if you are in a mailing list

Still I remember the day I joined my first ever mailing list, with a warning from my mentor not to immediately jump into mailing the list. It was followed by 3/4 months of observation period where I just kept reading mails, queries and replies. I was asked to learn how people ask questions, how people answer questions and how you shouldn’t ask/answer a question. It also helped me understand the entire idea about mailing list. I also learned about flaming and when did people landed in the middle of one. The monthly reminders on Net-etiquette where quite useful and kept me reminded on what I shouldn’t do. Still there were certain instances where my butt got burnt a little, but its quite normal.

Of late I got an additional responsibility in the ubuntu-in team, as a moderator for mailing list. Since then I have been seeing the inner world of mailing list, only known to the mail admins, about spams, over-the-limit mails, etc. That’s why I decided to write this post, of what not to do and what to do when you are in a mailing list.

  1. Read the mailing list guidelines, otherwise called as netiquettes, and follow them.
  2. Try to improve your linguistic skills, so that you can ask better understandable questions and offer clear replies.
  3. Observe the mailing list before you take active participation. This helps in knowing the unwritten rules followed within the list community and understand better the common participants in the list.
  4. Observe the common participants and pick up a mailing style, while still following the list guidelines such as “do not top post”, “do not over quote”, “crop unwanted text” etc.
  5. Most mailing lists are enabled with “reply-to munging”, which means when you press the reply-to option in your mail client it automatically selects the list mail address as the reply-to address. Be careful, especially when you trying to mail the OP offline and do not want the list to know about it 😉
  6. Please do not indulge in personal duel. Mailing list is also a community and has people who differ in their way of life, profession, experience, expertise, ideologies etc. If you are not ok with anyone’s idea, just state you do not agree, place your points. If the conversation seems to digress somewhere, please remind silent so your butt is not burnt.
  7.  Please answer things which you are very sure of. Try to understand what the conversation or query is actually about before trying to post a reply. Its quite embarrassing to be pointed out that you misunderstood and gave some crap as a reply.
  8. Do not repeat points already posted by others. If you want to second on a posted opinion use “+1” to mark you support the idea.
  9. There might be a lot of discussions happening in the list. No one tries to participate in everything, though you might follow them up. Please think twice before venturing into unknown lands.
  10. Please stick to the purpose of the list and do not digress. Though many list allow off-topic posting with a “[OT]” tag, that doesn’t mean you can ask anything under the sun.
  11. I seriously advice to use a separate mail account for mailing list subscriptions. This is not just to manage the huge amount of mails you get, but to prevent unknowingly sending personal stuffs, forwards and spam mails to the list.
  12. Those who send “join me in foobar social networking service” are considered to be the worst type of spammers and the list administrator might resolve to kick such people out from the list. Beware!
  13. If the mailing list doesn’t welcome wishes and greeting mails, like “Happy New year!”, please refrain from sending one to the list.
  14. Do not talk about food, religion or politics in a mailing list. These are topics where people have their own preferences and are quite strong in them. Indulging so might lead to people’s sentiments getting hurt and you getting flamed at the end.
  15. Even when pointing others about their mistakes, please be polite. Do not make fun of other’s innocence or negligence. If you are proved wrong, just accept your mistake and learn from it.
  16. New members of the list will be quite enthusiastic (may be they didn’t read a post like this 😉 ). Please understand it, give them time and support to learn. Flaming their butt will just create fear and they might leave the list calling it to be unfriendly or egoistic.

Remember, these aren’t rules but just some tips I learnt through the experience of participating in various mailing list for the past few years. Hope it does some help people who are venturing into the new world of Mailing Lists. Good Luck! 🙂


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