Re: Bug in mailing lists; unfriendly to non-subscribers

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On 05Jul2010 20:02, Felipe Contreras <[email protected]> wrote:
| On Mon, Jul 5, 2010 at 4:20 PM, Tim <[email protected]> wrote:
| > On Mon, 2010-07-05 at 14:57 +0300, Felipe Contreras wrote:
| >> In order to do that I have to subscribe, which takes more than a few
| >> bounces, and that's the problem.
| >
| > Something wrong with *your* mail, then, if there's any bouncing.  If you
| > don't actually meaning mail bounces, then you're using the wrong
| > terminology.
| 
| I mean that there are many steps involved, go to this page, fill this,
| wait for that, reply here, etc.

The procedure of: fill in the joining form, reply to a confirmation
email is a standard step in most mailing lists these days. It serves two
purposes: it catches misspelt email addresses (because the confirmation
email fails) and it rejects most spam robots (because they don't process
the confirmation email, and generally don't provide anything but lies in
email address fields anyway).

If there were no spammers and no misconfigured user mail clients and no
misfilled forms then this step would not be necessary. But it is because
is so greatly reduces trouble.

| Terminology is a field of study. Bounce is a word in the English
| language. I'm not a native English speaker, so I couldn't come up with
| a better word to describe the feeling of bumping from one task to the
| next.
| 
| You cannot expect everyone to come up with the perfect words, and I
| thought that my sentence was understandable enough. If you have a
| better suggestion, I'm open for it.

Regrettably, "bounce" has a specific meaning in the email context: it is
email that could not be delivered, and that generates a reply message to
that effect from the mail systems involved. The automatic reply message
is called the "bounce".

So your unfortunate (though undertandable) choice of word because
confusing in the context. I find that when I have this situation (for
me, posting in a forum/list where I'm not up to speed with the
terminology since I have no non-English ability sufficient for
conversation) I will use a whole phrase or even a whole sentence to
provide more context for what I mean.

For example, here you could have said "In order to do that I have to
subscribe, and spent some timing bouncing from one task to another to do
so, and that's the problem." That's normal English usage of the term.
"bounces" is a noun and implies a more concrete meaning. The downside is
the difficulty of know which particular terms you are using may have a
specific meaning in the discussion domain.

| >> Public mailing lists should receive mail from *anybody*; if the poster
| >> is not subscribed, then the message should go through moderation. This
| >> is the truly open way.
| >
| > No thanks.  If you want groups full of spam, there's usenet for that.
| 
| There's filters for that. If your current filter doesn't work, switch.
| bogofilter maybe?

Gah! NO.

This is the standard answer of the spammers too. It is the difference
between "opt-in" and "opt-out" junk mail. Advertisers always argue that
they should be free to put people on their mailing lists and that people
should opt-out when they get the junk. This places the burden on every
individual receiver of the mail, and is unreasonable.

So too with requiring end users to need arbitrary filtering technology
at their end; they should not need to make the effort and in many cases
a sufficient effort is not feasible for them (varying mail tools,
varying expertise, varying interfaces). Imagine the poor user of a
web mail interface - they can't attach arbitrary filters at all. Shall
they change their entire mode of interaction to deal with the fallout
from _your_ desire that they should receive (at the pre-filter stage)
all the junk in the world?

| > Subscriptions is a step in minimising crap being posted to the list
| > (whether that be spam, or simply tossers who'll post rubbish to lists,
| > just to spout crap from their fingers).
| 
| Really? So I don't subscribe I'm a looser whose posts are not welcome?

Well, if you don't subscribe you're too lazy to meet the very low bar to
entry to the discussion; maybe you're not desirable. This isn't so in
your case, since you're clearing prepared to argue cogently for your
point of view. But for the many many spammers it _is_ the case that they
are not welcome.

| And if some random guy manages to subscribe (which according to a
| previous post it's easy), then it's post is worthwhile?

It means they've made an effort: they are probably not a spammer and
probably not a robot and _are_ probably more motivated to participate in
a valuable way. So yes, _probably_ they are more worthwhile.

| I don't think so. Also, how do other big guy mailing lists manage
| without enforcing subscription? Looser posts are ignored... easy.

Really? I've run my share of lists. I will _never_ willingly run a list that
doesn't require people to subscribe to participate .

| > Though I notice that the
| > subscription process hasn't stopped a couple of spammers in the last few
| > days.
| 
| Exactly. That's what spam filters are for.

They need to run at the end user, and the end users are varied.
And the burden is unreasonable.

If you argue that the filters should run at the list end, well the
subscribe-to-post rule _is_ a spam filter. And you're objecting to it.

| > If the list was moderated in the way you propose, moderators would spend
| > all their spare time checking new messages, and it'd be ages before your
| > post got through.
| 
| No, it takes time, but eventually it gets posted. I do this on many lists.

Not on all lists. Moderators often lack the time. I speak as one such,
and some posts simply don't make it because they have waited too long
for attention. It is not scalable. If the list is very active, the
problem gets far worse.

| >> Orthogonal to this is that the mailing lists should not mingle with
| >> "Reply-To"; they should leave the To and Cc fields intact, so that the
| >> MUA can reply to the right addresses. See:
| >> http://www.unicom.com/pw/reply-to-harmful.html
| >
| > The list works fine.  Messages go to the list, and the list's address is
| > in the "to" field, where it belongs.
| 
| The initial mail might have the ml is "To", but might also be in "Cc".

Shrug. For mail clients that distinct is usually irrelevant.

| But the later posts wouldn't if the rules were right. I would be
| sending this mail to you, as you were the originator, and the mailing
| list would be kept in Cc.

Plenty of people don't want a personal CC; they want all replies on the
list only.

| This has another advantage. Many clients, like Gmail, do smart thing
| where the user is in the To field (or Cc for that matter),

It might help if you said what you think _is_ the smart thing. Since
the current setup of this list _is_ what is often wanted, some
justification is needed _after_ you describe "the smart thing".

| but on
| Fedora lists, that information is lost thanks to the Reply-To munging.

Bah. Nothing need to use it.

| In my MUA, notmuch, for example, I have a rule; if the message was
| sent to the the certain mailing list, skip the inbox tag, unless it
| was sent to me. No way to do that here.

Demonstrably false. I file my email in _exactly_ the same way, and it
works just fine.

I _suspect_ you mean that you want the post sent to you directly in
addition to the list (though you have not said it). Presumably so you
can track the discussion more easily, and that is a rasonable desire
(the tracking ability, not the particular implementation).

There are other ways.

For example, I colour threads in which I have participated distinctively; I
can then see them easily when browsing my "unix lists" mail folder.

Also, I _always_ press group-reply/reply-to-all and never plain reply,
and then I consider the resulting to/cc headers and edit if suitable.
That bypasses your reply-to issue altogether.

| > Because that's where the post was
| > sent to.
| 
| Only because of Relpy-To munging; it's a vicious circle.

And yet often desirable.

Plenty of people are incapable of keep the discussion on list (with
or without cc-to-author). Yea, even my mother in personal email often
drops the CC to my partner. The reply-to makes that work for this list.

| > Lists that don't put themselves in the reply-to end up with very few
| > posts coming back to the list.  You see a list full of the same
| > questions being asked over and over, because there's no replies being
| > made in public.
| 
| You are speculating, and doing it wrong.

He's not speculating, it is empirically true. The degree to which it is
true varies, but the effect is real and not small.

| Most of the mailing lists I'm subscribed to don't munge the Reply-To
| header, and all the threads are kept in the ml (in fact multiple
| mailing lists as cross-posting works).

You can't tell how much escapes, because you do not see the escapes.

So it may well largely work, but it is unreliable.

| > You can still reply to the right address.  A default reply will come
| > back to the list, where it's supposed to (for this list).  You can opt
| > to reply to the person by replying to their *from* address, because the
| > poster's address is in the place that it ought to be, the "from"
| > address, because that's where the message came from.
| 
| MUA's don't do that. Reply-To overrides everything. If Reply-To wasn't
| overridden, there would be the option to reply to the person, or reply
| to everyone (including the ml).

Demonstrably false. My MUA has those choices. And I use the second one and
edit where it turns out to be not desirable (infrequent).

| > I can't recall whether it changes the CCs, and I half agree with keeping
| > them.  Unfortunately some troublemakers abuse that, by replying to some
| > post, and adding inappropriate addresses to a CC field.
| 
| Reply-To overrides the Cc too.

_If_ you use the mailer's "conventional reply" operation. And even then,
the outcome is more right than not.

| However, that's only the *default*, what you call "troublemakers" can
| send a mail to whomever they want, and Cc whomever they want. So
| that's not an argument in favor of Reply-To munging.

It is such an argument. You may not weigh it heavily, but we do.

| >> This way when a non-subscriber posts something, he doesn't have to add
| >> the "Please CC me as I'm not in the mailing list"; it will happen
| >> automatically.
| >
| > A non-subscriber can't participate, nor should they be able to do.  If
| > they do subscribe, then things just work.
| 
| So if somebody doesn't want to subscribe, you are not interested in
| what they have to say?

Frankly, yes.

| Well, I'm not interesting in prejudices, I
| would say keep those to yourself.

Funny, you're not keeping your prejudices to yourelf.

Look, the list setup is the list _policy_. And _this_ list's policy it
to require subscription to keep out spammers and to hack the reply-to to
keep discussions on list. These two things are very effective for the
purposes desired here.

If you don't like it, make your own list and see how it fares. You are
not forced to use this list. And you are _not_ forced to honour the
reply-to setting either.

On the same reasoning you use earlier, that end users should have to
implement spam filtering themselves, I feel that _you_ should be _happy_
to implement "work around the reploy-to" yourself in your MUA.

| > That's how most/many mailing
| > lists work.  It's how every single mailing list that I've used over the
| > last ten years has operated.
| 
| You must participate in a very narrow circle then, as all the mailing
| lists in vger don't.
| 
| > I've been on lists which had open membership, and they got deluged with
| > crap within a very short period.  They last about a week before the list
| > gets abandoned, or the owner has the sense to close the membership.
| 
| Yeah? So don't be one of those.
| 
| > A mailing list is the wrong place to a demand an answer for your
| > problems.
| 
| So what you are saying is that I should adapt to the system, not make
| the system adapt to me. Even though I know *I* am not the only one who
| would benefit from that.

Well, your "users should do their own spam filtering" uses that logi.
So, yes.

| >> Moreover you have dozens of mailing lists, do you expect people to
| >> subscribe to them when they want to send a one-time email?
| >
| > Yes.  You can unsubscribe if they want to, later.  And just be a person
| > who takes and never gives back.  This is a list, not a free help line.
| 
| Ah, so it's becoming clear that you don't want to be open.

For your definition, no.

| > Alternatively, you can join through a usenet gateway, and have just one
| > subscription to that usenet gateway, and just hop in and out of the
| > different groups on it.
| 
| All I want is that people can be able to post one mail, and follow
| that thread only.

A job for their MUA. It's perfectly doable. Go and do it.

Cheers,
-- 
Cameron Simpson <[email protected]> DoD#743
http://www.cskk.ezoshosting.com/cs/

The ten thousand things
How long do any persist?
Netscape, too, has gone.
- Haiku Error Messages http://www.salonmagazine.com/21st/chal/1998/02/10chal2.html
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