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Re: cc'ing (was Re: Mozilla goes GTK+ instead of Qt)

On Tue, 3 Nov 1998, Tyson Dowd wrote:

> Are you sure that the pain you feel as an administrator with the
> occasional problems that crop up is much greater than any possible
> benefit any of your users might gain from running the list as they
> want to?

setting reply-to on the list doesn't gain them anything. it does,
however, break things for people who really need reply-to and makes
their list (and my server) vulnerable to broken mailers.

so that's a score of zero positives and two negatives.  reply-to loses.

> Perhaps their concerns are significant enough that you might to any
> technical difficulties you might encounter doing your job.

part of my job is to educate them in effective and appropriate uses of
technology. part of my responsibility is to make use of my experience
and prevent my employers and co-workers from making bad technology
choices, or bad uses of technology. i don't just ban reply-to headers on
mailing lists on my servers, i explain to the users concerned why it is
a bad idea.

there is something fundamentally wrong with the notion that people
shouldn't need to bother learning how to use tools. tools shouldn't be
dumbed-down to the point where any cretin can use them - instead, users
should be educated so that they are capable of making effective use of
the tools available.

this includes cars, chainsaws, guns, screwdrivers, chisels, hammers,
shovels, etc....in fact, pretty much every tool you can think of
INCLUDING computers and mail user agents.

(this faulty notion, BTW, is the root cause of bad software where the
focus is on making a simplistic, pretty, application for idiots rather
than a sophisticated tool for an intelligent human being)

> Then again, perhaps they are just fuckwit users.  Yeah, that's
> probably the case.  User concerns are worthless, admin concerns are
> all that matters.

some users are fuckwits.  some admins are too, for that matter.

> I hope you were doing your BOFH impersonation and this isn't really
> how you think of your users ;-). But don't worry, I have to put up
> with administration attitudes like this every day.

it's how i think of the stupid ones. being a sysadmin, which is partly
a problem-solving role, my job puts me in contact with stupid users far
more often than it puts me in contact with the smart ones.

ok, i admit it...my attitude may be at least slightly arrogant. i've
seen sufficient evidence over the years to tell me that it's justified.

> Also, your mailer is brain dead.  Please follow Debian policy and stop
> CCing me.

my mailer isn't brain-dead. i chose to cc it to you because your message
was in reply to me.

if you don't want cc-ed replies, all you have to do is say so.  your
address has been trimmed from my reply...even though this should probably
have been a private reply rather than public.

> > there is only ONE good reason for setting a Reply-To on a mailing
> > list, and that is when the list is a one-way announcement-only
> > list and you want to direct any replies AWAY from the list itself.
> > [...deleted...]
> 1. Keeps discussion on the list.  No more seeing requests for help and
> wondering if anyone else has helped them yet.  No more information
> falling off the list.

keeping the discussion on the list is not necessarily a good thing.
often it is better to have someone just summarise responses.

> No more accidental thread jumping from private to public lists.

huh? this is one of the problems CAUSED by setting reply-to on the
list. people are used to pressing R (or whatever) to reply and often
don't notice until it is too late that they have sent a private message
(personal, confidential, embarassing, or career-limiting) to a public
mailing list.

> 2. Stops CCs which clutter lists and increase download times (and
> yes, of course OTHER things can fix this -- for example you could
> unsubscribe or filter).

yes, there ARE other ways of dealing with this which do not break
functionality for those who need to use the Reply-To header.

> 3. Announcement lists as you describe above.  You can redirect enquiries
> to the person who you want to answer them, instead of just the list

as i said, this is the only good reason for setting reply-to on a
mailing list.

> > because the user wrote the message. they own it. it is up to them to
> > decide where they want replies directed.
> So set From:.  That's what it's for.

no it's not. read RFC-822.  From is for the address that the message was
sent from.  Reply-To is for directing the address where replies should be
sent to.  

strangely enough, the field names are no coincidence.

> > > Setting Reply-Tos are no more broken than running a list expecting
> >
> > yes, it is much more broken. it breaks functionality (i.e. the
> > ability to set a reply-to header) which should be available to any
> > email user.
> Setting from should be available to any email user.

maybe it should be, but it isn't. many MUAs don't support it, many MTAs
don't allow it, and many MTAs masquerade all mail that passes through
them. many systems prohibit it as policy.

in any case, that is what reply-to is for.

> > the "alternative" (i.e. NOT munging Reply-To) *IS* better.  Setting a
> > reply-to header is the sender's prerogative.  mailing lists should not
> > override that choice.  ever.
> Not according to RFC-822.

even the authors of an RFC can make mistake. they suggested that setting
reply-to on a mailing-list was one possible use for the header. real
world experience since then has shown that to be a flawed suggestion.

> Setting From is perfectly workable.  Unless your ISP is broken.

not everyone uses an ISP. many are behind corporate firewalls or at
a university. they can use Reply-To to direct replies to their home

> > > -- both are somewhat broken.
> >
> > the world isn't perfect. however, destroying useful functionality
> > is worse than not destroying useful functionality...especially when
> > there are better alternatives available (i.e. dupe filtering)
> As I pointed out originally, dupe filtering is basically useless for
> pay-as-you-go people.

cheap telnetable shell accounts are available all around the world.
cheap mail-only accounts with filtering capabilities are also available.
there are even people who can and will set up free uucp and/or
multi-drop pop mail feeds for friends, acquaintances and so on (i've
done this for several people who needed it and i know i'm not the only
person who does this)

nobody is dependant upon only their local isp.

yes, using these services might take a little bit of effort. saving
money usually does require a bit more work.

> But otherwise it's not a bad solution to duplicates -- but duplicates
> are really a small part of the problem IMHO --

i agree.  duplicates aren't really worth worrying about.  there are numerous
ways to deal with them.

> I am MUCH more concerned about information that falls off the list.

i'm not. i'm far more concerned about the volume of messages on every
list. if information falls off the list, then good! less volume. if it
was really important then whoever sent it will forward it to the list.
in fact, they'll probably do it anyway even if it's not important.

i'm also more concerned about useful functionality being destroyed
because some people think that the simplistic "solution" of setting
reply-to back to the list actually does any good. it doesn't. it just
creates problems.

> (From here you say "well do server side filtering" and I say "most
> ISPs don't allow it" and you say "change ISP" and I say "many people
> don't have that luxury".  So let's skip it).

i think we can agree to disagree.


craig sanders

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