aigor listFAQ

Mailing Lists For Newbies



Index

(This was written specifically for aigor, but it is probably a reasonable guide to mailing lists in general. It is a work in progress, and will continue to be developed. In time, the list of questions below will be linked to the relevant sections of text, but for now you'll have to scroll. You may like to save a copy of this file for future reference.)

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# What's a mailing list?
A mailing list is a public discussion forum on a particular topic, which uses email as the medium. Think of it as a noticeboard where you can post messages for others to read.
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# How does it work?
When you send a message to a list address, it goes to a program which is designed to manage mailing lists. This software then sends a copy to all the addresses which are subscribed to that list. In aigor's case, the software is called Majordomo, and it lives on a machine at cjcusack.com, in cyberspace somewhere.
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# How do I use it?
Anything you send to <aigor@lists.aigor.cjcusack.com> gets sent to everyone on the list - aigor members. (Everyone on the aigor list is an aigor member, though not all members are on the list.) Note that, since you are also subscribed to the list, you will receive a copy of your own messages.
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Different lists have different setups for replying. With aigor, if you hit 'Reply' to a list message, your reply will go to the list for all to see. If you want your reply to only go to the sender of the message, you can do this by copying their address from the headers (at the top of the body of the message, where it says 'From:'), and pasting it into the 'To:' box at the very top of the reply window. (If you don't know how to copy and paste, look in your mailer's 'Edit' menu, or look it up in 'Help'.) Be sure to delete the list address though, or your reply will go to the list as well as the sender, which means the sender gets it twice, and everyone else gets it once. This is potentially embarassing.

Note that in some cases, hitting 'Reply' will by default send to both the list and the sender. If this happens and you are sending to the list, one person will get two copies. This is no big deal, but they will appreciate not having to delete the extra copy. In any case, it's a good idea to always check the 'To:' and 'Cc:' (carbon copy) boxes before you hit 'Send' to make sure your message is going where and only where you want it to.
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# What's Netiquette?
Like all mailing lists and newsgroups, aigor constitutes a virtual public space. In our case, analogies have been drawn with pubs and rally campfires. These analogies work up to a point, but fail to recognize that there are somewhat different standards of behaviour in cyberspace. If someone is obnoxious at a pub or rally, you can probably avoid them. On a mailing list it's not so easy. Everything you post (send to the public space) appears on everyone else's screen, whether they like it or not. If it's a free-for-all, it tends to be very chaotic, and can easily degenerate into flaming (abuse), which spoils it for everyone else. Over many years, a tradition called Netiquette has developed (it's a contraction of 'internet etiquette'). This is built around notions of courtesy, tolerance and mutual respect. It might take a little self-discipline to apply at first, but it's worth it because it helps to keep it civilised and enjoyable for everyone, and it will soon become second nature. Netiquette doesn't mean being sickeningly nice all the time, but it does mean considering the value to others of what you are putting in their faces. As the Zen teacher said to the student who was rattling on inanely: "Wipe your dirty feet before you go walking around in my head!".

You need to recognise that you are entering a culture, which is different from pub or club or rally culture. If you want to be respected in this internet environment, your first task is to read this document carefully. If there is anything you don't understand, or which is not covered here, email one of the administrators (Pogo or Zebee), or ask another member who seems to know what they're doing (not necessarily the most vocal).

The other thing you need to do is learn to drive your software. You are perfectly entitled to be incompetent - we all are at first - but not to inflict your ineptitude on others. Explore the 'Help' menu. You should find everything you need there. Patience and persistence will pay off.

For a broader perspective on Netiquette, a web search on that word will give you about a squillion hits.
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# What are the rules?
There are only three hard rules on the aigor mailing list: No Flames, No Spam, No Attachments. There may be grey areas with flames and spam. If in doubt, let caution be your guide, or ask.
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# Public and private mail
Mailing lists have a different character from private email, in the same way that any publicly oriented discussion is different from a one to one conversation. List content is supposed to be relevant to at least a number of members, even if the relevance is only amusement or chat value. If you think that what you have to say is only of interest to one person, then you should send it to that person only. If everyone used the list for their private chat, the volume of traffic would become burdensome. People would soon get sick of reading irrelevant stuff, and leave. See also "bandwidth".

Apart from relevance, there is also a question of privacy. Generally speaking, if someone emails you privately, it is 'Not Done' to publish that message in any way, eg, by posting to a mailing list or newsgroup. You may be sure the person won't mind - perhaps the content is of a public nature - in which case, proceed at your own risk. But if in doubt, either ask the author first, or don't post.
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# Subject matter
Of course, list content is supposed to be about Guzzis, but other stuff inevitably creeps in. Some lists take a hard line on topicality, especially those with heavy traffic, but aigor traffic is relatively light, so we're not too fussed if the discussion wanders a little.

It's worth considering how different people use mailing lists. Some people only subscribe to one list, and that becomes their 'home'. These folks like to have some latitude with subject matter, after all - such people might argue - the whole point is to have an enjoyable social environment, where you can interact in a fairly spontaneous way. Others may subscribe to a number of lists and have a large amount of mail to get through. To these people, the point might be more purposeful, such as sharing useful information. In which case lots of off-topic content becomes a time wasting imposition. If we are to accommodate both kinds of subscribers, some common sense is required. If you are going to post off-topic, please keep it brief, and once people who are interested have stuck their heads up, take it off-list. It is a good idea to flag an off topic message by beginning the subject line with OT as in OT-Vintage car rally.

Note: Virus warnings and jokes should not be posted to the list. It may be the direst virus ever created, or the funniest joke in the world, but it does not belong on this list. If you suspect that there is a virus circulating on the list, contact an administrator (Pogo or Zebee).
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# Quoting in replies
When replying, it is normal to include some quoted material from the post you are replying to. There are different ways of indicating quotes, but the most common (and preferred) is a right pointy bracket, or 'greater than' symbol > at the start of each quoted line. This makes it clear what is quoted and what is original. When you hit 'Reply', most mailers will produce something like this:
----------------------------------------------------
On (date & time) (name & address) wrote:

>Quoted material
>More quoted material.
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Most mailers have an option where you can tell them what to put before quoted lines. If you can't find it, try a help search on 'quotes'. In any case, you must find some way of differentiating between quoted and original material.

It's important to edit your quotes to only include what is necessary to establish the context of your reply. It is ridiculous to add a two line reply to fifty quoted lines. With multiple replies, you can end up with hundreds of lines of useless quotes (see "bandwidth"). If people want to read the entire post, they can look it up.

It is preferable to adhere to the convention of adding your reply *under* the quote rather than above it. That way people don't have to waste time scrolling through the rest of the message, looking for more original material that isn't there.

Multiple quotes can get confusing, eg
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Smith wrote:
>Jones wrote:
>>Bloggs wrote:
>>>Ducatis rule!
>>I like the new Suzuki.
>Guzzis are the best.
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By counting the pointy brackets, you can figure out who said what. In this case, what Smith said was "Guzzis are best". S/he said that in reply to Jones, who said " I like the new Suzuki", who was replying to Bloggs's "Ducatis rule!". "Who cares?", you might say, but be careful with attributions. In the above example, Smith might be horrified to be quoted as saying "I like the new Suzuki". Once again, the best policy is to keep it simple by cutting anything not necessary for your reply make sense.
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# Mailer settings
There are many different mailers out there. Believe it or not, not everyone uses Microsoft products. There are even other operating systems apart from Windows! As a minimum, please do two things: (a) make sure your mailer is not sending your messages as html, or some other weird format. (People will soon let you know if they can't read your posts.) And (b) make sure it is not adding cute attachments. No-one bothers to look at these, and they just clog up the works. If you use a Microsoft mailer, please read the following submissions from members on how to stop it from adding attachments:

Bernie Dwyer <bernie@caloundra.qld.gov.au> wrote:

>For MS Exchange, and MS Outlook, and possibly the mailer in MS Internet
>Explorer, you can set those options in your address book for a particular
>recipient. Go to your address book entry for AIGOR, select it and click the
>properties button, then hunt-and-peck about until you see a check box
>labelled "Always send to this recipient in rich text format" (or similar).
>Make sure the box is UNCHECKED.

shadow <shadows@ihug.com.au> replied:

>as I found out that dosn't all way work so to safe guard against it
>{and some people just hit reply to all}.
>go to
>......tools ......options......{tab}send........check "mail sending
>format" to"PLAIN TEXT".
>then scroll down to"reply to messages in format that they where sent"
>and make sure that is UN-checked...........hit "OK"......
>
>ps make sure you shut down properly or it will forget the settings.

There are detailed instructions for many different e-mail clients at http://www.expita.com/nomime.html. HTML formatted messages are also a great way to spread script viruses. If you have ever had to clean up after one of these, you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy. Please, turn off HTML when sending to aigor.

Beyond this it's up to you how you set things up, but there is something to be said for 'standard' settings: Fixed width font, 72 character line wraps, no indents. Other settings can turn your messages into an ugly, hard to read jumble on other people's screens, especially when quoting. With standard settings at least you know that what you send is what others will see. Unless *they* use different settings of course :-\ But then it's their problem.
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# What's bandwidth?
Imagine commuting in a six tonne truck when you could take your bike. Other road users would be rightly peeved because you were chewing resources, polluting, and holding them up unnecessarily. In internet terms, the road is bandwidth, and everything you send into cyberspace constitutes your traffic. It's better for everyone if we all try to use the bandwidth as efficiently as we can. This is one reason it's worthwhile cutting the unnecessary quotes, and stopping your mailer from adding useless attachments. This is especially important with public media like mailing lists and newsgroups, because everything you send gets multiplied many times. Other users don't owe you anything. Don't be a roadhog.
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# What's a thread?
A thread is simply a number of messages with the same subject, ie, a conversation on a particular theme. Some mailers are able to display threads by collapsing all the messages with the same subject line into one, with a little icon saying, for instance, '+5'. This is a thread consisting of one original post, and five follow-ups. By clicking on the icon, you can expand the thread to see all the messages. This makes it easier to keep track of things, and reduces clutter on your screen.

Even if your mailer doesn't do threads, or you chose not to use the feature, other people can and do. For this reason, it's worth taking some care with your subject fields. A message will only be added to a thread if the subject line is *exactly* the same as that of another message. So if your reply is relevant to the original subject, don't mess with the subject line (it should come up automatically).

Conversations being what they are, content tends to wander from the original subject. This is ok up to a point, but try to keep the subject line pertinent. If you want to say something which is significantly different from the original subject, and which you think might generate follow-ups, change the subject line, effectively starting a new thread. Lots of people store their mail, especially technical stuff, and if they are looking for your post on carb tuning, they won't look under 'My ride to Woopwoop'.
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# What's lurking?
Lurking means just reading all the content of a mailing list or newsgroup without ever contributing. It's not a bad idea for newcomers, until you get a feel for things. The trouble is, lurking can be addictive. The longer you lurk, the harder it is to break the ice. Try not to get trapped in this. After all, the whole point is for people to be able to participate.
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# What do all those funny symbols mean?
Over time, internet users have developed various ways of adding tone to their written material. These include 'emoticons'. The most common of these is the smiley :) or :-) You have to look sideways. It means 'just kidding' or 'no offence' or just 'hey that's funny', depending on the context. Smileys are generally considered insurance against offending people, but are not an absolute guarantee. There are lots of variations of these, and some of them are amusing in their own right. For more info, type 'emoticons' into your favourite search engine.

You can add emphasis to a word with *asterisks*, or _underscores_. Capitals are usually read as SHOUTING, which is considered rude, so use them with caution.

You will also come across various abbreviations, like msg for message, or ppl for people, and acronyms, such as OTOH - on the other hand, IMO - in my opinion, or FWIW - for what it's worth. RTBF means read the bloody FAQ - a hint that you've missed something, YMMV is your mileage may vary - a general disclaimer. Again, there are lots of these, and some may be peculiar to certain areas of interest. Once again, see your search engine for more on acronyms.
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# How do I deal with all this mail?
Most sophisticated mailers can filter incoming mail. For example, you can create a folder called 'aigor', and instruct you mailer to put anything addressed to <aigor@lists.aigor.cjcusack.com> directly into that folder. This saves you the trouble of manually sorting list mail from your private mail. It also avoids confusion about the origin of messages. There are lots of useful things you can do with filters. For more info, select 'Search' from your help menu, and type in 'filter'.
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# Where do I fit in?
Don't be offended if no-one replies directly to all your posts. In this sense it's just like joining any group - it may take a little while for people to get to know you. Or it may just mean that people agree with you! After all, there's not much point posting just to say 'I agree'. Generally, people will only respond if they have something to add.

By now it will be clear that there is a lot more to this than you probably thought. As a newcomer to the internet ('newbie'), you should be prepared to do some listening and learning. If in doubt, don't, until you have a better understanding of the protocols. It's all too easy to look a complete idiot, or worse, offend people, without even trying. Having said that, most old hands are reasonably tolerant and willing to help, after all, we were all newbies once. But if you don't seem to be trying, or if you continue to be clumsy or thoughtless, you will wear out your welcome.
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# It's all too hard!
If this all sounds too tedious, remember that the point of all these guidelines is to create an environment that is useful and fun, as well as respectful and courteous. It's really not as hard as it may sound. As long as you observe the 3 rules above, you won't go too far wrong. Beyond that, you have some latitude to feel your way. Familiarizing yourself with this FAQ is the best starting point.
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This page is maintained by Pogo pogo_1@iinet.net.au. Last updated 11.9.01