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Re: how to determine if to reply by CC as well

From: Bob Proulx
Subject: Re: how to determine if to reply by CC as well
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:46:37 -0600
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.23 (2014-03-12)

I am going to reply to several different messages in this thread all
at once.  Making this an extra long message.

Emanuel Berg wrote:
> Again: Is there any way to deduct from the post if the
> poster isn't on Usenet, and isn't part of the list, in
> what case a CC makes sense? (By "the post" I mean what
> I see, or can see, as a Gnus newsgroup follower, in the
> header fields.)

When you say USENET I assume you mean nntp news.  For that people read
it when they feel like it.  It is up to the reader.  Therefore there
is never a way to tell if they will actually get a response.  Since
many people post once and walk away never to be seen again.

However the original poster was seen twice.  The second had no quoted
text.  From that and the headers I would conclude that they are
posting to the Google Groups side of things.

I looked in the admin interface and the original poster is not
subscribed but because their header shows they posted through news and
because they responded to a later message we can be safe assuming they
are reading the news feed from the gateway.  I would not send them a
specific CC in that case.  They are reading the news feed and will
read all of the responses there.

On the mailing list side of things it is complicated by the history.
On mailing lists we rather expect people to be subscribed.  That is
policy on many mailing lists.  (Such as the Debian mailing lists for
example.  No CC's there please.)  But on the GNU lists specifically
the bug-* bug reporting lists we don't expect people to be subscribed
to post a bug report.  That would be too much.  Google requires people
to be signed up to Google to post bug reports for example which
includes knowing your phone number.  That is exceptionally too much!

Emanuel Berg wrote:
> David Hume wrote:
> > Looking at the headers in the OP article, it says received by SMTP, so
> > I guess it was an email.

You are probably subscribed to the mailing list.  The SMTP headers you
are seeing are probably from the mail side of things.  It looks to me
that it entered the system as a news submission.

> Yes, but is he on the list or not? If he is, he doesn't
> need a CC. If he isn't, he might be unaware there were
> people trying to help him.

Yes.  That is exactly the problem.  And one without a solution from
looking at one email message.  Sometimes you can tell by looking over
several messages.  For example if the poster has previously responded
to a message that went only to the mailing list then you can safely
assume that they are reading the mail list messages.  Or if they have
set a Mail-Followup-To: header.  But otherwise there just isn't any
way to know.

It starts with the bug reporting mailing lists.  On the bug-* lists we
don't expect a bug reporter to be subscribed.  There isn't any written
down policy either way so on the bug-* lists we usually do a reply-all
and send the original poster a direct copy assuming that they are not

That unwritten policy follows through to other mailing lists too such
as help-gnu-emacs.  Should a new poster not seen before get a CC?  It
is a problem.  There is no right answer.

At one time in the far past before spammers existed it was common to
keep the list of subscribers public.  You could ask the mailing list
robot to send you the list with the "who" command.  But now we have
spammers.  People object if their mail address is made public on
archive sites.  Therefore the who command is restricted to list admins
only now.  I as a list admin can cheat and look at the subscriber list
and see if a poster is subscribed but a normal user cannot.

I rather wish there were a mailing list feature to make it so that
non-subscribers would automatically receive a reply to their message
if someone posts a reply in the thread that they start.  That would
solve this problem nicely.  I am not aware of any mailing list that
does this.

> In some cases I suspect the old trap door which is the
> newsgroup/listbot hybrid. Unless a poster ask for a CC,
> I never include it.

Generally I think that is the safe procedure.  I don't like getting
extra CC's myself.  I generally do as you do and do a list-reply to
most postings.  That is the way discussion lists work.  However if I
am on a bug-* bug reporting list and I don't recognize the bug
reporter then I do a reply-all and send a CC to the bug reporter
directly.  (If it is a well known name, say you or me or one of the
other denizens that often post then we just know that they don't need
a direct CC of the message.)

If I am responding to a sub-message in the thread then I never do a
reply-all.  (I do manually drag in the original poster address if
needed.)  The person I am responding to must be subscribed.  Or must
be reading an archive such as Gmane.  Because they were able to read
and respond to the mailing list message therefore they must be reading
the messages and therefore will not need a direct reply.  So that
works for messages in the thread.  But not for the original message.

Another feature that would be nice would be if the mailing list
software would note in the header automatically if the poster were
subscribed.  That is what the Mail-Followup-To: header could be used
to supply automatically.  I always set it on my messages.  But it
never made it through the standards and so is only an ad-hoc
standard.  And one that the mailing list software is not coded to deal
with.  At least not yet.

As to your specific question about the newsgroup mailing list gateway
that can be told by looking at the headers.  The original poster had
this header:


Your messages alway have this header:


And so it is easy to tell that the OP posted through Google Groups and
you are posting through news.

Note how old the protocol is in the above?  It uses UUCP addressing.
And then hoping not to confuse it with a uucp email address it says
not-for-mail.  :-)

The news mailing list gateway is what somewhat breaks threading.  Your
messages from the news gateway always appear to come from the parent
and not the message to which you are actually responding.  I think it
preserves the In-Reply-To header and does not update it.  Or something
like that.  I think that is because news software cares about the
References header instead.  And the gateway doesn't correct for this.
I think.  I haven't researched it to root cause.  But that seems a
plausible explanation of the broken behavior.  It is one of the
reasons I don't like the gateway and wish it did not exist.

Quanyang Liu wrote:
> Sorry, I am just new here. But I am curious why you all know the OP will
> never see the replies? If one is not on the list, does he can post here?

The GNU mailing lists are all open lists.  Because of them mostly
starting off as a bug reporting address and we wouldn't require
someone to be subscribed before posting a bug.  And more or less the
same when writing for help.  If someone is writing for help they may
not be knowledgeable about mailing lists and are starting from the
beginning and asking for help.  Therefore the mailing lists are open
and it is not necessary to be subscribe to post.

And so people often write to report a bug or write to ask for help and
are not subscribed.  If they don't say anything then we don't know if
they know enough to be subscribe or not.  If they are not (no way for
most people to know) then a list-reply only will not ever be seen by


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