>For me personally it also screws up my email filtering, because the
>first distinction I make is to test whether a message is personal email,
>i.e., addressed directly to me. Elists are just not personal email.
I think that's a false assumption that you're filtering on. Instead,
I test to see if something is a list, by testing whether the list
server sets an appropriate header (ususally Sender) to flag what list
it came from.
I would argue as to whether it is a false assumption, since clearly the
documented purpose of the message TO header is to indicate where an
originator sent a message. The content provider, in general, has no
idea who I am and therefore should, by default, not address a message to
me or abuse what I'm calling an unfortunate feature of many elist
technologies/services (although see my comments below about
Nonetheless, I have to concede that while I might want only my personal
email to have my email address in the message TO header, I know it is
not true in general anymore. I find this disconcerting.
You've also given me another reason why I don't like it, which goes back
to one of my original points. There are no real rules in this space, in
particular there is no way to know in general that a particular message
is an elist message. You suggest testing for an appropriate header, but
the point is the "appropriate header" varies by elist technology. Up
until recently the only real test you could depend on was checking to
see if you were listed in the actual message headers. And, forgive me
for repeating myself, vacation/out-of-office announcement technologies
depend on this (or at least the good ones do).
One problem I see is the overlaying of issues. I understand the
need/desire for personalization. It certainly has its place, e.g., if I
belong to an organization and they use email to stay in touch, a
personalized message has a way of promoting continued loyalty. But
frankly, I'm having a lot of trouble accepting that line of reasoning
when it comes to discussion groups or newsletters or news distributions.
The overlay is the fact that the elist technologies have found yet
another weapon in the arsenal against spam, which I would argue doesn't
give them anything they don't already have and does take away
functionality. So, they latch onto emotions and tell people
personalization is a big win.
>Hence my question. Do you think it is appropriate for elists to address
>their messages as if they were personal email?
I think it's appropriate, but I also think you're also looking at the
use of the header in a way that shouldn't be assumed here.
Three big reasons why I see this as a big win:
1) differentiate the mail lists from spam, since most spam Bcc:s.
Turn this around. What spammers really do is rarely put the name of the
elist in the actual message headers. Thus an elist technology or
service provider can test for this and eliminate 99 44/100% of all
attempts to use their elist for spam. Subscribers don't need this
feature if elists would their job.
2) makes the subscribed address explicit to the user and easy to
find, which is a huge plus for large lists full of naive users.
A worthy point, but it's also common now to put the subscribed address
in the message itself, usually at the bottom although I get a few at the
top. So, I find it difficult to accept this as a significant motivator.
3) personalizes the email. It may only be a small step in
personalization, but it's a big one.
Certainly, personalization has its place. In my particular example (the
memail.com elists) I don't see the need for personalization, but your
mileage may vary. This point, however, is really a marketing question,
which gets back to the overlaying of issues.
My personal opinion is that elist technologies/services are exploiting
an opportunity promoted by marketers. The downside as I see it is that
it takes away from the overall robustness of the email infrastructure,
which is so fragile anyway.
James M. Galvin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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