Mailing Lists Policies

Liberally copied (with permission) from the css-discuss mailing list policies.

In this document:

Please read the entire document before your first post to one of the lists, as it explains the list policies and contains a few words about the kind of culture we’ve created.

List Policies

In order to keep the list a useful and annoyance-free place for everyone, there are a few policies to observe. These policies are intended to make the lives of everyone on the list easier, including you, so please take them to heart.

  • Please use the unsubscribe interface in your account setup to leave the group. Don’t make the whole list sad over your departure by mailing them about it.
  • Do not crosspost between lists. Send individual copies of a message to each list if you must, but do not send a single message to multiple lists. That holds true for any mailing list, not just this one.
  • Trim your replies. If you have more quotation than original text, think about cutting down on the quoted stuff. The list members can look at the message to which you responded, or check the archive. Prune that quoted text with ruthless abandon. Everyone else will thank you for it.
  • Don’t top post. Top posting is where your reply is before the text to which you are refering. This makes it harder on everyone reading your message. Trim your quotations and make your comments following the text to which you refer.
  • Keep your signature file short. The shorter the better. Use a standard sig-separator of dash dash space return.
  • No solicitations of employment or requests for applications. There are job boards, Web sites, mailing lists, and other venues for helping stimulate your local economy. Check them out.
  • While we’re interested in announcements of new tools, software, publications, and other resources, don’t send advertisements to the list. In other words, a one-time announcement like "I just published a new book called Microformats for Moms with O’Hara and Friends" is okay, but "Buy my book at 30% off and get a free back massager!" is not.
  • We encourage discussion and debate, and don’t mind if it gets a bit heated. However, this does not mean you can flame other list members. If you think someone’s flaming you or being needlessly offensive, take it up with them in private e-mail. If they get abusive, discuss it with the list administrators (the e-mail address is in the headers of every list message). Don’t take it onto the list. Regardless of how long you’ve been online, we highly recommend a reading of the following: Avoiding Personal Conflict on Mailing Lists.
  • If you’re asking for help with a problem, then remember this: A description of your problem is good. A URL to a page showing your problem is much, much better. A URL to a page that has valid HTML is priceless.
  • Try not to offend other list members, or to feel offended by them. See the section below titled “Offensensitivity” for more.
  • No HTML or RTF e-mail period, end of story, full stop. Your mail client should let you configure it so you can send plain text messages. Make use of this ability or else there are no guarantees that anyone will be able to read your email.
  • Do not send attachments to the list. Ever. Put whatever you were going to attach on a Web site and post the URL instead.
  • If you post from an address other than the one you subscribed, your message will get caught in our spam filters. No one will ever see it. Ever. Before you email the admins saying “why can’t I post?” be sure you’re using the right email address.
  • If your address starts bouncing, you will be removed from the list. You will not be notified of this, as we don’t keep a list of secondary addresses. It’s your responsibility to resubscribe once the problem with your address has been fixed. "Bouncing" includes vacation autoresponders that e-mail either the list or people who post to the list. If we notice or get complaints about either, you’ll be unsubscribed right away.
  • List messages may not be republished in any public forum without the explicit written permission of the original author(s) of the reposted message(s), or else the explicit written permission of the list administrators. This policy applies to automated gateways such as SMTP to NNTP gateways.
  • People who violate the goodwill of the list community will be unsubscribed with extreme prejudice. Not to mention haste.
  • Use a meaningful subject header. “How do I include nick-name in an hCard?” is better than “hCard help please”, which is better than, “help please”. Also, if the subject matter of a thread changes, please change the email Subject.


(The word “offensensitivity” was, so far as I’m aware, first used by Berke Breathed in Bloom County.)

When posting to a mailing list, remember that your message will be sent to people all over the world. They all have likes and dislikes as individual as your own. They will also be offended by certain things which you may not find remarkable. While you can’t foresee every potential area of conflict, there are certain guidelines that are fairly obvious: avoid swearing, cultural insults, blasphemy, proselytizing, and things of that nature. If you wouldn’t say it out loud in front of your grandmother while in a place of worship, then you probably shouldn’t say it on the list either.

At the same time, recognize that you are receiving messages from people all over the world. They all have likes and dislikes as individual as your own. They will also not find remarkable certain things by which you may be offended. Odds are that they probably didn’t set out to offend you on purpose, so try taking a deep breath and counting to a nice high number if you feel a rising sense of offense. If, after this calming break, you still feel you must say something, e-mail the poster directly (and not on the list) to explain your feelings calmly, reasonably, and above all clearly without attacking them. They may be unaware of the effect of their words, so this is your chance to educate them. If you just slag them for being “insensitive,” you may get flamed in return and create a resolve to keep offending you just for being so uptight and irrational (from their point of view).

Above all, remember that other people are about as likely to change their basic natures and habits as you are to change yours. You may at some point have to make a choice between tolerating other people’s views and participating in the list. Please make this choice privately, and follow through quietly. Thank you.

What to Ask and How to Answer

A few words on the subject from Eric:

My philosophy is that there are two kinds of questions: good questions and unasked questions. I much prefer the former. It doesn’t matter how “dumb” you think the question might be, because I guarantee you that at other subscribers are wondering the same thing, and will learn from the answer.

There is a flip side to this, which is the answering of said questions. What I ask is this: if you’re answering a practical question, first make the answer practical and directly address the question. Tell the inquirer how to do what they ask. Do not berate or belittle them for asking it. Follow up your answer with “…but here’s something else to consider” if you feel it important to do so, but only after you’ve answered their question.

Simply posting a URL as an “answer” is also discouraged. Back up that URL with a little explanation of what the reference is about, why you posted it, and some keys to understanding the resource you’re referencing. It doesn’t have to be a novel; a line or two will usually suffice. But that line or two will be of enormous help to people reading your message, who may not be as expert as you are.

Above all, if you can’t answer with a modicum of respect, or without feeling somehow annoyed by the question, then DO NOT ANSWER AT ALL. I’m dead serious about this. You may have seen and responded to a question six thousand times, but the person asking has only heard it once: when they asked it. They’re asking it in order to fill a gap in their own knowledge. Make your answer an encouragement for more questions, not an incentive to unsubscribe.