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openSUSE:Mailing list netiquette

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This netiquette is a recommendation of how to write messages to the openSUSE mailing lists that are easy to read, reduce the amount of text and number of messages, help mutual understanding and avoid flames.
If you have been pointed to this page after posting a message the reason is, probably, that you made some common mistake that we all did, at least once, so don't feel alone and continue reading. It will help all of us openSUSE mail lists users.

Why we need netiquette

A mailing-list consists of many members. The 'just-readers', the ones searching for help, the people who provide information and, perhaps the most common ones, people who may be put into several of these categories. Often someone knows something which the next one does not, and so on. Therefore, the mailing-list is built to be a place in the community for exchanging information and experience between its users. To have the mailing-list and, hence, the information exchange most readable and liquid, some rules have been made.

These rules are explained in the following document.

It is pointless to post an email that only warns about posting style.
New openSUSE email users will feel unwanted and go away, and that is exactly what we don't want.
If you don't want to read an email, then just skip it. If you want to answer, but prefer the posting style described below, state that at the end and link to this article for explanation.

Do it yourself

First of all before you write a mail to the mail list, please try to find a solution by yourself. Support portal offers different ways listed in section Non interactive. That can be faster and you can learn something along the way.


Use a descriptive subject

The openSUSE mailing lists receive hundreds of emails every day. So, if you have a question or a problem to solve, please use a subject that summarizes your issue and also gives some details about the body of the message. Here are some good examples of subjects from real messages to openSUSE mailing lists:

Good subjects 1) Scroll horizontally by holding down Alt-key doesn't work
2) MD5s match MD5SUMS file, but not installation MD5 check
Bad subjects 1) Major problem
2) issue


Much more about good and bad subjects:


Signatures

Signatures in emails should be not longer then 4 lines long.

Information: McQuary Limit


Quoting

When you reply to a message, please quote only the relevant passages to which you are replying. Indeed, you can quote only a few words that are essential to identifying the passages to which you are replying. Everyone on a mailing list is served by one mail list server and receives all messages quickly. That means there is no need to repost the whole message, like on Usenet (newsgroups) where readers often see an answer hours before the relevant question.


Use bottom-posting or interleaved style to answer

Common to both styles is that you quote relevant sentences from the previous message and give your answers under the quote. These are the styles that are commonly used on the mailing lists - first the question (quoted) and then the answer.

Bottom-posting

The bottom-posting style is used when an answer relates to a single question or statement in the previous message.

This means that you reply underneath the quoted text. It leads to a natural flow in messages that have quotes from previous posts.

Interleaved style

The interleaved style is used when you answer multiple statements from a previous message. That way, the reader first reads the question and then the answer.

Why we prefer these two styles

We are often discussing topics that include comments to:

  • the output of a command, configuration files, or program code that contains multiple lines, and multiple comments are interleaved with original text
  • groups of tests performed to troubleshoot a problem, and we need to use a style that will allow us to insert comments between quotes of the original message, with a summary or another proposal at the end of message.

The fact is, we live in different time zones, so giving one option, then waiting another day for the answer to give another proposal, would be a waste of time. The discussion would stretch over days. So, we are trying to avoid this by offering more options at once with answers that are interleaved with the original proposals.

Time and practice brought the general consensus that this is a better way to communicate on the lists. However, lists can have different operating conditions and they can consider some other posting style as appropriate.

General rule is, if the message is the natural conclusion of a thread, and there no more replies are expected, then top posting is adequate. For instance, if you want to say "Thanks, that answered my question", it's better to post this at the top of the page, in long threads, as answer to your original post. Reading the subject and the first lines gives the info that solution is found. It is also unnecessary to quote more than a few lines, only enough to identify the solved problem/condition.

Changing the subject without opening a new thread

Very often a long thread splits into several topics (for example if there are several answers to the same problem). In this case changing the subject may be necessary. One widely accepted method for this is a subject like

Re: kde icon blinks (was: is that an Xfree problem?)

Later reply posts usually remove the (was: ...) part. This allows to change a subject, but keep thread structure intact. If the discussion led to a totally different subject, you may stop, open a new thread and go on. On the other side usually others wont follow you and still discuss in old thread, so use thread splitting wisely.

Also, do not simply hit Reply to a message and change the subject to start a new discussion. When you do so you break the thread that was in progress making it hard to follow in the archives.


Don't be aggressive

This applies to new and old openSUSE mail list users.

Most of the people on the list are friendly and helpful. They use their free time to help others, so even if you are angry because you can't solve some problem, please, calm down and then post your question. It will help you to tell what is the problem without aggressive and abusive language, and it will help readers to understand what is the problem.

To answer the question one has to know a few details about the problem. Don't be upset because there is a question asking for more information. We would like to help, but not everybody has a good crystal ball to see the things that are not written in email, so we have to ask.

Understand that the audience is passionate about openSUSE, posting that you hate openSUSE, Linux, the mailing list, or other closely related things, will most likely get passionate responses, don't take things too personally.

Mail lists are used by a lot of people whose first language is not English, nor do they know computer related terms. This sometimes leads to misunderstandings in excess of the normal misunderstandings that can happen in email exchanges.

Don't be aggressive to new posters, but instead help them on their way to become a part of our community, sometimes a private email may be appropriate, to explain something, but mainly it is not wanted and if it has answer it is interesting not only for poster, but also for many that read the list archives, for instance after looking for answer on Google.

Personal attacks are not wanted on any openSUSE mail list.


Personal and mail list answers

Rule of thumb: Unless a direct mail is requested, post answers "only to the list".

Replies to the posts (emails) that you receive through the mail list should go to back to the list so that others searching the archives at a later date can benefit. In case when your reply is not related to the thread use direct mail.

Although, some people don't like it when they receive a reply to a list post direct to their email address, other don't mind (that much). Sometimes people explicitly indicate that they don't want to receive mails direct to their email address and not via the list. To be on safe side, it is better to avoid direct replies without invitation.

There is also a problem with some mail programs that don't have the option "Reply to List". You can use "Reply to All" and then remove all except the opensuse.org address. See example below, how it should appear. Remember that for one to post to the list assumes that he reads the list, therefore a direct mail in addition to the list post is a duplicate on an already voluminous list.

How to know where answer will go? It is easy, there is address field at the top of your mail program. You can see in example what you should look for:

This is answer to the list.
Everybody on the list will see the answer.
File:Answer-to-list.jpg
This is answer to the person.
It is also called direct, or personal mail.
Nobody else will see the answer.
File:Answer-to-person.jpg

Off topic content

The most Mailinglists are specialized to different Topics. An List of available Mailinglists you can find:. Just click on the Button "Subscribe" and you get your Registermail.


Conclusion

This is how we make our lives easier while being as effective in helping others as time permits.

We don't mind occasional posts that don't lean to netiquette, specially if someone is in hurry, new to our mail list, using mobile device that lacks functions, but permanently breaking rules will not make you any friends.


See also

  • Mail clients is list of few mail programs used to read email