Bug in mailing lists; unfriendly to non-subscribers

Bruno Wolff III bruno at wolff.to
Tue Jul 6 14:35:10 UTC 2010

On Tue, Jul 06, 2010 at 09:47:52 +0300,
  Felipe Contreras <felipe.contreras at gmail.com> wrote:
> No, the spam filter will be *in addition* to whatever is there
> already. If the list remains subscription-only, there's still spam
> that goes through, the spam filter will help. And if the lists is
> moderated, the spam filter would help go through the moderation queue.

In the current world, you get significantly less spam by restricting posts
to subscribers. Unless your list is big enough to be worth the trouble
of spammers to subscribe. In the future this might be different, but for
now requiring subscription is a legitimate antispam technique.

> Again, that's speculation. Most of the mailing lists I'm subscribed
> to, allow non-subscribers to post, and there are as many occasional
> posters who don't have a clue there, than here. So again, I don't
> think it's sensible to apply prejudices based on the people's
> subscription, which is very simple to do.

That probably has more to do with the kinds of lists you use rather than
being a general principle.

> > 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.
> Again, other lists manage just fine. Speculation.

Are you volunteering to do the work to make that happen?
> No. Imagine you have a discussion with a group of people, most of them
> are not subscribed to the ml. Then you think; hey, why not Cc the
> fedora-user mailing list and see what they think? Well, the Reply-To
> munging will override the Cc and make all the replies go to the ml
> *only*.

reply-to does not override the cc header address list, it overrides the from
header address list. If you do reply to recipients or reply to all, addresses
from the original cc list should be copied.

> Really? Why? Are you speculating again? Where's the evidence?
> I have never seen a single person complain about it.

People have complained about it on this list. I don't think I have heard
anyone complain about not getting separate copies. The closest is my
mentioning, that I sometimes find it useful, since being explicitly
copied on a message makes me more likely to pay attention to it.
> Also, you are just assuming that whatever setup this mailing list has
> is what is often wanted. Another possibility is that people really
> didn't think too much about it.

Many of the Fedora lists are set up so that if the list sees a a subscriber's
address in the recipient address list, it doesn't send them a message through
the list. They only get the (presumed) direct copy of the message. You can
actually use this as a way to send a message to the list without someone
particular on the list getting a copy. This is a per user, per list setting.
Personally, I disable it as I prefer to handle the separate copies on my

> > | Fedora lists, that information is lost thanks to the Reply-To munging.
> >
> > Bah. Nothing need to use it.
> Maybe not you, but other people want to know when the mail was sent to
> the mailing list, or both to the mailing list and them.

I think what he might have been trying convey, is that today virtually no one
uses a reply-to address different than the from address. That harks back to
the days of separate networks and the return path for email might need to be
different than the forward path was.
> Impossible. You can't filter mail that was addressed to you and the
> mailing list. If the Reply-To header is munged, the mail will appear
> to be addressed to the ml only.

That isn't true. You are assuming that everyone is using reply to sender to
reply to list messages. reply-to munging allows people to use reply to
sender to reply to the list, but it isn't mandated.
> When Reply-To is munged, you don't have the "reply to all" option,
> only "reply". And I said, the Cc is overridden.

This is incorrect. reply to all still works except that the sender's address
isn't included. You still get addresses from the cc list.

While you are correct that allowing non-subscribers to post would be of some
benefit, in particular yours. You are dismissing the real benefit from
not confusing other posters by using reply-to munging. In a perfect world
everyone would know the difference between reply to sender, reply to list,
reply to recipients and reply to all and use the one they really wanted. But
unfortunately we don't live in that world and trade offs need to be weighed
when configuring a list.

For many Fedora lists, the decision was made to do reply-to munging because
it is felt to be the best for the list.

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