[Mailman-Users] The "right" way to reply to a mailing list

Lucio Chiappetti lucio at lambrate.inaf.it
Fri Mar 20 11:06:03 CET 2015

On Fri, 20 Mar 2015, Andrew Stuart wrote:

> When I reply to a message on a mailing list, what is the ???right??? way 
> to do it?

Not sure if there is a right way for everybody. Definitely there is a way 
I like it to happen and ways which I find extremely annoying.

> Should I be deleting previous thread text from my response?

For me, yes please do.

> Should I be adding anything in?

Your contribution, unless it is "me too" :-)

Talking seriously. I think there are two separate matters. Knowledgeable 
users may "program" their MUA (or Mail Delivery Agent) to follow their 
preferences almost in any case. It is more difficult for a list 
administrator or a poster to force all correspondents to follow a given 

- One matter is : to whom shall the reply go ?

   Here the list administrator has the power to set a preference for the
   list (reply goes to poster, reply goes to list or eventually even
   redirect the reply or block it ... the same can occur for a single
   circular mail with appropriate header tweaking), and the user with a
   proper MUA should have the capability to reset the preference to what he

   In most cases lists are DISCUSSION lists, so in this case MY preference
   is that the reply shall go to the list ONLY and not ALSO to the poster,
   Clever list managers properly configured will avoid sending duplicate
   replyes if sent to the list and to one list member.

   I am annoyed when this does not work and I receive two copies, but I
   just check the message id and remove one redundant copy.

   If the list is not configured for reply to list, if it is a list I use
   rarely I just do Reply All, this will compose the header to send to
   poster and list, and I remove the poster address.

   (and of course there are case in which I WANT to respond privately so
   I remove the list address)

   For lists I use regularly I have configured my Alpine MUA to use a
   role which replies just to the list.

   There are cases of lists for which a reply to the list is unwanted.
   I remember a technical list on which replies to the posts (which were
   sort of help requests) were FORBIDDEN, Replies went to the OP, which
   had the commitment at the end to post a summary.
   It worked quite nicely because members were disciplined people.

   Other cases when a reply is unwanted are circular messages, like
   conference announcements. This applies also to messages sent to
   a distribution list (not an exploder). Proper usage of headers like
   Bcc: or better Lcc: (supported by Alpine) and Reply-To should automatize
   the fact replies go only to the poster.

- The other matter is : top posting, bottom posting, no quoting,
   trimmed quoting

   Here I definitely hate top posting, but I am also annoyed by the fact
   that people quote entire messages, and so by the fact I will save to
   a folder many copies of redundant text I already had in the previous

   In this case I have instructed my mail delivery agent (procmail) to
   filter out the unwanted stuff (since I could not educate my

   So my preference is to either reply with my contribution, or trim the
   original text to the parts I want to reply, and interleave my answers.
   This very message is an example

   (to do multiply interleaving, i.e. reply to more posters, I have to pass
   via an external clipboard)

On Thu, 19 Mar 2015, Mark Sapiro wrote:

> I do understand that in some business situations (contract negotiations, 
> attorney/client communication and the like), it is useful and pretty 
> much demanded that each message contain the full transcript of what went 
> before, but this has no place on an email discussion list.

   I do agree that sending copy of a full correspondence is rarely a case
   for a mailing list, unless perhaps one wants to inform a new subscriber
   of past correspondence

   If the mailing list supports archiving, the easiest way to do it is to
   refer the new subscriber to the archives.

   If one wants instead to inform a new team member of past correspondence
   exchanged with other recipients outside of a mailing list, a nice way
   is to forward him a MIME digest of all past messages (with Alpine one
   can easily select a block of messages and Apply Forward ... one can also
   unpack a digest into a folder, but that's more tricky)

Lucio Chiappetti - INAF/IASF - via Bassini 15 - I-20133 Milano (Italy)
For more info : http://www.iasf-milano.inaf.it/~lucio/personal.html
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