From rick Mon Oct 13 12:59:22 2003
Date: Mon, 13 Oct 2003 12:59:23 -0700
To: LUV-Talk (
Subject: Re: mail server behind optus...
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.4i

Quoting Tim Connors (

> People, if you are subject to some anal bureaucrat's want to put stupid
> disclaimers everywhere (which aren't legally binding), at least make sure
> you manually or automatically put a "-- " at the end of your message, so
> the disclaimer ends up tacked below the separator.

Reminds me of a story: Back when I was working as chief sysadmin for a Linux company that shall go nameless, official policy encouraged us to post from our company accounts onto Linux user group mailing lists and newsgroups, to participate in the community. We considered this a nicely enlightened policy, and did so.

Executive staff somehow got in mind to impose standards for X-headers and .signature blocks on such mail, which wasn't that worrisome in itself. However, then the VP of Marketing became involved in that discussion, and suddenly we were all told that all public postings must bear a seven-line .signature containing an advertisement for the company, composed (of course) by the VP of Marketing. We were told that this would probably also soon be supplemented by an even longer mandatory legal-disclaimer inclusion, once corporate counsel got into the act.

My technical staff were uncertain what to do about this, and consulted with me. All of them (of course) used .signatures compliant with the McQuary four-line .signature-length limit[1], and they had no desire to look clueless and offensive in public.

I said "Relax, I see no problem." They were mystified. I elaborated: "Think of this as a logic puzzle, and I'm sure a solution will occur to you: (1) You're being told that company policy allows you to post to the community from your company account. (2) If you do so, you're required to violate netiquette. (3) You don't want to violate netiquette. OK? Figure it out."

I didn't have to say anything else. Pretty soon the executives noticed that the entire technical staff had suddenly and completely ceased using their company accounts when posting to community forums. Instead, they were SSHing to Linux machines elsewhere, and posting from there with no indication of company affiliation.

The two company founders called a meeting with the tech staff. The CEO explained that the mandated .signature block was the product of extensive strategy discussion, and was necessary for the company's overall benefit. They realised that some people with old-fashioned standards didn't like it, but it wasn't going to change. Nobody had any particular feedback -- and nobody resumed posting from company accounts.

A week later, the founders called a second meeting, at which with some considerable irritation they announced that an alternate, four-line .signature block had been approved, solely to placate certain unreasonable reactionaries. They glared meaningfully in my direction. "What?" I said. "I didn't say anything. I have no problem with the company policy requiring a seven-line .signature block!"

The CTO said: "We know you."

[1] See: Also
relevant is Henry Spencer's Son-of-RFC 1036 draft (which specifies the standard .signature delimiter, etc.):

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Rick Moen                              Blowing people all to hell.                    Do you take requests?
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