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A minor gripe about mailing lists and thoughtless subscribers...


At any time, I'm usually subscribed to at least half a dozen mailing lists, which provide me with valuable information, and many of which produce a boatload of messages for me to wade through. In recent days, I've received numerous useless messages from people subscribed to these lists.

1) Bouncebacks. Apparently, some list-ops have set up their lists so failure of *any* list-member's e-mail account makes the error message about that end up in the mailbox of whoever posts a message to the list. This is the single best reason to get me to not participate in discussions on a mailing list...

2) Spam-filters. Some people these days try to get rid of Spam by setting up a white-list. Whoever e-mails them gets a reply-message, asking them please to reply if they're a real person. Since most spammers ignore messages coming back from a spammed address, all spam ends up on a blacklist of people whose messages will be ignored.

In general, this is a smart idea, however, there is one problem: What if the person receiving a message didn't send it to you? I personally consider it very impolite to force everyone posting to a mailing list you are on to confirm they also want you to get. Chances are, they don't care about you in particular, and have better things to do than to reply to such messages. I receive enough spam without automated confirmation requests.

3) Auto-responders. I *don't care* who on a particular mailing list is on holidays right now. but I *do* care when I get an auto-reply to every message I send to a mailing list from such a person.

Please, if you are subscribed to a mailing list, take the following precautions:

1) Make sure your server's bounce messages are formatted properly so mailing list software can recognize it as such and filter it out.

2) If you have a spam-filter set up, have it whitelist your mailing lists and anyone who posts to this list automatically. Don't expect people to care enough to confirm fifteen spam filters each days. They're giving you free advice, that should be enough for you.

3) Unsubscribe from all mailing lists, or suspend message delivery, when you go on holidays, or otherwise ensure your auto-responder doesn't auto-reply to them. In the worst case, auto-responders are known to generate huge feedback loops, where the auto-responder replies to its own auto-reply that was sent back by the mailing list, annoying people with 50 copies of the same auto-reply.

In short, remember that there are other *people* on mailing lists, and try to anticipate how they would like it if everyone did as you do. Some mailing lists have in excess of 1000 members. Imagine a new subscriber posting to such a list and receiving 1000 requests to confirm he isn't a spammer...


Created: 2003-08-06@500 Last change: 2003-08-06@500 | Home | Admin | Edit
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