[Mailman-Users] Reply-to options not working

Stephen J. Turnbull turnbull.stephen.fw at u.tsukuba.ac.jp
Tue Feb 6 05:09:56 EST 2018

Jordan Brown writes:
 > On 2/5/2018 12:29 AM, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
 > [various stuff, citation line preserved to make a point below]

 > You don't mention what your "smart reply" does with To and CC
 > addresses.  Discards them, I assume?

Yes.  It's intended to do what a certain large group of naive users
expect "Reply" to do.  "Smart Reply" is not intended to do what "Reply
All" does, period.  It is intended to provide a variant on what
"Reply" does that automatically handles the common case (on the
Internet at large) of discussion lists where all participants are
subscribers.  It always picks an unique reply address (except in some
rare cases where From or Reply-To contains multiple addresses).

 > But:  in my work contexts, it is quite common for a discussion to span
 > two teams.  Again, a "reply" that goes to the List-Post address (versus
 > All) won't do the right thing.  Normal "Reply All" does the right
 > thing.

OK.  I'm assuming that each team has its own list, only one List-Post
is present, so you need Reply-All even for list posts, right?  I
almost never need to reply to such posts, and when I do, it's
invariably only to the list I received it from.  If reply-both is a
frequent use case on your lists, I can see how smart reply would
almost never DTRT for you.

 > But:  Even in a mailing list context, I think that "To: <author> CC:
 > <list>" conveys useful context; I'm replying to what *you* said, and
 > including everybody else in the audience.  Reply All does the right
 > thing.  (Yes, it's suboptimal in that the To/CC list tends to accumulate
 > people over time [...].)

I find the suboptimality aspect more important, and determine who was
replied to more from the citation line than the addressee list.  YMMV,
of course.

As for "knowing who's on the list", almost all of the lists I'm on
require membership to post, including "private" lists (address books
do get pwned), and deliberate addition of 3rd parties is *extremely*
rare, except for certain announcements.  But in that announcement
use-case, for me Reply-Author is the only mode I ever use.

 > I do *not* want my "Er, did you really mean to say <stupid
 > mistake>" note to go to the entire audience.

This turns out not to be a problem for me.  Smart reply has never
tricked me into addressing a private reply to the list (let alone
actually sending one).  I suspect it's unlikely to catch my main
audience for the feature very often -- and much less often than
Reply-To munging does.  But to find out I need to get it into a mass
MUA as default. :-/

 > Normal "Reply" does the right thing (assuming non-munged
 > Reply-To).

Reply-To munging is precisely the issue this is intended to address.
Munged lists *have* caught me (although actually sending a message
misaddressed to list is extremely rare).  I think the difference is
that when I use "smart reply" I have implicitly requested that it go
to the list.  If I really want to reply to author (which is not that
rare), I do use Reply-Author, and find it natural.  (I'm not saying
you would.)

 > than Reply or Reply All, as appropriate.  (If you're interested, I'll
 > see if I can do an analysis of my message traffic to see how often it
 > would do something that I would consider to be clearly wrong and how
 > often it would be an improvement.)

I would be interested in that.  I expect that you'll find a pretty
high ratio of wrong to right.  But if it came out anywhere near even,
it would be a pretty strong indication in favor of writing an RFC.  I
don't expect that to be enough to interest you in changing (there
would be muscle memory costs, etc).

I would appreciate it if you would *not* count "omitting the author of
a list post from the reply" as "wrong" for this purpose because I don't
think my target audience for "smart reply" would count it as wrong.

 > On what might be a side note, I think there might be a key
 > difference in attitude between different camps.  One side wants to
 > keep discussion on the mailing list when possible;

This feature is definitely aimed at that camp.  I'm not interested in
discussing whether encouraging them is a bad thing in this thread.  If
you want to talk about that (it does matter to me, it's just a
separate discussion), let's start a new thread or we can go offline.

 > It is of course completely deterministic.  But note that I said
 > "unless you pay careful attention to how you got this particular
 > copy of the message".

I disagree with that.  In your case, where you apparently get a lot of
cross-posts, yes, you'd need to pay attention.  But I think you'd
figure it out quickly because AIUI you'd normally be on your team's
list but not the other.  Your operational problem wouldn't be figuring
out which list delivered it, but simply that you frequently need to
respond to both, and the list you're not on would be omitted unless
you Reply-All.  Am I missing something?  "Smart reply" is simply not
designed to be useful in such cases.

However, in many cases, such as the two I described, there is not a
big problem unless I'm on both lists that provide List-Post, which is
relatively rare in my experience.  Even then, I don't recall wanting
to cross-post a reply more than once or twice.  This does depend on
the fact that I sort each list into a different folder on List-ID or
List-Post, so folder context means my expectations are correct.  Not
sure how this would play out in my target audience.

 > You don't know about the private conversations :-)

No, of course not.  I do know that you've been active on the thread,
and if you've been sending private replies, you had to take a
different action to do that from the one you use to reply on-thread.
So it's not obvious *why* that couldn't be Reply-Author vs Smart-Reply
instead of Reply-Author vs. Reply-All until we start breaking down the
various use cases.

 > You also suppose that this style of mailing list dominates my mailing
 > list usage... it doesn't.

I don't suppose any such thing.  I simply don't know about it, which
is why I ask.  I'm not sure your use cases are relevant to my target
audience, but they could be.  (Eg, I hadn't thought about the Boy
Scouts type of case, although I'm not sure it's really different from
my advisees case.)

 > One might say that different behaviors are appropriate for
 > different fora, and that wouldn't be totally wrong, but remembering
 > that different fora will behave differently requires effort, and
 > since Reply/Reply-All do the right thing in *every* fora, why would
 > I want to spend that effort (and take the risk of mixing it up)?

Well, I did it because I'm (intermittently) on a crusade to eliminate
Reply-To munging.  (Just so you know there is *some* method to this
madness.)  I realize that's a very specialized motivation. ;-)

I also disagree that Reply-All does the right thing in the subscribe-
to-post discussion lists I participate in.  Sure, I can go back and
edit out all but the person I'm replying to, but even I don't always
do that, and most people *never* do.  YMMV, of course.

 > I do 99%+ of my e-mail with T-bird on a Windows system, but there's
 > still that <1% that's done with the Mail app on my iPad, which is
 > the opposite end of the flexibility spectrum.  That's the end that
 > concerns me.

I don't see them adopting this in lieu of Reply-Author, though I could
be wrong.

 > And even T-bird is not immune to the "remove features to simplify
 > things" disease.

To be frank, I was a little shocked by the T-bird story.  "What *were*
they thinking?!"


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