Mail List Etiquette

Managing your own mailing lists can become tricky, especially in light of the recent explosion of spam email and the effort and cost of fighting it. In this section, we cover positive behaviors associated with mailing lists that will help you avoid being labeled a spam emailer:

  • Clearly indicate subscription and management information.

  • Keep messages small.

  • Don’t use the To: or Cc: headers to create lists.

  • Let software do the job for you.

  • Boot members who send spam email.

Before we begin, however, we need to mention the difference between an “open list” and “closed list.” An open list is one that allows anyone interested in it to subscribe through some (usually) automatic process. A closed list is one intended for subscribers only, and is usually tied to some controlled membership mechanism.

In this section, we chiefly discuss open lists, although the lessons taught can often apply equally to closed lists. Problems that can affect open lists include:

  • The subscriber’s interest has flagged or the original reason for joining no longer applies.

  • The subscriber left a workstation unguarded and a jokester subscribed that subscriber.

  • The subscriber abandoned the email address and someone else inherited it.

  • The subscriber moved, and the old address could not be forwarded.

Similarly, it is important that the manager of the list is easy to contact, because that person is the only one who can fix a number of common problems:

  • Someone on the list sent a spam email and must be removed from ...

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