[Architecture] Techniques for effectively using our mailing lists (was Re: Communication between Matchmaker and PCP)

Colin Clark colinbdclark at gmail.com
Mon Apr 28 15:58:34 EDT 2014

Hi Gregg,

I’d suggest that we try to avoid placing too many restrictions on our use of the mailing lists. In general, we want to encourage people to use the mailing list for any and all project-related communication. I worry that having complicated formal policies will put a damper on that. It would be great to try to keep it simple and encourage people to use their mail program’s filters to appropriately sort traffic.

I have found that addressing emails to certain people and CCing the list is a very effective technique. In particular, this technique helps recipients understand when a topic needs their attention, while still allowing the community follow along. This is crucial for the lazy consensus that is so important to a healthy open project—people should be able to follow along with the decision-making process, and then only need to respond if they have a concern or issue.


In general, the approach we’ve taken on the architecture list--and which I hope we can foster more broadly across the GPII, Cloud4All, and Prosperity4All--is roughly this:

* if you are sending a general post that you want everyone to look at and consider, send it TO the mailing list
* if you are having a smaller group discussion, but want to ensure that the rest of the community is able to follow along, address it to individual recipients and CC the mailing list
* then, only in rare cases, you might send an off-list mails to a private group and summarize the results later

This works well for people who have set up sensible mail filters for the lists, which is very important for participating in the projects without having your inbox swamped. Filters are part of all modern email clients, and they make it easy to move list messages into a dedicated mailbox for periodic consultation. From there, it’s easy to ensure that any emails that are addressed to you, or contain your name, or contain a topic keyword that you’re interested in, remain in your inbox for quick response.

Another important technique to help people filter out the signal from the noise on a healthy mailing list is to always ensure that the subject line remains accurate and up to date. If a conversation started about one topic and then shifted to another, it’s very helpful to change the subject line or start a new thread. You can see how I’ve done exactly this for this thread, updating the subject line to summarize the current discussion.



On Apr 25, 2014, at 12:25 PM, CAE-Vanderhe <gregg at raisingthefloor.org> wrote:

> I am asking because we are thinking of moving to a model and instituting a policy where maillists  are never used in CC lines.
> If something is to be sent to a mail list  the mail list would be in the TO line   (Either SOLO or as the FIRST entry)
>  any additional people who are not already in that group would then be listed on the CC line  - - or if you want them included as “main recipients”  they would be AFTER the maillist(s). 
>  this has several advantages
> 1)   it keeps people from responding to the entire list with something embarrassing that they didn’t notice was going to the full list
> 2)   it keeps the lists dedicated to comments that are really addressed to the entire group... 
> 	• ...and reduces the clutter in everyone's mailboxes by not assuming that everyone on the list wants to be CCd  on discussions that were intended only for a small group -  but not really directed to the full group.
> 3)   it prevents people from getting TWO copies of the emails (one from having their address listed and one from the mail list) 
> 4)   it helps keep people actively reading the list  (who might otherwise either sign off or never look at the posts because many of the posts are not intended really directed at the full group but the full group was added in CC "in case somebody’s interested"
>  this seems to be a good idea to institute as a policy, but we want to be sure that there are not some unintended consequences to doing so.
> 1)  Are there any negative aspects or disadvantages from having the listserv always be in the TO category by itself with other recipients listed as CCs?
> 2)  Are there any negative aspects or disadvantages from asking the mail-lists postings be of general interest/importance and that longer discussions be taken offline and the results or key questions be brought back to the main list?
> I ask these separately because they are separate  but related issues.
> I will also be asking this on the main list, but thought I would ask here first since this is one of the more active lists.
> PS: I left the addresses for this email in exactly the same order they are typically on these postings just so the issue being discussed was a bit clearer. Please note that in replying if you don’t intend your reply to go to the full list. In fact, in your replies you might try following the new policy to see what it looks/feels like to do so.

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