Re: Reply-To munging summary (was: Bug in mailing lists; unfriendly to non-subscribers)

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On Thu, 2010-07-08 at 09:14 -0430, Patrick O'Callaghan wrote:
> Why does no-one ever mention "Reply To List" as the proper way to,
> duh, reply to the list?

Probably because it's hardly ever seen as an option to the user (it's
hidden, or simply not offered).  Mail clients are often quite awful, and
it tended to be the older usenet clients that gave you all the right
features in a sensible manner.

e.g. Back when I used ForteInc Agent, many years ago, when you are
reading from a news group, the interface gave you:

A new post button, to write a new message to that group, that wasn't an
erroneous reply to a prior post.  A feature sadly lacking from mail
clients when they're working with list mail, that could quite easily be
added to the toolbar (or an always-there one activated) when a message
with list details in their headers was selected.

A reply button, to reply to the poster directly (or their reply-to, if
the poster had set one).

A follow-up button, to reply back to the group.  Which replies to the
group, and doesn't send unnecessary personal posts at the same time.

And, not to mention, that it did quoting properly (wrapped well, without
mangling all the > prefix indicators).

The two replying options did let you easily do what you intended, and
didn't rope in additional functions at the same time (i.e. sending out
replies in multiple directions, simultaneously).  It's only by testing
that I can see what reply to all will do on any client, and usually it
doesn't do what I'd logically expect.

i.e. If I were to hit reply to all on your post, now, it'd make sense
that it replied to the list, and to the poster.  That's the most obvious
definition of "all" in this case (all addresses).  But it only prepares
a reply to the list.

Other clients that I've tried this with behave differently.  And therein
lay a big problem - a particularly named feature doing different things,
when it should really always do the same thing.  And for the sake of
this argument, I don't care what it's supposed to do, only what's the
most logical conclusion to make about what you think it's supposed to
do, and what it actually does, are the main concernts.

In my opinion, many lists set the reply-to address because those lists
are intended to keep replies on the list, and the list managers know
that most people wouldn't do that if it wasn't preset for them.  People
will just hit reply, and expect it to do the right thing.

If it weren't for the fact that we'd lose much, probably most, of the
list traffic to private replies, I'd object less about not presetting
the reply-to with the list address.

I've seen what happens with lists where replies go privately.  I've said
it already (they have the same questions over and over, and no replies),
and you can find it for yourself whenever you go googling to try and
solve a problem.  You find a page after page where someone has asked
your question, and there's no public answer, at all.  It's not a
supposition, it's real.

Yes, it would be nice that replies to your postings went through the
list still addressed /to/ you, so that your client can let you know that
you've had a reply (as we used to get with usenet, and various BBS mail
systems).  However, that only works with the first reply.  Other
replies, that were actually a reply to a second party in the thread, if
it ever managed to get that far, may also be pertinent to you, but will
not be addressed to you, and won't be flagged by your mail client, nor
sent to you if you're not subscribed.

Usenet clients, and some mail clients, covered that event quite neatly
with the watch thread function.  You enabled it on a thread that took
your interest, and all child threads from that point on were watched.
Forks of the thread from before you started watching it were not.  But
all of them rely on one thing - you have to be subscribed.

Whether you (generically, not Patrick in particular) like it or not,
there are *good* reasons to set list mail's reply-to headers to the
list.  Particularly on lists where you want mail to stay in the public
arena, with lists that will be used by people who know nothing about
email intricacies, with lists where people with a problem need as much
help as they can get.  It is the simplest and most effective way to make
a mailing list work.

It's no good arguing that people would soon learn to reply differently,
because they would not.  The hit and run questioners would not, they're
not around long enough to learn.  Even the regulars are quite unlikely
to learn, given the example of the number of people who don't/won't
learn to create a new message rather than reply to an unrelated one.

[[email protected] ~]$ uname -r

Don't send private replies to my address, the mailbox is ignored.  I
read messages from the public lists.

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