Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guidelines for Mailing Lists

Consider the cost to readers of any post. If even an obviously inappropriate message is distributed, one that just takes readers a few seconds to scan and then skip, the total time used is still large. With 350 readers, a post that takes an average of 3 seconds for each reader to deal with means a total of 17.5 minutes is used (350 readers x 3 seconds / mail = 1,050 seconds / 60 =17.5 min.). This is probably the minimum time expenditure on any message that is even selected for scanning. So, on a list with 350 subscribers, if you spend 17 minutes preparing a message, there will be a balance between your time investment and that used by readers, even if they only scan your message and make no response.

Disregarding these guidelines or a lack of self discipline in following them will result in defensive attention management. That is, certain authors will not be read at all by many readers. Most mail programs allow a rule to be set which then automatically directs all mail from a given address to the trash. (This is normally not available in the List Digest Mode.) This has the unfortunate effect of fractionating the joint awareness that permits the readership to function as a group.

Do not broadcast requests for information you can obtain from a known source. Requests such as, "What are the contents of book Foo published by Bar" are not appropriate. This information can normally be obtained by typing the title or some keywords into Google or some other search engine. An alternative is to search the previous messages for a key word or phrase. This can often be done from a List's web interface.

B. When replying to a message:

1. Do not change the subject line (unless you are changing the subject). Such changes make it harder for some mail readers to follow the threads in a discussion. If you are changing the subject, consider using the "was" construction:
New Subject (was: Old Subject)

2. Include enough of the original message to provide a context. Remember that electronic mail is not as immediate as a telephone conversation and the recipient may not recall the contents of the original message, especially if he or she receives many messages each day. Including the relevant section from the original message helps the recipient to recall the context of the discussion.

3. Include only the minimum you need from the original message. Quote only the smallest amount you need to make your context clear.

4. Use some kind of visual indication to distinguish between text quoted from the original message and your new text - this makes the reply much easier to follow. ">" is a traditional marker for quoted text, but you can use anything provided its purpose is clear and you use it consistently.

5. Never post a "me too" message or one that says you "agree" or "disagree" with the original post. Use e-mail to the poster for this type of response. Posts should contain information of interest to all readers, not just the original author.

6. Do not post responses to posts you feel are inappropriate or abusive. If you feel that the author is saying something worth reading, but in an inappropriate way, respond to the poster. Tell the author what you think is incorrect about the post. If possible, suggest how to accomplish the objective in an appropriate way. If you have responded to a person a few times without the desired effect, and you feel that the group as a whole could benefit from a solution to the problem, only then should you post. The nature of your message should be a suggestion, if possible, of how such problems can be avoided in the future.

7. Do not type your message in all-uppercase - it is extremely difficult to read (although a short stretch of uppercase may serve to emphasize a point heavily). Uppercase indicates shouting in email messages.

8. Use correct grammar and spelling. Electronic mail is all about communication - poorly-worded and misspelled messages are hard to read and potentially confusing.

9. Do not reply to a previous message by manually entering the address of the List and then adding a subject line. This will not include often hidden headers that many mail reading programs use to thread a discussion. Therefore, your reply will become detached from the ongoing discussion, instead of appearing in the thread. This can result in readers incorrectly skipping your reply, because it appears to be a new topic. 

C. If you start a new topic:

1. Do not reply to a previous message to get the address of the List and then change the subject line. This will include often hidden headers that many mail reading programs use to thread a discussion. Therefore, your new topic will become attached to the middle or end of an ongoing discussion, instead of appearing as a new thread. This can result in readers incorrectly skipping your new topic, because it appears as a continuation of one they are no longer interested in following. You can copy the address of the List into the "To" field of a new message.

2. Always use your Subject line to state the topic of your message as completely as possible. Statements should always end with periods, questions with question marks (typically), and high energy, high impact declarations with exclamation points.

D. User names:

1. Each email address should have one and only one user. If a post is a joint product, indicate this at the beginning and end. Some mail reading programs allow certain names to be automatically selected. Help the reader by using the same name at all times. This will improve the chances that people will read your posts.

2. A "Personal name" is an arbitrary string that many mailers will allow you to define, which is attached to your e-mail address as a textual comment. Always provide a personal name, if your mail system allows it - a personal name attached to your address identifies you better than your address can on its own.

3. Use a sensible personal name: "Guess who" or other such phrases are annoying as personal names and hinder the recipient's quick recognition of you and your message.

E. Uniform Resource Locator (URL) formats:

When putting e-mail and web addresses inline into a sentence (or, in fact, anytime), you might wish to enclose them in angle brackets "<>", especially to avoid problems where they might absorb surrounding punctuation into becoming underlined and clickable, such as at the end of a sentence. Angle brackets are also useful for long URLs that break across lines.

F. Yahoo Terms of Service are generally applicable:

1. Do not post content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable

2. Do not impersonate any person or entity or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity

3. Do not forge headers or otherwise manipulate identifiers in order to disguise the origin of any content transmitted through the Yahoo! Service

4. Do not post content that you do not have a right to make available under any law or under contractual or fiduciary relationships

5. Do not post unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, "junk mail," "spam," "chain letters," "pyramid schemes," or any other form of solicitation

6. Do not post any material that contains software viruses or any other computer code, files or programs designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any computer software or hardware or telecommunications equipment

7. Do not violate any applicable local, state, national or international law

8. Do not "stalk" or otherwise harass another

G. Sources:

Click title of this article for Comp.groupware FAQ Guidelines