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

Mark Sapiro mark at msapiro.net
Tue Mar 24 01:19:38 CET 2015

On 03/23/2015 04:06 PM, Al Black wrote:
> I spent a few hours yesterday thinking about a "cleaner" to improve the signal noise for the kind of posts were talking about.  Not a simple problem to solve (well for me anyway).  

It's a very hard problem. You can see some of my attempts at this at
<http://www.msapiro.net/scripts/MoreHolds.py>. A version of the
rejectquote.txt template used by this script is at

This handler is currently installed on my production site with the
parameters as in the URL above, which in particular means RATIO is set
to zero so no posts are held or rejected for excessive quoting. (The
other holds are for no Subject:, digest Subject: or quoting of digest

The calculation of quoted_count and unquoted_count and addition of same
to the decoration-data is still done so that one can put something like

Experimental software on this Mailman installation thinks this post
contained %(unquoted_count)s characters of new/original text and
%(quoted_count)s characters of text quoted/included from prior list posts.

Into a list's msg_header (or footer) to try to educate people, but only
one test list on my site has such.

For my first attempt at actually doing this in production, I think RATIO
was set to 4 and REJECT_QUOTES was False (actually not implemented yet).
The idea was I could hold some messages and edit them before bouncing
them back to the list, and people might learn to do better.

I soon decided this was putting all the burden on me and users had
little motivation to change, so I implemented REJECT_QUOTES and set it True.

The end result is at least some people wanted to top post and quote the
entire message to which they were replying and they would go to extra
trouble to edit the quoted material so I wouldn't recognize it as such
or just paste in garbage to lower the ratio of quoted to unquoted. I.e.
they spent more time and effort trying to bypass the rule than it would
take to just do the right thing.

My main production list is the general discussion list for my cycling
club. In the end, the club asked me to stop trying and I complied. A few
people did learn and change their style, but some of those have since

Another interesting (to me at least) is the way in which convention and
MUA design operates with relatively non-technical folks. I almost always
reply to any email by interleaving my replies within whatever bits of
quoted material I leave in the message as necessary to establish
context. I've had friends say to me "I really like the way you reply to
emails. How do you do that?"

Mark Sapiro <mark at msapiro.net>        The highway is for gamblers,
San Francisco Bay Area, California    better use your sense - B. Dylan

More information about the Mailman-Users mailing list