[Mailman-Users] loops with "out of office/vacation" autoresponders

Skip Montanaro skip at pobox.com
Thu Dec 20 23:35:21 CET 2001

    [ ... 5000 "I'm away for the holidays" messages - what fun ... ]

    Robert> Why do I not see more of this on other lists that I participate
    Robert> in?  I manage the Xforms list, using Majordomo.  I've never seen
    Robert> such a loop on Xforms.  What is happening that makes lists here
    Robert> at USU so problematic when the "reply ot all members" feature is
    Robert> enabled?

The broken vacation program replies to the Reply-To address which is
... shazam! ... the entire list.  That message gets forwarded to the email
address of the person vacationing in the Bahamas and the cycle repeats.  I
would think the potential damage this can cause is severe enough in
repy-to-all lists to motivate list managers to not set up their lists that

Assuming Xforms is set up as a reply-to-all list, perhaps Majordomo has more
sophisticated heuristics in place than Mailman about such stuff.  It
wouldn't be the first time a more mature program had more features than a
less mature program.  (I'm not saying Mailman isn't mature, just that since
Majordomo has been around longer, it's had more time to collect such

It may just also be that you've been blessed with good luck on the Xforms
list and haven't run into such problems.  Runaway vacation programs are, in
the grand scheme of things, actually fairly rare.  I run the Mojam and
Musi-Cal websites.  We have an auto-notify feature that lets people
subscribe to specific searches.  When new stuff turns up, it sends them a
message.  In addition, the websites themselves supports a couple email
aliases that function (in part) as autoresponders.  Over the nearly eight
years I'm been running this stuff I've only encountered 20-30 instances of
such bad responders.

Now that your users have seen the potential damage from such runaway
responders, you might explain to them that the reply-to-all setup had a hand
in this debacle and ask them if they'd prefer that "feature" be turned

Skip Montanaro (skip at pobox.com - http://www.mojam.com/)

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