Re: e-mail headers (was: Working for love and all that.)

Charlie Wilkinson (
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 14:29:04 -0400

*WARNING* Pedantic rant about mailing lists and header mangling lurks

On Mon, Apr 20, 1998 at 01:00:26AM -0400, Scott David Gray wrought:
> On Sun, 19 Apr 1998, Msadofsky wrote:
> > Aha, I guess I am the slowest-witted person on this list. I always, on every
> > list, press my "reply" button to answer. I assumed when I did it on this list
> > that the answers I sent went to everyone but me. I thought that was weird
> > enough, but oh well. Now it turns out the "reply" button doesn't do anything
> > useful -- it sends an answer only to the writer.

On a mailing list with lots of people on it, that is actually the
*preferred* action. The idea is that mailing to the entire list (perhaps
thousands of people) should take a conscious effort. Your confusion is
understandable considering how many lists hack up the headers to suit
their own enterpretation of How Things Should Be.

> Working on it... It's not a standard configuration option for majordomo
> (!). I've tried configuring it to include a Bcc: $SENDER line, but to no
> effect. I'll have to edit the majordomo scripts...
> > Help, oh mail list guru, Scott. Why can't we have it the good old way?
> > Mimsy

Gack!! Creating or changing headers beyond what is required to properly
deliver (or bounce) a message is generally regarded as a Very Bad Idea,
(even the author of Majordomo discourages it) though there are differences
of opinion. As a practical matter, some things break, or yield undesired
results when mailing list software fiddles with the Reply-To: field.
The full rundown on why this is a bad idea can be found at:

On a less technical note, expected mailer behavior with unmolested
headers is thus:

- "Reply" will reply only to the sender.
- "Reply to All" (Group Reply) replies to both sender and list.
- at least one mailer (Mutt) has a 3rd option, "Reply to List."

If you are running in a UNIX shell, Mutt is worth a serious look.
For the rest, this may be a feature worth asking for if your favorite
mailer doesn't already have it. Otherwise, choose "Reply to All" and
then optionally trim the exteranious addresses.


                Charlie Wilkinson -
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