Mailing List Etiquette

(Modified from the Free BSD FAQ)

The mailing lists on this site are provided by the GNU Mailman 2 program. More info on it is available here: http://www.gnu.org/software/mailman/index.html .)

Participation in the mailing lists, like participation in any community, requires a common basis for communication. Please make only appropriate postings, and follow common rules of etiquette.

Here is a link to a reference for more details on general mailing lists: http://www.livinginternet.com/l/lu.htm

1. What should I do before I post?
2. What constitutes an inappropriate posting?
3. What is considered proper etiquette when posting to the mailing lists?
4. What are the special etiquette consideration when replying to an existing posting on the mailing lists?

1. What should I do before I post?

You have already taken the most important step by reading this document.

2. What constitutes an inappropriate posting?

  • Postings must be in accordance with the charter of the mailing list.

  • Personal attacks are discouraged. As good net-citizens, we should try to hold ourselves to high standards of behavior.

  • Spam is not allowed, ever. The mailing lists are actively processed to ban offenders to this rule.

3. What is considered proper etiquette when posting to the mailing lists?

  • Please use a new subject unless you are replying to an existing post.

  • Please wrap lines at 75 characters, since not everyone uses fancy GUI mail reading programs.

  • Please respect the fact that bandwidth is not infinite. Not everyone reads email through high-speed connections, so be sure attachments or other large inputs are really necessary. Remember, too, that these postings will be archived indefinitely, so huge postings will simply inflate the size of the archives long after their purpose has expired.

  • Format your message so that it is legible, and PLEASE DO NOT SHOUT!!!!!. Do not underestimate the effect that a poorly formatted mail message has, and not just on the FreeBSD mailing lists. Your mail message is all that people see of you, and if it is poorly formatted, badly spelled, full of errors, and/or has lots of exclamation points, it will give people a poor impression of you.

  • Please use a standards-compliant Mail User Agent (MUA). A lot of badly formatted messages come from bad mailers or badly configured mailers. The following mailers are known to send out badly formatted messages without you finding out about them:

    • cc:Mail

    • Eudora® (older versions)

    • exmh

    • Microsoft® Exchange

    • Microsoft Internet Mail

    • Microsoft Outlook®

    • Netscape® (older versions)

    As you can see, the mailers in the Microsoft world are frequent offenders. If at all possible, use a UNIX® mailer. If you must use a mailer under Microsoft environments, make sure it is set up correctly. Google Mail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail are good mailers, too.

  • Make sure your time and time zone are set correctly. This may seem a little silly, since your message still gets there, but many of the people on these mailing lists get several hundred messages a day. They frequently sort the incoming messages by subject and by date, and if your message does not come before the first answer, they may assume that they missed it and not bother to look.

  • Some of the information you may need to supply is the output of programs which generate error messages or log files. To send log file contents, either make a copy of the file and use an editor to trim the information to what is relevant, or cut and paste into your message and trim excess there.

  • When using cut-and-paste, please be aware that some such operations badly mangle their messages.

4. What are the special etiquette considerations when replying to an existing posting on the mailing lists?

  • Please include relevant text from the original message. Trim it to the minimum, but do not overdo it. It should still be possible for somebody who did not read the original message to understand what you are talking about.

    This is especially important for postings of the type "yes, I see this, too" where the initial posting was dozens or hundreds of lines.

  • Use some technique to identify which text came from the original message, and which text you add. A common convention is to prepend "> " to the original message. Leaving white space after the "> " and leaving empty lines between your text and the original text both make the result more readable.

  • Please ensure that the attributions of the text you are quoting is correct. People can become offended if you attribute words to them that they themselves did not write.

  • Please do not top post. By this we mean that if you are replying to a message, please put your replies after the text that you copy in your reply.

    • A: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation.

    • Q: Why is top posting frowned upon?

    (Thanks to Randy Bush for the joke.)