[Mailman-Developers] Re: GET vs POST (was Re: subscription confirmations)

Chuq Von Rospach chuqui@plaidworks.com
Wed, 18 Jul 2001 08:27:15 -0700

On 7/18/01 7:56 AM, "Les Niles" <les@2pi.org> wrote:

>> There is much reason not to comply with the published standard: people
>> are stupid.  Shame, isn't it?
> I'm not sure which stupidity you're talking about.  Are you
> concerned that people will launch the link from the email but then
> not push the "confirm" (or "cancel") button?

I won't use the word "stupid" -- because it's not really the right word. Bu=
unskilled, or na=EFve is.

Yes, that IS a legitimate worry. As you move further away from the techie
priesthood, this is more and more of an issue. People aren't comfortable
with computers, don't understand the processes, and don't know what to

Every step gives them a chance to decide "the hell with it", which isn't pe=
se a bad thing, but it also gives them a chance to get confused or not pay

Back in the early days of my big marketing server, we did mailback
validations. We were seeing 30+% dropout rates, and a high level of
complaints because subscriptions weren't fulfilled (and it was our fault).

We removed the mailback system, complaints plummetted, subscriptions went
up, and pretty much everyone is happy, except for the "all mail lists must
use mailback validation" dogma-choir. And to be honest, our complaint level
about that is in the hundredth's of a percent of subscriptions -- compared
to the 30% problem rate those mailbacks caused.

(that is not a note to imply mailback validations should be trashed. It is
merely a note that the people who feel that they are the holy grail of
subscription systems need to get a clue and realize there are many audience=
and many needs, and systems need to be matched to those. What I do on my
marketing server, where we send out two e-mails a month, and what we do on =
busy discussion list that might server 50 e-mails a day into someone's
mailbox are much different...)

You have to step back and stop thinking that the people using these systems
are (a) computer people, (b) think like you do, and [c] actually understand
how these systems work and can guess what it takes to jump through your
hoops. They don't. Every chance you give them to get it wrong, some will.
Not everyone is a geek (or wants to be), not everyone is an
english-first-language speaker, not everyone has experience in mail lists,
not everyone can easily read instructions and translate them into a
requested action. They need handholding, not because their stupid, but
because we've done a lousy job of building systems that don't require them
to be geeks, and then we blame THEM for not being geeks.

That's why I was harping on this stuff being as simple as possible -- but a=
the same time, in this discussion, I've come to agree with thomas on this.
It may be one more click, but I think the right thing to do is for the URL
in the e-mail should bring up a confirmation page, which generates a summar=
of what's about to happen, and a "click here to confirm" type button. That
doesn't add significantly to the confusion, and it can really, really reduc=
the uncertainty we bring to the user. Make that confirmation page the
"contract" with the user, explaining what will happen, link to the
instructions, the privacy agreements, etc, etc. give them an option to turn
on digests there, set passwords, anything that makes sense. Turn it into a
real advantage -- to you and the user.

It's not just one more click; it's a way to make sure you and the user are
on the same page.

At least, that's where I'm headed on that, and I think Mailman ought to be,


Chuq Von Rospach, Internet Gnome <http://www.chuqui.com>
[<chuqui@plaidworks.com> =3D <me@chuqui.com> =3D <chuq@apple.com>]
Yes, yes, I've finally finished my home page. Lucky you.

Someday, we'll look back on this, laugh
nervously and change the subject.