A Little Tip For Anyone On A Mailing List

Ok, it’s time for me to go off on a rant.

I’m on a big mailing list to do with blinks and gadgetry. It’s called blindtech. I think we have about 1200 people on the list from all around the world. I say that list never sleeps, because it doesn’t. There’s always someone up writing messages about something or other.

Right now, we’re getting sent attack messages by someone who I guess likes to watch people freak out. This person is pretending to be various list members, and is sending nasty yucky porn, some of it with dogs in it. He also likes to call people names and pretend to be one of the moderators. And, predictably, people are flipping out like mad, crying about how their delicate sensibilities have been offended and directing threatening messages at the poor folks whose addresses have been spoofed. This got me thinking about the silly things people do on email lists, so I thought I’d write about them in the hopes that at least one person may read this and learn something!

I’ve already written about people writing unsubscribe requests to the mailing list instead of the unsubscribe address. That’s annoying and kinda dumb, but it usually only is done by the occasional person. We can handle that. Somebody writes back and tells them what they have to do and that’s it. I’m talking about problems that occur on a much more massive scale.

The first problem comes when someone on the list forgets to turn off their out of office auto reply. So, with every message that gets sent out, the lister’s machine spits back an “I’m away from my office until such and such a date” automated message. This is annoying, but that’s why we have list mods. They can step in, put the person on moderated status or something, and the problem is solved. If that’s where things stopped, we wouldn’t have a problem.

But oh no, it doesn’t stop there. People start replying to the auto-reply telling it to stop replying, or telling mods to handle it, or calling the person whose machine is obediently sending out messages horrible things. This is kind of like throwing water on a grease fire. It only makes the problem worse. Each exclamation of frustration triggers more auto-replies, which triggers more rage, which triggers more auto-replies, which…makes the thinking members of the list want to pull their hair out.

Here’s a tip. If something is going on on the list that you think the mods should know about, write the mods either privately at their private emails, or at the owner address! Most lists have an owner address that, if emailed, sends a message to everyone who is running the show. If you just tell them about what’s happening, they can get on the problem faster, or tell you they’re working on it. If you email the list, the mods won’t see it until they happen to pass over your message. Plus, the mods are the only people who can do anything about it. If I’m on an email list, and Joe is sending automated messages to the list, I don’t need to read Bob and Sue and Dan and Bill complaining about how many messages Joe is sending. What am I going to do about it? I have just as much power as Bill and Bob and Dan and Sue. Now, if they email the mods and tell them about Joe’s machine sending auto-replies, the mods can stop Joe’s address from sending any more mail to the list until things are sorted out. That solves the problem. Sending mail to the list does not.

The other problem is when a spammer gets on the list and starts sending obvious spam to it. They’re hoping for two outcomes, one being people responding to it, either by clicking on the links or replying, the other being list traffic going nuts and causing problems. If people reply expressing their outrage at the content of these messages, they are doing exactly what the spammer wants. They are announcing themselves to be a live address, and they’re driving traffic up unnecessarily.

Do you think a spammer cares that you don’t like that he’s telling you to find a fuck buddy? I don’t think so. He’s likely not even a he. He’s an it, a bot, a computer as automated as Joe’s out of office autoreply setting. It will send messages until either it has been unsubscribed, or whoever is controlling it tells it to stop. It doesn’t care what you think, nor does it understand. The person controlling it, however, likes that you replied. Then he can start spamming you directly. Wooohooo for him.

You know, I would understand if every time something like this happens, the people doing these silly things were new to the concept of email lists. You’d know they just didn’t know any better. When I was a newby, I sent a hoax or two and responded to a spam or two until someone kindly took me aside and explained it to me. But the people who do this are often people who have been around a while. People people people, think before you fire off a message. Ask yourself if sending this message will help anyone. If the answer is no, then sit back and decide if you need to do something. Maybe the problem will sort itself out without action from you.

If more people did this, lists would be happier places, and mods wouldn’t have to pull out nearly as much hair. I feel for the Blindtech mod squad dealing with this little porn problem. Hopefully, for their sake, they can find the rogue and send him/her packing.

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