Remind me again why I do this?

I run a bunch of mailing lists on my home server. I do this out of the goodness of my heart, not for monetary gain.

Having public mailing lists causes my system to get an awful lot of spam, and of course I have to spend time going through my spam folders to make sure there isn’t anything that might have been legitimate mail for the lists (sometimes it’s hard to tell) and tweaking my filters. It’s not a huge amount of work, but it’s more work than if I hadn’t volunteered to run lists at all. Private mailing lists are a lot easier – they don’t get spam, so I don’t have to pre-filter them. Of course, both types of lists have other administrative tasks, like dealing with the bounces that Mailman can’t deal with, manually approving messages from people who post from addresses different from the ones they are subscribed from, and other stuff. Actually the biggest annoyance is that since I’m on a dynamic IP, every few days another ISP subscribes to one of the RBLs that blocks email from dynamic IPs. I have to be alert to that happening and redirect email to that ISP through my ISP’s mail server (which is slow and unreliable, so I don’t make it the default), and hopefully get that done before the person gets bounced off the mailing lists they are on.

And for all that work I’m doing, I only ask one thing in return – I want people to use plain text on their email, and I want people to trim the quoted material. I don’t demand it, but I request it. As far as I’m concerned, the purpose of email is to transmit information, not formatting, and so I’d rather my bandwidth, my processing time and my bandwidth was consumed by plain text, not HTML mark-up or repeats of stuff that everybody has already seen. And of course there is the little matter of how annoying both HTML and full quoting are to people who recieve the mailing list as digests.

Two of the mailing lists are for the local Linux users group. Now maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think Linux users should be more tech savvy than your average person, so unlike the piloting mailing lists (for example), I expect people to be able to figure out how to configure their email clients, and if a person sends out an HTML mail, I’ll often make a remark about it. Usually I’ll do it as an aside in a message that is attempting to answer the person’s question, or at least gathering more information or otherwise commenting on the content of the message. Otherwise I won’t bother. And for this, I get excoriated. I’m called a luddite or worse. I’m called “unprofessional” (which would be more amusing if this were my profession, I guess). My asides are referred to as “rants”, usually in messages that don’t mention the majority of my message where I was on topic, but instead rant on at great length about my aside. And I’m subjected to numerous personal attacks.

Just yesterday, somebody sent a message that was full of HTML markup in spite of the fact that it had a content type of text/plain. I’m not sure if that was Mailman stripping out the text/html part of a multipart message, or just rampant cluelessness on the poster’s part. Either is likely. Anyway, he explained the situation and said “Any idea what I’m doing wrong?”. Or more accurately, he said “<br>Any idea what I’m doing wrong?”. So I answered as well as I could, except before getting to the actual answer, I said “Well, first of all, you’re sending HTML email to a plain text mailing list”. His response was 30 lines of rude/abusive ranting about that one line, which finished off with “I take exception to unprovoked rude/abusive behavior.” Somebody else posted “I would like to see the LUGOR run as a professional organization and it’s e-mail list run as a professional service to the Linux User community, with any rules for it’s usage established by the organization rather than an individual and plainly posted rather communicated as periodic rants or past crude comments.” and somebody else added his “Me too.”

Yes, I’m sure you’d like to see it run as a professional service. Then fucking well pay for it.

8 thoughts on “Remind me again why I do this?”

  1. Well, I’m on several of the lists you run, and I’ve never seen anything like that. Perhaps we should all learn Linux and forget our manners so you don’t get confused.

    Next meeting, I’m gong to suggest that your salary be doubled.

  2. I agree with your stances (on text in email and on the fact that a certain amount of respect for rules should be a given). Give ’em hell and don’t let the small minds get you down.

  3. Can you suspend the more egregious offenders from you lists? Second offense, they get bounced for good? There’s no reason you have to take all that abuse, you’re doing them a favor.

    Tell them to find another host and fold the list.

  4. I think my response to this could be along the lines of “My server and time means my rules. If you disagree you’re quite welcome to setup your own mailing list with your own rules and go there”.

    Alternatively I’d just go “Fine – say goodbye to your mailing list” as the last message to the list. However I’m not what you could call subtle at the best of times.

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