Mailing lists


Once in a while, but frequent enough to be annoying, someone asks to be unsubscribed from a mailing list. Explaining how they have to and can unsubsribe themselves off-list means making it likely several such mails will be send. Doing it on list adds more junk to everyone’s inbox and the archive.

Perhaps subscribing to a mailing list is too simple, if it is that much simpler than unsubscribing? I wonder if there should be a quiz to make sure people understand how to unsubscribe, before they can subscribe.

BTW, are there special email addresses to get on and off Ubuntu’s mailman lists?

Digest mode

Replies to digest mode mails tend to be confusing, have no proper subject and often indicate that the sender does not have a good idea of what’s going on. For these reasons, I think digest mode is harmful and would be glad to see it removed. As to the recipients side of this: what’s the value of the same amount of text with less structure and a terrible interface if you want to reply?


About thorwil
I'm a designer from Germany. My main interests are visual and interaction design, free/open-source software and (electronic) music.

5 Responses to Mailing lists

  1. Wouldn’t it be helpful to even just add some short description to the links that appear at the bottom of every ubuntu-art mail? Just a simple “To unsubscribe from this list visit: … ”

    Right now the two links down there are just plain vague.

  2. Dylan McCall says:

    We can actually get HTML mailto links to specify all recipients (including CCed), subject and body text. Can’t say I have done it for more than subject, but apparently it works!

    It would be awesome if mailman gave its digests some HTML prettiness, with such a mailto link, titled Reply, prominently displayed with each message. (And the messages themselves should really have a link to view on the archive if there isn’t one already).

  3. Don Kongo says:

    Or it is too hard to unsubscribe. Why is that not just a link in the mail, today, almost 2011? Why do you need to remember a pretty arcane invocation to do this? Also, another option, on lists wit active moderators, maybe it would be nice if it just was easy to unsubscribe any that asks for it. It can’t be THAT many a month, on any given list.

    I still think it’s funny that it’s been sooooo many years and still everyone (that has black belt in computers and mailing lists) think it’s a problem of the users, even to the point that they should take a test to be allowed to join?? Wtf inclusive much?

    • thorwil says:

      I’m pretty sure I saw cases on mailing lists that had very clear pointers on how to unsubscribe in the footer of every mail.

      I’m all for making things straightforward, but at some point, a minimum of care and ability is required from users, as to not make everyone stumble over always present training wheels.

      Not bothering what could be 1000 or more subscribers with useless mails seems to be of higher value to me, than offering such a level of hand-holding that someone who doesn’t or can’t read can join or leave quickly.

      Finally, my impression has been that most unsubscribe-me posters would simply have been better off not getting subscribed in the first place.

  4. As for Digest Mode, I prefer to use that. My reasoning is, if the mailing list gets a lot of replies, I’d rather have one email to read when I have time (and skim through the messages until I find the ones that interest me) as opposed to trying to sort through all of my messages to find the ones from the mailing list.

    I realize that I could create an email address specifically for mailing lists, but I’d still have the same problem.

    As for the people who don’t know how to alter their subject (or snip out the non-pertinent messages), someone could moderate the mailing lists. They could send a friendly email to the “offender”, and maybe trigger the bot to unsubscribe the person (after having sent the friendly email and the person continues to do this). Have the bot send the unsubscription notice, and include the reason.

    Something like this:

    “You are being unsubscribed from this mailing list. The reason for this is because in our Daily Digests, we request that you alter the subject of your reply to refer to the particular message (or thread) that you’re replying to. Also it’s preferred that you remove everything else from the reply, except the specific text that you’re replying to.

    You were recently contacted via email by a moderator of the mailing list about this, however you continue to ignore our request.

    You can resubscribe to this list by sending an empty reply back with RESUBSCRIBE in the subject line. However please note that if you are unsubscribed again for this reason, you will no longer be allowed to resubscribe with this email address.

    Sorry for any inconvenience for this.”

    It’s not perfect, and would probably require recoding the bots to allow permanently banning an email address (as well as the new unsubscribe option). But it would probably serve one of two purposes: either clean out the users who don’t really want to contribute, or convince them to honor the simple requests if they want to contribute.

    Have a great day:)