chose to produce Syllable. It embodies the Syllable philosophy of integration and convenience: it's not a loose collection of email, IRC, FTP, CVS and what not, but a holistic, efficient, cross-platform groupware system with a nice graphical interface. We're not going to degrade our own productivity by dumping it for the sake of lurkers who demand but don't contribute. This street goes two ways. Nevertheless, as I said, we desire to open it up more, and eventually even replace it with our own system, but we're working on that gradually. Syllable Server was the first step.