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Subject: Miss Mailers Answers Your Questions on Mailing Lists

This article was archived around: 26 Jan 2011 05:21:28 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: mail
All FAQs posted in: comp.mail.misc
Source: Usenet Version

Archive-name: mail/miss-mailers Posting-Frequency: monthly Last-modified: 2010/04/28 Version: 1.59 Maintainer: Miss Mailers <faq@gsp.org>
Introduction ------------ 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. Preliminaries ------------- 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 list netiquette. 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? A. Certainly. 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. Participating ------------- 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: Subject: test Subject: help Subject: unsubscribe Subject: Internet Subject: quote Subject: problem Subject: message Subject: 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 agree! 'nuff said. I couldn't have put it better myself. Well put. He/she's right! 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: Netiquette Guidelines http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc1855.html 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 message if it's only sent to the mailing list. Your remarks -- just yours -- are far too important to take a chance that they'll be missed, or that they won't be read immediately. 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 list's owner? 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: <pre> If we are mark'd to die, we are <i>enow</i> To do our country loss; and if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of honour. <em>God's will!</em> I pray thee, wish not <u>one</u> man more. <!--- Henry pauses, then continues ---> By <b>Jove</b>, 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 <blink>honour</blink>, <strong>I am the most offending soul alive.</strong> </pre> 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 <blink> tag as often as you possibly can.) Q. Should I just send my messages in HTML, then? A. Why, no. You should send them in HTML *and* ASCII text. As you know, doing this will increase the likelihood that everyone will read your message, since all the content will be included twice. It will also double or triple the size of your message, making it seem more important. And since all of the mail clients which automatically generate HTML markup for outbound messages do so in an absolutely standards-compliant manner, the recipients will all be duly impressed. No doubt some people will ask you to use ASCII text only. These are probably people who have been working on the Internet since well before the invention of the web, and their opinions are therefore not as informed or as up-to-date as yours. Q. Okay, then should I read my messages with an HTML-enabled mail client? A. Well, that does follow, doesn't it? This will also allow you to enjoy the full effect of the many clever bits of software which may be embedded in such messages. Don't worry: nobody would ever think of including malicious Javascript code, or web bugs that invade your privacy, or anything else that would concern you. Attachments and Signatures -------------------------- Q. What should I do when I get a message with attachments? A. Why, execute them all, of course! Many delightful and useful programs are circulated in this manner, and you'll never find out about them if you don't run them. Some of these programs as *so* clever that they'll even use your "address book" or its equivalent to automatically share themselves with other people you've corresponded with. And the ones that don't? Well, you should forward those to everyone you know, without delay. Q. How long should my signature be? A. As long as possible. Everyone on the mailing list will want to see it every single time you send anything along for them to read. Embed half a dozen URLs, a quote or two, and an ASCII graphic in it to make it larger. Don't consider your effort successful unless you put more time into your signature than into the content of your messages. Q. Should I attach vcards, GIFs, and other supplementary material as part of my signature? A. Absolutely. For good measure, you should include as many different items as you can, preferably encoded in proprietary formats that cannot be read by most of the recipients. For example, a message with an attached vcard, a corporate disclaimer, a copy of your resume in WordPerfect, another copy of your resume in FrameMaker, and an MPEG of you saying "hello" would be considered an adequate effort. Q. Alright, I did that. But I was responding to a response to a a response to a message, and I'm not sure who said what. A. Don't worry about it! Just attribute all the remarks to the last person, or first person, or *any* person involved in the conversation. Nobody will ever get upset because you quoted them as saying something that they didn't. Q. My company's legal department insists that we attach lengthy disclaimers to all our outgoing email messages. I can expect these to be not only welcomed, but actively by all recipients...can't I? A. Of course you can. Not only is it true that every other country's laws are the same as yours, but it's obvious that since you're sending your message to a public mailing list that you intend for it to be private. You may rely on the full cooperation of all recipients, who will be happy to have their mailboxes filled to the brim with line after line after line after line of legalese -- especially if it's repeated in every single message you send. Additional helpful hints may be found here: Stupid E-mail Disclaimers and the Stupid Users that Use Them http://attrition.org/security/rants/z/disclaimers.html Stupid Email Disclaimers http://www.goldmark.org/jeff/stupid-disclaimers/ Mailing and Posting Etiquette: Don't Send Bogus Legalistic Boilerplate http://www.river.com/users/share/etiquette/#legalistic Q. I'm using my brand-new IDroidBerryFlipWrist to read and send mail messages, and it's important for me to tell everyone this...isn't it? A. Of course it is. Everyone who reads your mail messages is deeply interested in which hardware and software you're using to compose them, and simply must be reminded -- every single time you send a message -- what those items are. Social interactions ------------------- Q. I sent a question to the mailing list at 9:30 Friday night; it's now five hours later and nobody answered me! A. Well, there's no chance that your mail is queued up somewhere waiting to be delivered, or that it's a holiday weekend and many people are away from their mail. Best that you send the question again; if that doesn't work, send it *again* and complain that nobody is paying any attention to you. After all, if you don't get a response back within five minutes of sending your message, something must be terribly wrong. Q. I'm not sure if the mailing list is still alive, or if I'm still on it, or if my mailer is working. What should I do? A. Why, send a "test" message to the entire mailing list. Everyone will have been wondering where you are, and they won't mind at all if you test out your mailer by sending a message to all of them. So don't shortchange them by writing just to the mailing list owner; spread your test as far and wide as possible. In fact, why not send multiple "test" messages, and to every mailing list you're on? You'll make many new friends this way, too. Q. Well, I just had a big argument with this guy from Furballs, Inc., on the underwater hockey mailing list. I'm going to tell everyone not to buy any Furball products. A. Good idea! As you know, everyone who sends mail from a .com (or .edu, or .org, etc.) address is acting as an official spokesperson for that organization 100% of the time, and so you should hold that organization responsible for every single thing those people say. Q. Hey, did you see the new movie where the ending ha A. Miss Mailers apologizes for interrupting you in mid-sentence by confiscating your keyboard, but would like to take this opportunity to explain to you what the word 'Spoiler' means. Many artistic creations (plays, movies, television, music, etc.) and sports events contain unexpected events which depend on the lack of foreknowledge by the audience to be entertaining. Revealing these events in advance is considered extremely bad form, since it spoils the enjoyment of the presentation by the audience. The global reach of the Internet combined with the multiple mediums through which performances can reach an audience (including the Internet itself) makes it nearly impossible for a writer to predict when all of the readers of his/her missive will have experienced the event in question. (For example, many movies aren't seen by an audience until they're released on video; and many Internet users use their VCRs/PVRs to tape-delay sports events.) For this reason, it's considered good Internet form to (1) *never* reveal anything of consequence about an event on the "Subject:" line of a message and (2) mark any message which contains "spoiler" information in its body with the word "SPOILER" on the "Subject:" line so that readers can avoid reading it if they choose. Failure to observe this relatively simple convention can generate a surprisingly large amount of hostility very rapidly. Of course, this doesn't apply to *you*, just to everyone else on the 'net. You may have your keyboard back now. Q. Whew! Well, then, can I sent this picture of the event out? A. Why, certainly. No one on the mailing list, especially its owner, will mind if you try to propagate a huge data file through a distribution mechanism intended for small text messages. Be sure to encode the image in a non-compressing format, preferably a proprietary one; this ensures that it takes up as much room as possible and is readable by as few people as possible. Research skills --------------- Q. I asked a technical questions, and I got an answer, but all it said was "RTFM". A. No problem. That's someone's way of telling you that they're going to go Read The Fine Manual for you. They know that you're far too busy to read the documentation/manuals/FAQs/web sites/newsgroups/books/magazines that describe the item you're trying to use, so they're going to do it for you, and then send you an easy-to-use compendium of all the useful information that they found. Since they're not at all busy, they're going to spend 24 hours a day working on this, just for you, until they get it done. Q. Oh, FAQs, I almost forget. Some lamer told me to read the FAQ. What the heck is that? A. Nothing that you should worry about. FAQs are written solely for the amusement of their authors, and you needn't ever read them. Q. I'm on some technical mailing lists that are run in question-and-answer format; if there anything I need to know? A. Well, yes. The most important thing is to avoid checking certain sources of information before sending any questions. In this way, you can avoid accidentally answering your question before you have a chance to send it. So make sure sure that you ignore all these: (a) the README file(s) (b) the full manuals (c) the various Usenet and web-based FAQs (d) the archives of the relevant mailing lists (e) the archives of the relevant Usenet newsgroups (f) the source code (g) a search of the vendor's web site (h) a search of the user groups' web site(s) (i) a search of the web using relevant keywords Doing so will help ensure that many people have the opportunity to answer your question for you. You'll quickly find that most of them are very happy to do so, and will enjoy it even more if it's a question that they've answered many times. Q. Wow, that's a lot; is there anything else? A. Yes. If you have a question about HP-UX, you should make sure to send it to the Sun-Manager's mailing list, and vice versa. When you have received some answers to your question, don't compile them into an edited summary that clearly explains the problem and its solution: just concatenate them together, headers and all. Finally, when you send this back to the list, be sure to mark it "SUMARY" instead of "SUMMARY", because that will make it stand out from all the other summaries. For extra credit, try to start a discussion on question-and-answer-only mailing list. Q. I'm on a technical mailing list, and one particular person seems to be fairly clueful. Should I send my next question/problem to them instead of the mailing list? A. As you're no doubt aware, all such clueful people are ready, willing and able to serve as private, volunteer consultants at any time -- and have signified their willingness to do so by occasionally contributing answers to technical discussions. Not only *should* you send your question or problem to them, you should do so right away (since they have nothing to do other than wait for your message) and thank them in advance for the help you may safely assume they will give you. If for some reason they don't answer you within minutes, you should assume they're incompetent, publicly flame them, and try someone else. Don't be discouraged -- it may be necessary for you to try several people before locating one who isn't incompetent or selfish. Propagating important news -------------------------- Q. Elvis was just sighted in a Springfield Quickie-Mart! What do I do? A. Spread the news! Send a note to every mailing list you're on as soon as possible. Your message will be the first place that anyone hears about this (since radio, television, and newspapers will ignore it) and everyone will rush to their computers just in case you might have sent an important message. Q. Someone just sent a message to the list saying that Elvis was sighted in a Springfield Quickie-Mart! What do I do? A. Believe it and act accordingly. And do not believe anything you read at: Evaluating Internet Research Sources http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm Evaluation of Information Sources http://www.vuw.ac.nz/~agsmith/evaln/evaln.htm Q. Wow! There's a new virus called ArmaStealthKillerDeathPong. I need to tell everyone! A. Yes, you do -- and as soon as possible. Make sure to send out your warning to everyone right away -- don't even stop to check out one of more of Vmyths.com - Truth About Computer Virus Myths and Hoaxes http://www.vmyths.com/ F-Secure Hoax Warnings http://www.f-secure.com/virus-info/hoax/ before doing so. *This* virus might be the one that brings down computers all over the planet, so everyone needs to know about it. Q. I use an anti-virus program. Should I set it up to process mail from the mailing list and warn everyone else about possible viruses? A. Absolutely. All of them are using the same operating system you are, so they need to know about viruses that might potentially infect it. So be sure that when your anti-virus software detects anything that even looks remotely like a virus, that you broadcast this back to the mailing list it arrived from. Since nobody else will do this, it might be the only chance these people have to be warned. And you should configure your anti-virus software so that it relies on email addresses in the headers -- of course no virus would ever forge those. Q. I received this chain letter which says that if I forward it, I'll help a girl with cancer/earn a donation from a large company/ stop the FCC from imposing a modem tax/cause the earth to spin the other direction on its axis. What should I do? A. You should read it carefully and follow its instructions to the letter. As you know, everything that you see on the Internet is true, especially those things which have arrived in your very own personal mailbox. Don't check with any of these sites to see if it's a myth/urban legend: The Hoaxkill Service http://www.hoaxkill.com/ Urban Legends Reference Pages http://www.snopes.com/ Hoaxbusters http://hoaxbusters.org/ Just send it to everyone in your address book and every mailing list you're on. No doubt some people will refer you to the same web sites, but they're just trying to spoil your fun. Nuances ------- Q. Hey, I heard this really funny joke... A. Oh, stop right there. You need to send this out to every single mailing list you're on, regardless of those lists' topics, because everyone will want to read this joke, too. Of course since you're the only person who's heard this joke, and since there are no mailing lists specifically for humor, your message will be greeted with much hilarity wherever you send it. Q. I'd like to send this message out, but it's got nothing to do with the mailing list I want to send it to. A. That's okay. You don't need to stay on topic. (And never mind what the introductory message for the mailing list said: that applies to everyone else. Not to you.) Just precede it with "I know this is off-topic, but..." and everyone will be impressed with how polite you are while you're breaking the basic rules of the mailing list. Q. I've got something really important to say, and so I'd like to send it to a mailing list I'm on AND a whole bunch of other people at the same time. Is that okay? A. Certainly. Why not CC to a few thousand of your closest friends? That way, when they all try to reply, not only will you all be able to enjoy a cascade of exponentially-increasing followups, but all the people you've CC'd who aren't on the mailing list in question will get to experience their mail again when it bounces back as undeliverable. Q. The mailing list was spammed, but the message says that I can reply to unsubscribe. Should I do that? A. Sure. Spammers are known for their high level of technical competence, their rigid ethical standards, and their unwillingness to send email to anyone who doesn't want it. If you reply, they will immediately note that your email address is working and then remove you from all of their lists, permanently. They'll also make sure to tell all the other spammers to remove you, and they in turn will make sure that you're never bothered again by unwelcome email. In fact, you probably want to send along all of your email addresses to the spammer so that you can get off all their mailing lists at once. Q. I just hit "return" and sent my message to all of the mailing lists members. However, now I've changed my mind. What should I do? A. You should send a "recall" message using your local network's facilities. As you know, every site on the Internet will process these in exactly the same way as those on your LAN. You may rest assured that none of the copies of your message will ever reach their destination, or that any which may have, will be automagically removed no matter where or how they're stored. Q. I'm concerned about having my email messages redistributed. Should I put some boilerplate legalese at the bottom of each one, and will that work? A. Of course. Despite the lack of an enforceable contractual agreement between recipient and sender, and the wide variations in legal statutes in the many countries which participate in the Internet, you may rest assured that this will prevent your message from being forwarded, archived, posted to Usenet newsgroups, published on web sites, or anything else that you'd object to. The best way to do this is to include boilerplate that says "[...] this message is private [...]" and then send it to a public mailing list. Mailing list administration --------------------------- Q. I'm setting up a mailing list about furballs. What mechanism should I provide for people to join and leave it? A. Don't use the silly RFC 2142 Internet convention of furballs-request@listhostname Far too many people will guess this and will send mail containing things like "subscribe furballs myaddress@myhost" in the body of their messages to it. Instead, choose from one of the following: - A web-only interface, which denies access to your mailing list to anyone who can't connect via HTTP to your site. (After all, you wouldn't want *those* people on your mailing list, anyway. They're probably on non-IP networks or behind firewalls that don't permit HTTP, and their contributions to your mailing list aren't worth having.) And after all, you're running a MAILING LIST, so accepting subscriptions via MAIL makes no sense. - A subscription address that has nothing to do with the list address -- preferably one that's difficult to remember; for example, "mailing-list-administrator-for-furballs@listhostname", Or try using one that's just close enough to the convention to be confusing, maybe something on the order of "furball-subscribe@listhostname". - Subscription procedures which require agreement to an elaborate charter wherein the applicant has to reveal lots of personal details and sign their right to privacy away. Remember, your mailing list is unique, so make sure that your subscription procedures are unique as well. The more hoops you make subscribers jump through, the more they'll appreciate being on your list. And you'll get to make them do it again to get off the list! Mailbox Names for Common Services, Roles and Functions http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc2142.html Q. That's right! I forgot about unsubscription procedures. What do I do? A. No problem - do *nothing*. That's right, let everyone guess. Oh, sure, you could either send them an introductory document that explains the mechanics of your mailing list; or you could use the standard -request address and honor "unsubscribe" requests - but where's the fun in that? No, it's much more interesting to watch the users try to figure it out, especially when they start mailing their unsubscribe requests to the entire list. Q. Okay, I've got my mailing list about furballs working. But people keep trying to subscribe using their e-mail address and not their name! What can I do about this? A. Oh, those pesky users! They're just trying to provide unique addresses for themselves or their local mailing list exploders. You should make them send subscription requests in this form: subscribe furballs Firstname Lastname rather than this one: subscribe furballs loginame@somewhere.someplace because you *need* to know Firstname Lastname's name. Don't worry: there will never be two people named Firstname Lastname on the Internet. And this won't cause any problems when Firstname Lastname changes e-mail addresses. Besides, rather than letting Firstname Lastname tell you his/her e-mail address, you can just pluck it out of the headers, overriding his/her choice of the address at which he'd like to receive mailing list traffic. Q. Should I use subscription verification for my mailing list? A. What, and make the subscribers jump through *another* hoop? No, that would be silly. Just assume that nobody would ever be unscrupulous enough to subscribe another user to a list or 20,000 out of spite -- and even if they were, your list certainly wouldn't be one of them. After all, if such an absurd thing actually happened, the victim could just unsubscribe or get a new email address, right? While you're at it, make sure you ignore these: Basic Mailing List Management Principles for Preventing Abuse http://mail-abuse.org/rbl/manage.html Clueless Mailers' Spamdemic Research Center: Best Practices for Mailing List Management http://www.cluelessmailers.org/info/listmanagement.html Anti-Spam Recommendations for SMTP MTAs http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc2505.html The Use of URLs as Meta-Syntax for Core Mail List Commands and their Transport through Message Header Fields http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc2369.html Q. I'd like to make sure that mail from the furballs mailing list is noticed by subscribers. Should I tag all the messages with "FB" on the "Subject:" line? A. Absolutely. Since there are no such things as mail filtering agents that can sort incoming mail based on its "List-Id" header, you need to make this as easy as possible for your users. Be sure to choose a tag that someone else might pick as well -- your users will just have to decide which mailing list they want to be on. (Besides, then you can pick a fight with the other mailing list admin over which one of you has the rights to use that particular tag.) And if anyone complains about messages showing up with "Subject:" lines like Subject: [FB] Re: [FB] RE(2): [FB] Furballs considered harmful then just unsubscribe them from the list. This will become even more enjoyable when someone forwards a message from the furballs mailing list to the underwater hockey mailing list, because then the "Subject:" line will look something like Subject: [UH] Re: [FB] Furballs considered harmful and everyone can have much fun trying to guess which mailing list really originated that message. And still *more* fun will ensue when someone forwards that message to a person that isn't subscribed to either mailing list, as the recipient will wonder why he/she is getting mail from two mailing lists that he/she isn't on. Be sure not to read RFC 2919, because it will spoil all this fun. List-Id: A Structured Field and Namespace for the Identification of Mailing Lists http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc2919.html And studiously ignore: Subject Header Tagging Considered Harmful http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~qralston/writing/tagging-harmful/ Q. How should I format the "To:" line for my mailing list? A. Ah, there are so many choices here. You could cause it to change with each and every message sent out, thus frustrating any attempt by subscribers to use filtering tools on it; you could address it to the individual user, thus obliterating the line between mail sent directly to someone and mail sent to them because they're on a mailing list; or you could simply omit it and use Bcc instead. In any case, you should strive to make this as cryptic, unusable and inconsistent as possible, and you should avoid using something straightforward like <listname>@<listhost> at all costs. Q. I want to set up a mailing list about HTML. Any problem with that? A. Why, what a remarkably original idea. Nobody else has thought of this -- ever. Go ahead and set your mailing list up. Make sure to announce it as "THE HTML mailing list" so that everyone knows that your list is the definitive source for information on and discussions about HTML. Disregard anyone who points out that there are already half-a-dozen mailing lists on this topic -- they're probably mistaken, and even if they aren't, none of those mailing lists are probably worth much -- certainly not what *yours* is. Just go ahead with your project. Be sure to name the mailing list "HTML-L", because that name is unlikely to already be in use elsewhere. Q. I'm setting up a mailing list for cross-dressing Republican furball fans from Nevada. This is a socially sensitive subject, so what should I do to ensure confidentiality? A. Just promise it to the users and make them agree not to publish archives of the mailing list on the Internet. They will all adhere to this forever and ever; not a single message will ever leak out to a web or ftp site. This simple step will ensure that everyone can discuss the most personal details of their private lives with *complete* assurance that none of them will ever be disclosed to the entire world. Q. I want to run a mailing list. Do I have to know anything? A. Of *course* not. You'll have no problem if you remain blissfully ignorant of how Internet mail works, or how sometimes it doesn't work, or why, or how to get it fixed. You just go ahead and set up your mailing list, and the entire rest of the Internet population will be delighted to tolerate whatever mishaps you inflict on them, because they all know you're too busy to actually learn anything. They'll probably send you mail containing code phrases like "SMTP", "DNS" "MX records", "sendmail", "postfix"and "RFC" but you can safely ignore all of it. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc5321.html Internet Message Format http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc5322.html Q. What about my mail server; will that run itself, too? A. Certainly. Mail servers are designed to work without human intervention, and since they all function perfectly there's no need for you to bother yourself worrying about them. Make sure that you ignore all mail sent to "postmaster" and "abuse" -- and with a little bit of luck, you may be fortunate enough to one day find your domain listed at: The home for domains who don't play by the rules http://www.rfc-ignorant.org/ Q. What software should I use to run my mailing list? A. Here's another chance for you to express your individuality. You could use open-source, peer-reviewed, free software that has been carefully written and refined over a period of many years; OR, far more intriguing, you could (a) write your own package, because of course *yours* will immediately be better than any other, or (b) pay a hefty fee to use antiquated, closed-source, proprietary packages that carry the baggage of defunct network environments. Don't be dissuaded from your course by all the highly-experienced professionals who recommend the open-source packages like Mailman and majordomo; they're all biased and lack your insight. Q. I want to set up a directory of mailing lists that includes web-based subscription forms, archives, and other things that I think mailing lists ought to have. Any problems? A. No, of course not. No mailing list owner will be even slightly concerned about having their authority usurped; they'll be delighted to have their copyrighted material reproduced at your site; and none of them will mind that errors in your subscription process (such as out-of-date addresses) will result in increased email traffic for them as well as fostering the perception that they don't know what they're doing. And if any of this does become a problem, you can spam them in order to explain that you're providing a "service" and that they ought to help you (for free) so that you can do this (for profit). Epilogue -------- Q. How can I ask Miss Mailers my special question? A. The best way is to post it to a random Usenet newsgroup; alternatively, you could reply to this message, quoting it in its entirety, formatting your message with HTML, and including your comments as a Word document. Q. How can I quickly remove myself from the Internet? A. By "harvesting" this address with software and then spamming it. How to Advertise Responsibly Using E-Mail and Newsgroups http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc3098.html Acknowledgements ---------------- This is written in much the same style as the Emily Postnews article, with the permission of Brad Templeton, who also suggested the name. If you post articles to Usenet -- ever -- you should make sure that you've read and understood Emily Postnews. There's also a large debt owed to Mr. Protocol, who's more than once brought enlightenment where ignorance formerly reigned. And there's also a large number of thank-you's due to the people who have created the formal and de facto standards by which mailing lists are run and used.