[Mailman-Users] listname-bounces@

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Wed Nov 19 04:09:57 CET 2008

Michael Welch writes:

 > So, I have a feature suggestion: Add an autoreply option for
 > -bounces incoming emails.

Executive summary: not likely to help, not likely to happen.

This is just going to annoy people who can't easily help themselves
(Outlook and Blackberry users, apparently).  You really don't want to
do that, even if it lightens your load of direct contact because they
get the autoreply.  The fact that they are using *broken* software[1]
cuts no ice with them; "everybody" uses Outlook, so the rest of us
should just shut up and cope.

It also creates "backscatter".  Spambots harvest those -bounces
addresses, and then your autoreply will go back to some forged sender,
who often enough is a real mailbox somewhere.  Guess who they will
think spammed them?  And they will be correct! in the sense that it
was your decision to set up an autoreply that is so easy to abuse.
(This is true of all autoreplies, by the way, which has been a big
headache for many list admins and the Mailman devs for years.  Search
the Mailman-Users archive for "backscatter".)

[1]  RFC 2822 specifies that Sender headers indicate the
administrative agent who handled the mail, as a secretary does for his
boss.  If there is a problem in transmission, a missing attachment for
example, then you contact the secretary and don't bother the boss,
right?  Replies discussing the content however are sent to the boss,
right?  Even if her secretary actually is previewing and prioritizing
the mail.  Email is the same.  Technical problems with the content go
to "Sender", and discussion of content goes to "Reply-To" (if it
exists) or "From".

In the case of email, the admin agent is typically a program, so this
distinction needs to be respected even more than in the case of a
human secretary.  Where the secretary would discard or reroute the
junk, the program isn't smart enough to do anything but forward to
you, and your time is infinitely more expensive than the program's.

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