SKEPTIC Frequently Asked Questions (Sort Of)
This is not a list of paranormal-related questions and skeptical
answers; for that, consult the SKEPTIC Annotated
Bibliography, or the sci.skeptic FAQ. Here
are answers to some common questions about using the SKEPTIC
For any other questions, bother your friendly list owner at email@example.com.
That might provide an occasion to include another item in this FAQ.
Rough Ground Rules
SKEPTIC is an unmoderated list. The list owner will, however, butt in
when it looks like the discussion is spinning out of control. Anyone
can subscribe, but the list owner will throw off anyone who makes a
major pest of themselves, beyond the usual amount of flaming
Usually, courtesy and some common sense will prevent you from getting
into hot water, either with others on the mailing list or with the
list owner. After all, we are all mainly interested in a free,
informative discussion of paranormal and fringe-science ideas,
preferably without having to wade through tons of irrelevant and
boring postings in the process.
These rough guidelines might help you:
- Try to keep on-topic. SKEPTIC is about paranormal and
fringe-science issues, and the scientific and philosophical
matters which arise in debating these. We try not to be too rigid
in drawing boundaries; in the past, we have gone into urban
legends, Marxist and libertarian politics, feminism and
anti-feminism, conspiracy theories, meta-ethics, the merits of
vegetarianism, religion, educational questions, weird philosophy,
math, and a whole host of topics besides the standard paranormal
fare. As long as there is a clear connection to skepticism, and
the discussion does not become a firestorm which drowns out our
primary concerns, things usually work out fine.
- Avoid making skepticism an ideology. Yes, "skepticism"
is a vague notion, but we still have a rough idea what we are
interested in criticizing and what we are content to leave to
other mailing lists. You might be convinced the ideology you
despise is the epitome of irrationality, and that the duty of
every True Skeptic is to combat it unto her last breath. Too
bad. We don't mind the occasional foray into politics or religion
here, but if you find yourself evangelizing, it's time to slow
down and move onto something else.
- Don't waste bandwidth. This can be a busy list in the
heat of a debate. When you're receiving a hundred messages a day,
it can be rather irritating if many of these are just one to three
line messages that don't say much besides expressing agreement,
disagreement, or making some less-than-crucial comment. These are
best done by private e-mail sent to the original poster. This
doesn't mean you should act like a stuffy academic and stamp out
all humor or personal chattiness wherever you see it. Just use
your judgement -- keep in mind that hundreds of people will read
what you post, so try to say something worthwhile.
First of all, bookmark this FAQ. When it doesn't help, send all
questions related to the list to firstname.lastname@example.org. This
includes requests for help and any and all complaints. Please do
not post such material to SKEPTIC itself unless there is a good
If you can't deal with the volume this list generates every day, but
would like to look at what's going on periodically, you might consider
subscribing in digest mode. This means you will get everything
bundled together and sent as one piece of mail about once every 24
hours, instead of being mailed every posting individually. Send
set skeptic digest
set skeptic digestplain (to receive the digest in plain text format).
Digests can be convenient to delete all the day's message traffic at
once if you feel disinclined to read it, or if the number of
messages received in a day is a problem for you.
Sending "set skeptic mail" reverts to the usual operation;
individual mail received as posted.
Suspending List Mail
If you're going to be away for a while, and would like to stop
receiving SKEPTIC mail during that time, send:
set skeptic nomail
This'll suspend your mail, while keeping you on the list. This is
safer than signing off and rejoining later. When you want to start
receiving mail again, use:
set skeptic mail (to revive the subscription in standard format) or
set skeptic digest
set skeptic digestplain (to revive the subscription in digest or plaintext digest format, respectively).
If you want to leave SKEPTIC, send:
Since SKEPTIC is a fairly active list, it will be unusual to have one
day where you receive nothing, let alone a few in a row. In this
case, chances are that the list has had trouble sending mail to you,
and the list management software may have automatically deleted you
from the list. If you haven't received mail from SKEPTIC for a day or
two, contact the list owner at email@example.com
Normally, the list owner should contact you within 24 hours. If he
does not, it is most likely that the mailing list system itself is
down. In that case the list owner will get back to you as soon as
possible. If you think that the list system itself is down, you can
contact the list owner at firstname.lastname@example.org (that is, "LCLEAVE" and the
numeral "1", not a lower case "L").
The mailing list management system archives past list mail since
June, 2008, when the list migrated to a new list management system.
In order to retrieve archives of the list, send the appropriate
command (listed below) to email@example.com:
|index skeptic||*to retrieve a list of the archive files|
|get skeptic [file]||*to retrieve an archive file (get the [file]|
|parameter using the index command|
|last skeptic||*to retrieve the last message posted to the list|
The "Reply-To" Header
The "Reply-To:" mail header on SKEPTIC mail most often
directs replies back to the list itself, but sometimes it is replaced
by the address of an individual poster. This occasionally leads to
confusion when a subscriber just hits "r" to reply to a message, to
discover that the message is sent privately instead of to the whole
The list is set so that, if messages posted to it have a "Reply-To:"
mail header, it keeps it, if not, it puts in a "Reply-To:" header
directing replies to SKEPTIC. The idea is to let subscribers choose
to direct replies off-list when appropriate. For example, you might
request some information, but do not need replies broadcast to
the whole list. In that case, you would set "Reply-To:" your own
To use this feature, just add the line "Reply-To: xxx@yyy" to the
headers of your outgoing mail. How you would go about doing this
depends on your mail system.
Len Cleavelin, SKEPTIC list owner