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Re: mail-followup-to / mail-copies-to

2005-05-26 16:27:43

On Thu, 26 May 2005, Bruce Lilly wrote:

On Thu May 26 2005 16:26, Paul Jakma wrote:

However, if I would suggest this "list-reply" functionality should be
taken as "reply in a list context"

One problem is defining precisely what that means, in a way which is
likely to reach consensus.


I think by looking at what MUAs do, one could define that context.

The fact that already several MUAs (popular ones at that, thunderbird, apple mail, and mutt) /do/ do see fit to provide a "list context", in addition to the long standing "reply" and "reply to all" contexts, suggests there may be value in distinguishing this context from others.

That strikes me as equivalent to saying "screw you, I'm going to completely ignore your stated request as well as the relevant standards and do something different for spite".

Ha! To an extent, I'd agree - and it's definitely caused me problems. However, just complaining about it though isn't productive, because the Mutt developers (and its users) do seem to feel it solves a problem.

And it /does/ for mutt. If I were to use Mutt and configure MFT for all the various lists, I'd generally be happy - except when non-Mutt users replied to me.

So I'd like to try help fix that, somehow, even if it's no more than clarifying best practice in some way. However, note that I /agree/ "list context reply" should /not/ consider Reply-To, for if it did, that would imply it should also consider "From", which obviously isnt the idea.

I would disagree that the list-reply functionality of some MUAs means "reply /only/ to list". One of more popular MUA which implements list-reply supports this view (as it will take MFT into consideration).

The problem with that is that it leads to nasty surprises; an invisible
(non-standard, not displayed) header field changes the way a function
works, with no warning to the user.

I don't quite agree with MFT either. Please don't take the fact that I have this header in my mails as a sign I agree with it - it's there for least-worst reasons.

Beware of some things that you may read; there are bogus claims that "Reply-To prevents direct responses to an author" -- that is simply untrue. A moment's thought should convince you that given a message:

 From: fred(_at_)somewhere(_dot_)example(_dot_)net
 Reply-To: the-mertzs(_at_)example(_dot_)com
 Cc: ethel(_at_)another(_dot_)example(_dot_)edu

nothing prevents you from sending a response to any of those mailboxes, or indeed to random-person(_at_)some(_dot_)example(_dot_)org(_dot_) Now it may be the case that *some* MUAs lack a single-key/click/whatever "reply-to-author(s)" function, but that is an implementation issue with those MUAs -- there certainly are several MUAs that do have such a function -- and in no way results from some putative evil characteristic of the Reply-To field.

Yes, I agree. Pine is quite good in this respect as it asks you what to do, it makes you think. Other MUAs unfortunately aren't as careful.

However, see above, I do not (at the moment) think it would be right to consider From/Reply-To in a "list reply" context. The entire reason "list reply" exists is because of a perceived desire that most people prefer not to get direct copies of list mail, my limited and statistically meaningless research seems to support this. :)

Hence, Reply-To can /not/ be used. For reasons you gave previously (what exactly does it indicate? A preference to direct public or personal mail? Whatever the rights or wrongs of that grey area, it exists - otherwise MUAs would not be offering a "list context" reply feature).

No need. Pine already provides the option for a user to reply to the author(s) (From field) or where the author(s) suggested (Reply-To field) or to "group" and/or to any mailbox in the users address book or which the user can type.

Yes, Pine is fine.

I suspect though I would fail if I instead set out to persuade everyone to switch to Pine. Activism here (and even drafting a proposal, if needs be) is, I hope, likely to be more productive (in the long term, I realise).

So is there any answer? Without wishing to have you prejudice your stance on the question(s), would you be able to suggest which avenues would the most fruitful to investigate?

I'd first have to see a definition of that "list context" that is somehow distinctive from any other "context" and which makes some sort of sense given the fact that -- no matter what -- a respondent is going to have to decide where he wants to send responses.

Or rather than "where", in what /context/ they wish to respond. Choosing the /context/ is easy for an user.

Those contexts are, in every MUA I know of, 'personal', 'all' and, in several of the more popular MUAs, 'list':

- personal

        Typically (it seems to me):
                To: (Reply-To) ? Reply-To : From

        Better MUAs prompt the user:
                prompt: "Use Reply-To or From?"

- all


                To: ((Reply-To) ? Reply-To : From)
                Cc: To, Cc

        (some MUAs may prompt)

- list

        Typically (List-Post from header, or statically configured):

                To: List-Post


                To: List-Post, (MFT ? MFT : '')


                To: (MFT ? MFT : List-Post)

(apologies for the ad-hoc selection description language, it's intended to be vaguely according to C, as if above were headers, and anything left of initial : were variables named according to fields of replied-to-email along with the C ? operator. Duplicate and empty address/header removal after selection is implicit. I'll try figure out how to specify above (and below) in the correct way).

My concern is solely with the 'list' case. I would propose it be (and apologies again for not yet being familiar with the /correct/ language for expressing these things):

- list
        To: List-Post
        Cc: (Foo-Copies-To ? Foo-Copies-To : '')

The 'Foo-Copies-To' header would be additive, any one MAY add their address to it, and transitive, if it were present in a mail being replied to MUAs SHOULD retain it and its contents.

(I'd look at language of In-Reply-To and References to ensure it would be defined in a consistent and similar manner - apologies, but i'm not yet familiar with the correct language for this.).

Up to you. Unless you have a very clear idea of the problem and the breadth of possible solutions, and have carefully considered the implications, a draft may be premature.

See the above. Would work I think. Or at least, would /allow/ MUAs to work in a way that would keep me happy, wrt "list context replies".

Sounds like the root of the problem is MUAs that implement the "spiteful" stance noted earlier.

Yes, but they implement it because of a perceived problem. As much I would prefer that everyone would hit "reply to all" on list mails, I realise it's not going to happen - and MUAs now ever more are providing "list context" to make it easy for users to only mail the list and anyone who has indicated a preference for copies on list context mail - the problem is there no way to indicate that preference. :)

Maybe a draft along the lines of "MUAs that do not respect standard field semantics considered harmful" might raise awareness.

It might, but I'd imagine it would be ignored if there is no solution to "list context".

Whether or not that root problem will be fixed is another matter...


Paul Jakma      paul(_at_)clubi(_dot_)ie        paul(_at_)jakma(_dot_)org       
Key ID: 64A2FF6A
If you think last Tuesday was a drag, wait till you see what happens tomorrow!