Mailing Lists: Etiquette

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This page describes many things you should and shouldn't do when sending mail. We're not talking here about what you say or how you say it, but the mechanics of how you use the mailing lists so you don't annoy members or moderators.

Please make sure you understand these pages as well:


Please do not mention exact email addresses on web pages

Do not simply write out the entire email address; the more we keep spammers away, the happier the list moderators and sysadmins will be.

[Yes, we do run anti-spam software. No, such software is never perfect---it's always an arms race, and there will always' be spam that shouldn't have gotten through, and non-spam that should have but was dropped. Keeping our lists away from spammers helps to avoid both problems.]

If you send mail from multiple email addresses

Please be aware of which email address is subscribed to a list, as messages from email addresses that are not subscribed to that list may not be allowed through. If you have multiple addresses and don't want to worry about which one you're sending from, you can add all of them to a given list and then ask Mailman to deliver mail to only one of them. This means you'll get only one copy of any given message, but you can post from multiple addresses. To do this, subscribe your alternate address(es), and then visit your Mailman options page and tell Mailman not to send mail to that address.


Crossposting is the term for sending mail to more than one mailing list at once. In general, please try to avoid this.

Don't crosspost among high-volume Asylum lists

Certain lists are configured to disallow crossposting. For example, if you attempt to post a message to discuss and inmates, you will receive a bounce from each list, and your message will not go out. Instead, please choose the list that most-closely matches the audience you're trying to reach, and send to that one list.

The anti-crossposting logic we've implemented only works if a message is sent to more than one list simultaneously. If you're determined, you can get around it by sending a message to one list, and then sending the same contents, as a separate message, to another list. Please don't do this. The purpose of preventing crossposting is as a reminder that you should be more specific about your audience. Deliberately sending multiple copies that you know will be mostly-overlapping in their audience is very unlikely to be the right thing to do. People who make a habit of it may find their messages moderated.

Don't crosspost between Asylum lists and non-Asylum lists

Please be considerate of list moderators and don't crosspost between lists belonging to different organizations. Sending your message individually to the two lists takes very little additional time, it's polite, and it allows you to tailor your message to each audience.

When crossposting may be appropriate

Under certain circumstances, it may make sense to crosspost to a crafts list and (say) inmates, but this should be rare. The reason this may make sense is because we have some members who only want to hear about (say) woodworking, and don't want the message volume of being on the main discuss list. If you have something you're trying to say that's specifically about woodworking, but if you think that it needs to go to all members in case some aren't on the woodworking list, then crossposting to woodworking and inmates may make sense. But please do this sparingly.

Don't BCC lists

Mailman holds any message sent to a mailing list that doesn't appear to mention the list itself. If you're tempted to BCC, stop and ask yourself what you're trying to accomplish. If you're trying to crosspost, either pick a single list, or send two separate messages, so replies from list members go only to lists they're on. If you're trying to avoid having replies go back to any list, use an explicit Reply-to: field instead.

Using Reply-to:

Sometimes, you may want to send mail to a list but request that all replies go somewhere else---typically back to only yourself. This is particularly useful for requests such as, "Tell me all about this subject, and I'll summarize and report back," or "I have something to give away; send me mail if you want it."

The best way to do this is to set a Reply-to: field in your outgoing mail that points away from the list. Mailman will honor this Reply-to: and not rewrite it. Most (but unfortunately not all) mail clients will also honor this Reply-to:, meaning that list members who reply will have their message automatically sent to where you asked for it to go.

Note that using Reply-to: does not prohibit replies back to the list--- most mail clients allow their users to send to any set of addresses they wish, regardless of Reply-to:, but it makes doing so a deliberate act on the part of the user and not an automatic action taken by their software.

Attachments, fancy formatting, etc

Not all members of any list will see attachments you send; some have told Mailman to strip them and make them available separately. Please try to minimize both the size and number of attachments you send. In particular, if you're sending something that's already available by following a URL, send the URL instead---this lets people know where the thing came from in the first place. Similarly, if it's easy for you to upload somewhere and then send your uploaded URL, please do that instead.

Do not send large attachments under any circumstances. "Large" here is a matter of discretion, but more than a few meg is certainly large. If it's large enough, it will be bounced, either by your own ISP or by us.

By the same token, not all members will see any fancy formatting you employ; some members don't read mail in web browsers or have deliberately turned off formatting control, images, and so forth. Try to make sure your message doesn't have crucial information that can only be seen if HTML is enabled, because some readers simply won't see it and may not even realize they're missing something.

Digest delivery

For non-announcement lists, you may select digest delivery via your Mailman options page. This means will receive single large messages containing lots of individual messages.

Digests are sent if either:

  • It's been too long since the last one (currently, 24 hours)
  • It's larger than a certain number of bytes

This means that it could be up to 24 hours before you see messages. If you want less delay, don't select digest delivery.

Please do not include an entire digest if you reply to a message within it. Some mailreaders make it hard to know you're doing this (for example, collapsing the entire message into a single hard-to-see line on your screen), but including an entire digest in your reply is very irritating to many recipients. Furthermore, it can make the digest currently being accumulated so large that it goes out instantly, defeating the very purpose of a digest. Edit your message to drop the digest, and change the Subject: line to be meaningful, and not just "Re: Digest #367." If too many people ignore good digest etiquette, we may disable digest delivery to improve the experience for everyone else.

If you often want to reply to messages, it's a much better idea not to receive digests. It's much easier to write a reply that quotes the correct message, with the correct Subject: line, if you recieve your messages individually. (Some mailreaders allow you to explode the digest back into its individual messages, but not many.)

You may receive more than one digest per day if there is a lot of message traffic. We do this because it's a bad idea to let a digest get arbitrarily large---messages above a certain threshold tend to get bounced back by some ISPs, which mean you wouldn't get any of those messages and we'd get lots of bounces.

Repeated issues

Note: People who habitually make lots of extra work for moderators by ignoring these instructions may have their messages moderated, or even dropped without human attention. Many of these lists have hundreds of recipients, and it only takes a small percentage of careless posters to consume a lot of time from a moderator.

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