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

Tim ignored_mailbox at
Sat Jul 10 12:17:40 UTC 2010

>> 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.

Felipe Contreras:
> I wonder, how do you think people are able to maintain private
> conversations between multiple parties if they "will just hit reply"?

Why do you think people do that?  I put it to you that most people don't
do any such thing.  In a discussion about using mailing lists, your
comment is so far off on a tangent that it's not funny.

Outside of a mailing list, the usual way someone sends mail to a group
is to pile all the addresses into the TO field.  A few more clueful will
make use of the CC field, but usually the TO field.  Replies will
usually go to all them, by default.  But that isn't a mailing list, in
the usual meaning of the term, it doesn't have some software in the
middle distributing mail around, it goes to one person, who manually
handles it.  And it gets a right mess when several people reply, and
repeated messages get fired about all over the place, with mangled
quotes of quotes, HTML crap everywhere, broken forwarded partial
contents of messages (see the attached file, that wasn't attached or
included in any way...).

The slightly clueful wanting to disseminate group mail without using  a
list server could manually start off by having an address just for it,
posting TO it, & CCing all the other recipients.  The recipients would
receive a message addressed to the list, with them on the CC list.  The
recipients can reply to just the list TO address, and the owner could
deal with it (simply read it, pass it, or part of it, on to the list,
etc), or the recipients could reply to all the addresses, or to just
some of them.  The messiness of that all soon leads to seeing the
advantage of using a list server that works like the Fedora one (being
quite automating, distributing all the public mail, not requiring

I am a former BBS SysOp, I'm more than well aware of a multitude of ways
mail goes around, gets used and abused.  And by far the easiest way to
run a list between people who know sweet Fanny Adams all about mail
distribution is to a list server that sets the reply-to address to the
list, so all the replies go back to the list.

Those who want to make a private reply are well able to, by writing to
the individual.  That's what address books are for, and most modern
clients will let you click on an address somewhere in a post and write
or reply to it, directly.

If someone's inclined to post to numerous people privately, but not all,
they can pile in all the addresses that they want to, and write to them
directly.  They'd have to manage that manually, anyway, whether the list
changed the reply-to or not, because they'd be sidestepping the list.

[tim at localhost ~]$ 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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