[Mailman-Users] Reply to list

John Buttery john at io.com
Sun Feb 8 15:12:50 CET 2004

* Buddy Logan <Buddy at DataBoySoftware.com> [2004-02-08 03:15:46 -0800]:
> Since this is a pet peeve of yours, maybe you should explain to me
> what is wrong with overwriting the "reply to" header.

  Well, OK...where to start?  I guess a little background is in order.
Basically, the idea is that every email has a "From:" header.  You would
expect that the address that the message purports to be "From:" is also
capable of receiving replies.  Most of the time that's the case, but
sometimes it isn't (I don't think listing specific cases is relevant to
the point, but in case you want one, imagine someone posting from a
work account that wants replies to go to their home address).  To
account for those situations where the author wants replies to go to a
different address than the source of the post, the Reply-To: header was
  This is a central piece of information to this whole thing, so I'm
going to repeat/rephrase it.  The Reply-To: header consists of specific
instructions _from the author_, designating where replies to the message
should be sent.  This author is a human, and therefore his opinion is by
definition more important than that of any intervening mail-routing
  That's also a central piece of information, so I'm going to restate
that as well.  Human beings are to be considered the authoritative
sources of information, and not the machines pushing the mail around.

  OK, so now that we've established what the Reply-To: header is, and
what its purpose is, let's examine what "reply-to-list" does.  The email
comes in with a From: header of "egoldstein at eurasia.gov" and a Reply-To:
header of "eg at dialup-522681-03.oceania.aol.com" because Mr. Goldstein
doesn't want his bosses to see who's responding to the message he's
sending out; replies should be directed to his personal SMTP server.
  Unfortunately, the list software has other plans.  It deletes Mr.
Goldstein's Reply-To: header and replaces it with the post address of
the list.  That information is now permanently deleted from the

  That, to me, is the issue.

> I guess it has been quite a few years since I have participated
> in a discussion list but, as I recall, this used to be the common
> practice.

  It still is common practice, unfortunately...that doesn't make it the
right thing to do, though.  Look at McDonalds.  :p

> It is convenient, and makes perfect sense to me.  I'm no
> expert on header information - perhaps it messes up the trail or
> something - I'm just really curious as to what the controversy is.

  Well, my best explanations of my point of view on it are in this email
and the two I posted a little while ago.  Hopefully they at least
clarified things, even if they don't change anyone's habits.

  John  ! Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day.
www.io.c! Teach a man to fish, and he'll starve from sitting in the boat
om/~john! all day, drinking beer.
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