[Mailman-Users] Reply-to options not working

Stephen J. Turnbull turnbull.stephen.fw at u.tsukuba.ac.jp
Mon Feb 5 03:41:23 EST 2018

Grant Taylor via Mailman-Users writes:

 > Just because an MUA isn't on the Internet, does not mean that it 
 > shouldn't play by the same or very similar rules.

If it doesn't DWIM, I don't use it.  But that's not the same as
talking about conformance of clients.  The question is whether the MUA
*as used by a particular user* usually produces messages that when
interpreted according to the RFCs do what that user expects.  For
example, you could label the reply-author function "Launch Missiles"
and the reply-all function "Buy anti-Trump ad on Breitbart", which
hardly matches the idea of "conformant MUA", but once muscle memory
kicks in it would produce conformant messages that DTRT. :-)

 > I would go so far as to say that this is likely something that
 > should be a user definable configuration.  Which means that MUAs
 > should understand multiple operations and let the end user decide
 > what they want to do.

Sure, WFM.  But in practice the problematic users (remember, this is
inspired as an anti-Reply-To-munging proposal!) do not make decisions
and reconfigure their software; they bitch and moan and expect
everybody else to change.

 > > Where is List-Post a conformance issue?  You add it if you want
 > > to inform people and MUAs where to post, and you don't if you
 > > don't.
 > I don't think me adding the List-Post header to a message going into a 
 > mailing list will work out very well.

That would be non-conformant to the RFC.  List-* headers should only
be added by list managers (typically software).

 > - I expect that the MLM would munge it (if configured to add the
 >   List-Post header itself)

That's what a conformant MLM would do, yes.

 >   or remove it.

That doesn't work for me.  I have a couple of cases where I have an
umbrella list with dependent lists that are convenient for membership
management (students who get moved by class to alumni lists, see
reply to Jordan for details).  In those cases I want the umbrella
list's List-Post passed through to the dependent lists' distribution.

 > I still believe that user are the root cause of much angst.

Reply-To munging being the salient case.

 > I was saying that I think it's wrong for us to make assumptions
 > about what other people do, and to further turn those assumptions
 > into belief that they will do what we think.

I don't agree with that as a categorical statement.  Of course we
shouldn't just "assume", but rather base it on data of various kinds.
I think there are many cases where we can be sure enough what people
will do that it's worth betting the default setting on it.

 > UI/UX design can help with some, if not many, things.  But the
 > users have to have a fundamental understanding of what they are
 > doing.

Again, I disgree with your wording, at least.  UI/UX design helps if
and only if the designers have a fundamental understanding of what the
users think they are doing.  I think the Thunderbird mistake was to
think that what the users think they're doing is what the developers
think they should be doing.  And that's not the case.  We All Hate
Reply-To Munging, but some users like it.  The idea behind this
proposal is that they don't like munging for its own sake, but because
it allows them to delegate the decision about where to address a reply
to the MUA in a natural way ("natural" according to them).

 > Users may not be willing to design their own UI, but many do choose
 > the UI that they use.  Thus, there is choice involved.

Sure, but in many cases that choice is not informed.  They use what's
there, without understanding, and if the results aren't what they
expect, they want somebody else to fix it.  They don't realize that
they have alternatives that would work better for them, and they
typically are quite unwilling to change to a better UI when they're
told about one (unwilling for good reasons as well as bad ones).

 > > I believe that if this algorithm were used in all major MUAs,
 > > there would be no demand for Reply-To munging.
 > Maybe, maybe not.

That's not helpful.  I've explained why I think this would work out
well: users who like Reply-To munging like it because they have a
one-button solution to most of their reply-addressing needs.  They
want replies to personal mail to go to author, and replies to list
posts to go to the list.  My proposed algorithm does that (if the list
doesn't munge but does supply List-Post).  It also provides familiar
behavior with Reply-To munging, unlike the Thunderbird mod.  For this
group of users, I believe it could be substituted for the reply-author
function, and they would think it "works better" (because it works as
*they* expect for non-munging lists).  (For you and Jordan, feel free
to change that UI gesture back to reply-author.)

Under what circumstances would this fail for those people?  Do you
have evidence that they actually are rare, and that the demand for
Reply-To munging is based on a different psychology?  Are you really
sure "smart reply" wouldn't work for you in most cases where you
aren't confronted with a "which reply function to use" decision every
few posts on some list?

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