Off-list Replies

Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2003 11:31:16 -0800
From: Rick Moen
To: [snipped]
Subject: Re: [off-list] gtk2 key bindings
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.4i

Hi, [name omitted]. I'm hoping you've caught up on your sleep, have become less frazzled, and have a better outlook, because I need to talk to you about something. (You are about to be, as we say, "taken behind the woodshed".)

Point: In general, people don't join mailing lists in order to have side-conversations with strangers in private mail. They join lists in order to benefit some community. Therefore:

Point: If for some reason you decide to buttonhole some mailing list participant in private mail, you should (1) mention that you're doing so, and (2) explain why.

The reason you should mention doing so is that private mail received as someone's private fork from a list thread is visually indistinguishable from the thread itself: Your correspondent may think he's replying back to the community when he replies to your private mail. When he fails to see his response on-list, he may become really, really annoyed at you. With cause.

The best way to indicate your intent (and reason) is with a prefatory sentence at the top of your private mail, like this:

[Off-list private mail, sent to you privately because this side-discussion won't be of general interest.]

For the same reason, you should remove any "list tag" from the subject header. E.g., every ILUG thread is marked with "[ILUG]" in the subject header. You should ideally change this to "[off-list]". (Notice that I did so retroactively, a message ago.)

Point: Think twice before sending strangers ill-tempered off-list replies to their list postings.


If you are going to be a masochist and use software like Emacs you have no right whatsoever to be whinging about it being difficult. [...]

As noted, people join mailing lists in order to benefit communities. By sending an off-list reply (and expecting one back), you're asking the correspondent to do you, a net.random stranger, a personal favour that he nowhere signed up to do. So, the very least you can do is be deferential, in so doing.

Point: Think three times before sending strangers ill-tempered mistaken replies to their list posts.

You'll notice I sent a cordial response to your argumentative missive, informing you that I do not use Emacs, but like practically all Linux users employ Emacs keybindings nearly everywhere on account of their default use in bash and other common tools. I hope the courtesy with which I set you straight caused you just a bit of embarrassment — because it was so intended.

I've developed a terribly grouchey attitude towards Debian users, particularly those who complain about something being difficult.

Ironically, whichever user community you (purport to) represent, you've not been doing it the least bit of credit. I'm taking the trouble to tell you this because you seem like a good guy, and I assume you're unaware of violating netiquette and behaving rudely. (I hope you'll take this in the spirit intended. If not, your loss.)

On the matter of your "grouchiness", you'll please note that I explained twice (once on-list, once off) that I was merely expressing appreciation for the creation of documentation on how to re-enable Emacs keybindings in GTK2 applications. I am not your personal therapist for working out your abstract problems with "Debian users" who "complain". There are people you can pay for therapy. I am not among them.

Now, I am giving you that sort of feedback because you misbehaved in my private mailbox, which is closely analogous to spitting in my living room: Had you behaved that way on the mailing list, I might have just hit the "d" key and moved onwards. But (metaphorically) standing in my /var/mail/rick mbox and yelling at me is entering my personal space.

I tutor quite a lot of new users and have to be very careful to provide them with the best answer for their needs, not just recommend the old reliables (although I do that too).

Your correctly listening to other people will be a significant aid to that, e.g., your understanding that I was not "complaining" or "whinging" — and grasping the actual meaning of the phrase "Emacs keybindings" as distinct from the Emacs editor.

Dont mind me and my ranting, I talk too much and it that is really all it is, just talk.


"Just talking" to a stranger with significant rudeness based on careless factual errors in a netiquette-violating personal e-mail that fails to mention departure from a Linux-community mailing list discussion, and failing to remove the list tag — that's a really poor idea.

Pretty much like barging into my house and spitting on my living room floor.

Just so you know.