Miss Mailers Answers Your Questions on Mailing Listsam 15.04.2008 06:24:23 von faq
Maintainer: Miss Mailers
Mailing lists are one of the first forms of mass communication devised
by the inhabitants of the Internet. They're relatively easy to set up,
they utilize a user interface that most users are already familiar
with, and they can be enormously useful. However, participating in
a mailing list does require some awareness of expected behavior.
This short guide to current standards of netiquette will help you avoid
some of the social blunders that await the unwary.
Q. Who is Miss Mailers?
A. A gentle soul whose peaceful use of the Internet has been occasionally
disturbed by those who have not yet grasped the finer points of mailing
Q. Well, then, who's the person posting this FAQ?
A. Ah. A scribe, a typist, a transcriber; but mostly: nobody of consequence.
Q. Could we get on with my questions then?
Subscribing and unsubscribing
Q. I want to join a mailing list; what should I do?
A. Why, send a message to it. Ignore the web pages which describe it,
ignore the "-request" address and any instructions; those aren't meant
for you. Demand to be added immediately, and ignore any suggestion
from list members that you follow some sort of procedure. If you're
not added within minutes, then file a complaint with the list's owner
about the poor quality of service and post an article to Usenet denouncing
the entire operation as "incompetent".
Q. I've just joined a mailing list; what now?
A. First, throw away the "welcome/introduction" message that you were
sent that explains how to use the list, what its conventions are, what
acceptable topics are, how to leave the list, and so on. You're far
too busy to be bothered with such trivia. Next, jump right into the
middle of any discussion that's going on without stopping to read any of
the previous messages. Finally, be sure to send as many questions as
possible from the list's FAQ; other list members just won't be happy
unless they get to see those questions asked and answered on a regular basis.
Q. I want to leave this mailing list; what should I do?
A. Send an "unscribe" message to the entire mailing list. All of them
will want to know that you're leaving, and you won't be able to get off
the mailing list until you tell them. Some of them may try to tell
you to use the "-request" address and spell it "unsubscribe"; ignore them,
and just send your "unscribe" message to everyone again. If this doesn't
work after three or four tries, then threaten to mailbomb the list and
file spam complaints unless you're removed immediately.
Q. What if I still don't got off the mailing list?
A. Hmmm...it's probably best if you ignore the instructions which
many list-owners place at the bottom of every message transmitted
through their mailing lists, and which others place in the headers;
you should also ignore the instructions which were mailed to you
when you signed up, the instructions at the list's web archive
(if it has one), and the instructions provided by the program
handling the mailing list (e.g. majordomo, mailman, etc.). This
will allow you to go back to the previous step with great hopes.
Q. I'm going on vacation and want to set up an auto-responder so
that people will know I'm not reading my email. I don't need to
do anything special with it, do I?
A. Of course not. Every single person on every single mailing list
that you subscribe to will be delighted to hear from you each time
they send a message to the mailing list. They'll be even more excited
if you use an auto-responder which sends back to the entire mailing
list...that you're a member of...which means you'll get another
new message...which means the auto-responder will reply...causing
a repetitive cycle that will enchant and amuse everyone affected.
Q. I'm changing my email address; should I send out a message about
it to every mailing list that I'm on?
A. Absolutely. All of the people on those lists have been waiting
for this news all day, and simply must have it as quickly as possible.
Make sure that you don't do hide this (by subscribing to mailing lists
from your new address and then unsubscribing from your old one) --
the change needs to be broadcast as widely as possible.
Q. I'm not going to use this email address any more, but I don't feel
like unsubscribing to all the mailing lists I'm on. Is that okay?
A. It's more than okay, it's really the best approach. All of the
list-owners, as well as the postmaster(s) of the site which hosts your
email, will be happy to spend their time figuring out that you've
moved on and cleaning up after you. They know that while you had
the time to subscribe to mailing lists, you're far too busy now to
unsubscribe from them.
Q. What should I put on the "Subject:" line?
A. This is your chance to be as quixotic and intriguing as possible, so
make the most of it. Make sure that the "Subject:" line is as uninformative
as you can manage -- after all, you want to make sure that everyone actually
reads your message, so don't give it away in the headers. Here are
some suggested "Subject:" lines to pick from:
Q. I just a read a great message that I agree with entirely -- I want to
make sure that everyone on the mailing list knows that. What should I do?
A. You should follow up to the entire mailing list -- quoting the
previous message in its entirety, of course -- and add your affirmation
by choosing from one of the following short messages:
I couldn't have put it better myself.
Everyone on the mailing list will be anxiously waiting for your response,
so don't hesitate -- send it out right away.
Q. How much of the previous message should I quote when responding?
A. Why, *all of it*, of course! Be sure to include (a) the headers
(b) the entire message text (c) the sender's signature and (d) any
boilerplate added at the bottom by the mailing list software.
Q. Should I put my followup comments before those I'm replying to?
A. Yes. Everyone who participates in the mailing list will remember
every message every sent to it, and will immediately be able to
place your comments in proper context *without* seeing any portion
of the message you're replying to.
And yes, you'll no doubt hear from those curmudgeons who lambast
you for "top posting" and failing to edit the previous message,
but if they were right, wouldn't your mail client do that for you?
By the way: be sure that you completely ignore RFC 1855:
Q. Should I followup to the author or to the mailing list?
A. Neither. You should followup to *both*, because the author might
miss your important message if it's only sent to the mailing list.
Ignore authors who explicitly request that you only respond to the list;
your remarks are too important to take a chance that they'll miss them.
Q. What's the best way to format plain text for a mailing list?
A. Uuencode it, then make it a MIME attachment. This ensures that
everyone will have to make an appropriate effort to read it.
*Don't ever* just append it to your message, indenting it by
a tab or ">" character; that would make it far too easy for the readers.
Q. How long should my lines be?
A. As long (or short) as you like!
You can make them really short,
which has the advantage that even
short notes will scroll right off
the recipients' screens, giving
the impression that you had more
to say than you actually did, or
you can make them really long. In fact, the best way to make them really long is to completely forget about embedding newlines in them. Using this technique, you can pack your entire message onto one line of text. This will enable your messages to be much shorter than other folks', moving them to the head of any mail queues that they find themselves in.
Q. Why do people keep asking me not to shout?
A. BECAUSE THEY REALLY DON'T APPRECIATE THE NUANCES OF UPPERCASE MESSAGES.
THIS MIXED-CASE BUSINESS IS JUST A PASSING FAD. HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF
TYPOGRAPHIC RESEARCH AND LEGIBILITY STUDIES MEAN NOTHING. YOU CAN SAFELY
IGNORE IT AND JUST LEAVE THE CAPS-LOCK KEY PERMANENTLY ON.
Q. Should I send messages containing information in proprietary formats,
such as those used by commercial word processing packages?
A. Sure. *Everyone* on the Internet uses the same proprietary software
that you do, even the people who use totally different computing
platforms running totally different operating systems. They'll have no
problem deciphering your message, even if it is in WordFrabble '97,
and they'll also really enjoy receiving a message that's 10 or even 20
times larger than it could be due to all the embedded formatting.
Just disregard those people who ask you to use ASCII text -- they're
not anyone you should care about reaching with your messages.
For an added bonus, you and the happy recipients of your message
will be able to share in the joy of helping viruses and worms
propagate. The employees and shareholders of the many anti-virus
software companies and the poorly-designed, badly-implemented operating
systems that their products attempt to compensate for thank you in advance.
Q. Should I "CC" a lot of other people on messages that I send
to a mailing list?
A. This would be a very good idea, in order to ensure that no one misses
the important things that you have to say. Of course, some people will
get multiple copies as a result, but that will just ensure that they have
an adequate opportunity to read your message. No one will ever mind
that you're causing unnecessary traffic because what you have to say is
of such significance. Other people will get nothing at all, since many
ISPs have now configured their mail servers to reject messages sent to
an inordinate number of recipients (since they are likely to be spam).
And of course, when one of the people who's on your "CC" list but not
on the mailing list tries to follow up, won't they be surprised when
the mailing list software rejects their message and bounces it to the
Make sure that it never crosses your mind to invite the people you
would "CC" to join the mailing list.
HTML or not
Q. Should I format my messages with HTML?
A. Absolutely. HTML isn't just intended for the web, you know; in fact,
it makes complete sense to send *all* of your messages in HTML, because
your deathless prose will make an even bigger impression if you surround
it with HTML tags. Think of how much better Henry V's speech
before the battle of Agincourt would read if Shakespeare had access to HTML:
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet ,
I am the most offending soul alive.
So don't bother with a spell checker; don't waste your time trying
to edit your comments into comprehensible prose; just trot out those
HTML tags and go to it! (Be sure to use the