[Mailman-Users] Meta: bringing along the newcomers

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Fri Dec 18 06:55:44 CET 2009

Somebody-whom-I-don't-want-to-pick-on-in-particular writes:

 > On Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 12:00:34PM -0500, (Some) Poor Fellow  wrote:
 > > Thanks
 > please don't 
 >     (1) reply to list-posts off-list: send them to the list; 
 >     (2) top-post

Given the recent surge in non-traditional list admins (ie, folks
without a Unix or mail admin background), I feel this is excessively
curt.  I don't know about this particular Poor Fellow, but the generic
Poor Fellow probably had no idea it wasn't going to the right place
(he probably isn't subscribed, either, so he won't notice that he
didn't get his own post back).

I suggest that better wording is "Please be careful to ensure that
your reply is addressed to the list."

Actually there should be a FAQ for that in Section 1, so you can add
"see FAQ x.yy".  I suggest adding this to FAQ 1.22.  Something like

    1.22 How should I write my post when asking a question on this
         mailing list?

    Customs vary on the Internet, and while we [except for the
    majority of us old Usenet curmudgeons ;-] don't want to impose our
    customs on the rest of the 'Net, your questions *will* be answered
    more quickly and helpfully if you observe the following:

    o  The first thing you should do is indicate that you've done your
       homework. Look at the Mailman documentation linked from
       http://www.list.org/docs.html. Search the Frequently Asked
       Questions in the wiki. Search the archives of the mailing list
       (see "How do I search the archives of the mailman-users mailing

       Once you've looked through all the relevant pieces of
       documentation, FAQ entries, archive messages, etc... and you
       still haven't found your answer, please give us additional
       information as well as the question itself.  See FAQ .

       Specifically, we would like to know:

       1. What methods did you use to look through the documentation
          and search the FAQ, mailing list archives, etc...?

       2. If there were things that initially sounded relevant but
          ended up not being useful to you, which ones were they?

       If you did miss something that is relevant, then having this
       information will help us go back and improve the
       documentation/FAQ/etc... so that the next person who does the
       same search will hopefully hit the correct answer.

       In addition, we would appreciate it if you could provide URLs
       and precise descriptions of the information you found but which
       was not helpful to you.

    o  If you have a specific/detailed question, please proceed to FAQ
       entry 1.23 at "I have a specific-detailed question -- What kind
       of information do I need to provide when posting a question to
       this mailing list?"

       See also FAQ entry 4.78 "Troubleshooting- No mail going out to
       lists members."

       With this information, we are much more likely to be able to
       provide you assistance with your question.

    o  Be careful to ensure that your reply is addressed to the list.
       The widespread practice of "Reply-To munging" is *not*
       implemented on our lists because it makes it difficult (and
       sometimes impossible) to send a private reply.  Because this
       need is frequent in working on Mailman issues (many questions
       involve details of network and host configuration that could be
       used by crackers to compromise security), we do not set
       Reply-To to the list.  (Reply-To munging is not a good idea in
       most cases; see Chip Rosenthal's essay "Reply-To Munging
       Considered Harmful".)

    o  It is a very good idea to subscribe to the list, or at least
       follow the thread in the archives.  For various reasons,
       related posts may *not* be addressed to you, but only to the
       list.  It would be a shame if you missed them.

    o  Once you've sent your post, *wait* at least 48 hours for it to
       be forwarded to you or appear in the archives before assuming
       it got lost.  Because we must allow non-members to post, we are
       relatively vulnerable to spam, and the lists are *moderated* by
       rather busy volunteers.

       Also, make sure that any spamblocking software you have is
       *off* for a while; you will get no sympathy at all if you block
       a reply (and note you don't know where it will come from,
       because the respondent may feel that the required information
       is sensitive, and should not be discussed in public -- see #2
       above).  No sympathy for the delay itself, and many of the less
       frequent contributors will ignore you completely thereafter.
       (The core people will still take care of you, but about half
       the useful answers come from the peanut gallery -- it's a
       significant resource.)

    o  Avoid top-posting (adding a quick comment to the top of a
       message, leaving the automatically included quoted block
       intact.  The people who provide the best answers are used to a
       style in which irrelevant details in the quote are *trimmed*
       (deleted), and in which responses to specific points appear
       *inline*, ie, immediately below the statements or questions
       they refer to.  We don't ask you to like this style; however,
       it is a fact that most of us will be irritated if we scan to
       the bottom of a long quote and discover we just wasted as
       little as 5 seconds doing so.

       In general, conforming to the practices of "Netiquette" will
       smooth the path to resolving your Mailman issues.  It's not
       just a matter of conforming to the "peculiar institutions" of
       the Mailman community: these practices are actually more
       effective in this context.  [needs URL for netiquette]

Sorry, I'm Confluence-differently-abled at the moment.  Assuming
nobody thinks this is a terrible idea, I'll eventually get to posting
this myself, but if somebody wants to speed up the process, I wouldn't
object. :-)

In case it's not obvious, stuff in [square brackets] should not be
cut/pasted to the FAQ.

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