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Mailing List Review

OpenStack is in the process of merging several of its mailing lists into one, openstack-discuss. The hope is to break down some of the artificial and arbitrary boundaries between developers, users, operators, deployers, and other "stakeholders" in the community. We need and want to blur the boundaries. Everyone should be using, everyone can be developing.

The advent of the new list is perhaps a good time to remind people how to use a collaborative mailing list. There's some old good advice on the OpenStack wiki but it seems if people do read that they certainly don't follow the guidance described there. So, I thought I'd try to recapitulate some of the rules from a different angle.

Your main goal as a member of a mailing list is to keep the archive as useful as possible for other members of the community. Do that, and the dynamic activity on the list itself also manages to be useful.

If you think from that point of view, then the following rules may start to make some sense: You're trying to make the archive readable for the people who come later. It's the same as code: you're not trying to make it maintainable by you. It's not about you. It's about other people. Who aren't there right now.

  • Always respond to the list and only to the list, otherwise threads drift away from the archive, and information is lost.
  • Always use plain text in your email, as that's what the archive is best at displaying in a readable fashion.
  • Always trim your responses to only quote the parts of the message you are responding to. If there is a healthy archive, if the reader needs more context they can get it from the archive.
  • Always, after trimming, respond inline.
  • Always make sure there is visible vertical whitespace between your text and quoted text.
  • Use a mailer that visibly quotes content in responses, using a character (> is the norm), not color or markup.
  • Don't use attachments. If you need to add some non-textual content, put it on the web somewhere and link to it.
  • Encourage awareness of the archive by linking to it often from blog posts, IRC, commit messages, and other mail messages.


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