Mailing List etiquette

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This could turn out to be a random list of points. Any editing is more than welcome!

General Mailing List Etiquette

Posting Style

Post in plain text

  • Plain text messages are significantly smaller in size and can dramatically reduce mail server load when sending your message to thousands of subscribers.
  • Reduced message size helps people on dial-up connections or with limited email quotas.
  • Plain text can be interpreted by all mail clients.
  • Plain text rendering is consistent within a user's mail client. I don't care what font, font size, or color you like.
  • Plain text is easier to prune in responses than html text.

If you are using Outlook or Outlook Express you can add the address of the mailing list to your address book and then enable to option to "send messages in plain text to this recipient". Here's some information on configuring these and other clients & web-mail gateways to send in plain text.

Bottom post

  • Bottom posting means adding your reply to the bottom of the previous message. This is easily achieved in most mail clients by pressing [Ctrl] and [End] before doing any other typing.
  • The reason for bottom posting is best summed up in the following piece of text (hint, try reading it first from the top to the bottom, then try reading it from the bottom to the top):
    A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
    Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
    A: Top-posting.
    Q: What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in e-mail?
  • Bottom posting works best with the MythTV-users list because it allows for easier reading of individual messages by making it possible to follow exactly what the conversation is about and where it currently is without having to dig back through previous messages or drill down through the current message. Top posting is typically and more efficiently used in one-to-one email communications rather than on a mailing list.
  • An acceptable alternative to bottom posting is interleaving your responses with the previous message. This can help the flow of a message if the subject matter is complicated. If you do this, make sure that the previous message has each line prefixed with '>' or similar to denote that it is not your writing.
    • An optional method for formatting interleaved posts for easier reading is to leave 1 blank line between your text and what your responding to and two blank lines after your text and the next section of quoted text.

Trim your message

  • Always remove any unneeded parts of the previous message or thread. This always includes the footer and signature from the previous message.
  • If the previous message is long and complicated and you are replying to only one part, only include that part in your reply.
  • Less is more. Don't be fearful of deleting some content from the original posting or previous responses.

Message Content

  • Keep the Language Simple
    • Don't assume that list subscribers are native English speakers. Keep your message simple so that we all understand you.
    • Simpler messages are easier to read. Messages that are difficult to read or understand will get fewer and less helpful responses.
  • Don't over-simplify
    • As a poster, do not assume that a majority of the people out there are running the exact same hardware, with the exact same configuration, or with the exact same issue(s) that you are experiencing. Try to be descriptive to the point of informative. A simple "It doesn't work" message will not generate the response you are looking for.
    • As a responder, do not assume that the individual you are responding to is as savvy or more savvy than yourself. Remember, you are not necessarily just responding to the original poster, you are responding to everyone else on the list. You might be helping out a lot more people that you think you are.

MythTV-users specific etiquette

  • Stay on point / Stay on Topic
    • This is the MythTV users mailing list, after all. It is generally frowned upon to ask questions regarding items unrelated to MythTV (eg: "How do I build a computer?", "How to install MySQL", etc). However, keep in mind that there are questions that are not directly related to MythTV but are related to your specific setup of MythTV. Some list members may frown on such messages on the mailing list, but, again, this is the users mailing list and, as such, they are acceptable. Please use some form of judgement when posting off topic questions or messages to the list.
    • If a conversation drifts so far away from the original topic, start a new thread. Nothing is worse than following a thread only to see that the message titled "problems with lirc" only contains information about various IR receivers, cases, and power supplies. This is most noticable when you are performing searches in the archives of the list and you are the one looking for a particular solution: you're forced to wade through many (in some cases, dozens) of off topic emails to find the email containing the solution you are looking for.
  • Please don't cross post
    • Posts shouldn't be sent to both -dev and -users lists. If you're not sure which list is appropriate, start with -users until you're asked to move it to -dev.
  • Have you searched the mailing list archive?
    • The archive can be found at http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/mythtv/users/
    • To search it using Google, use this 'site:www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/mythtv/users/' as part of your Google search
    • Search http://google.com as well - there is a chance that your issue isn't a mythtv-specific issue and the answer to your question is out there. TIP: include "re:" in your search to look for responses. Answers and solutions are usually in responses.
  • Which version of Myth are you using?
    • Please state whether you are using version 0.18, version 0.18.1, 0.19, 0.20, etc.
    • If you are using a version from SVN then you must include the version number. To find the SVN version number you can use svn info while in the mythtv directory. The current version will be displayed, along with other information.
    • Aside from MythTV version, what other information might be helpful to include? It never hurts to include your distribution name and version. If you are using mythtv binary packages, include the binary distribution source/name and version numbers.
    • If your hardware or config details are unusual or noteworthy and you suspect that information may be pertinent, include it.
  • What have you done?
    • What steps have you carried out to isolate your problem? This helps other users to determine whether your your problem is hardware, software, driver or MythTV related.
    • How reproducible is your problem? Does this happen every time you use Myth, every time your system is under load, at a specific time of day, during a particular show, on a particular channel?
    • Refine your reproducible testcase to the simplest possible case. If more people can reproduce your problem, you're more likely to get help or a fix.
    • Include any relevant log file information like the output from mythbackend, output from mythfrontend, output from /var/log/messages, error message during compile. NOTE: Only include the relevant information. It's okay to trim mundane stuff out of logfiles.
    • Have you done any debugging of this? Can you generate a backtrace? When did it work last? What have you done since? Help us help you.
    • Have you looked for help on IRC? Perhaps a current issue has been discussed on IRC and is in the IRC logs?
  • Have you forgotten something?
    • Always read your message several times before posting it. Think about all the things that might intersect with your problem. Have you looked at all of them?
    • Tell us what *research* you've already done and what you found... reference posts in the archives if they were helpful, or if they pointed you in a certain direction. You're more likely to get help if you demonstrate that you've already searched on google and gossamer-threads.
  • Use a descriptive subject line
    • "I have a problem with Myth!" is not a helpful title. "Mythfrontend crashes entering live TV with PVR500" is. The clearer and more specific your title is without being overly long will help people know what your email is about and will most likely result in a quicker reply.
    • If your message is off-topic (not having to do with MythTV directly) please begin your subject line with "OT:"
  • Be nice
    • While you might have years of experience, an ego the size of a small Afican country, or some other form of accrediation, there are many different people on the list with an enormous variation in skillset; many new to Linux, many new to MythTV, and many experienced users. Belittling someone's response, lashing out at what looks to be obvious errors, or just being harsh because of a poster's past postings do not add to the quality of the list content.
    • Don't Write Angry. If something on the list has you so fired up that you find yourself furiously typing away a "shoot-from-the-hip" response, and you are re-reading the message several times over just to make sure that every word you have written drives your point home, don't send it. Wait a little bit to collect your thoughts and compose a more professional and clean response.
    • Avoid flame wars. They just don't do anything but anger a lot of people, create a lot of noise, and fill up the archive (and everyone's mail boxes) with a lot of useless garbage. Like your Mother/Father/Wise-Person-Who-Mentored-You used to say "If you can't saying anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all." In other words, no one else wants to hear it.
  • Finally, don't repost your message too soon
    • Although we all know that your issue is simply the most important thing on the planet, not everyone reads mythtv-users every hour, or even every day. It might be a few days before someone responds to your message.
    • If you do feel the need to remind the list about your message, then you should add what steps you've taken since your initial post.
    • Don't change the subject line, simply responding is enough to "bump" the message. If your original subject line is poor (see above) then you may want to change it to something more descriptive. This helps keep threads together and does not leave "hanging" threads in gossamer in search results.
  • Do not use the the mailing list for advertising
    • Isaac has stressed several times advertising is inappropriate.
  • Got your solution? Share it!
    • If the solution that you have come up with was not available here on the MythTV, consider contributing it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why don't we have a web based forum instead of this mailing list?

This is a question that comes up on a regular basis, so unless you have a fascinating new insight into the matter it's probably best not to bring it up. Basically there are pros and cons to both mailing lists and forums; however we have a mailing list because:

  • Many users prefer managing text only emails to the graphics, adverts etc., that are associated with forums.
  • Somebody would have to provide (i.e pay for) the bandwidth and servers needed to run a forum.
  • Web based forums are difficult to archive.
  • Most email clients such as Thunderbird (and Gmail if you like web based mail) can be configured to make dealing with mailing lists surprisingly easy.

There are two known web-based archives of the list:

  • Gossamer Threads if you really want a web-forum look-alike, or
  • Nabble for search, threading, and (with an account) posting via the web.

Why don't my emails appear on the list?

You've probably set your preferences so that you don't receive your own emails from the list. To change this you need to go to the mailing list options page. Fill in your email address and password. (Use the forgotten password link if necessary.) The fourth and fifth options in the table are the ones that you want to look at. You can also turn off list delivery for a while, for instance if you are going away for a while and don't want your Inbox filling up.

Additionally, if you are using Gmail, then your own posts to the list are hidden by Gmail. They have a page to explain why, but not how to turn it off. If you're a Gmail user, then you can check your message really hasn't appeared on the list by looking at the archive.

Anything else I should be aware of?

Some good rules to follow are:

  1. Search the mailing list archives (Gossamer or Nabble) before asking a question.
    There's a wealth of information there. Also check out the MythTV Docs to see if your question is answered there. If you're new to mailing lists in general try to learn a bit about netiquette from a site such as this one.
    Read How to ask questions the smart way - NOTE: this external site is *NOT* a mythtv support site.
  2. When starting a new topic (or thread) create a new email.
    If you just reply to an existing message and change the subject your message may get threaded under the message you are replying to. This is undesirable as many people will not even see your message.
  3. Make sure your email client is properly configured.
    If your email client generates a new thread when you respond to someone's email, then it is not properly configured. Thread-splitting is not appreciated.
    Replying to digest emails is also frowned upon. Please just subscribe and reply to individual messages.
  4. Try not to stray too far off topic.
    By all means tell us if you think something is of interest to the Myth Community, but requesting things like Gmail invites or informing us of the latest free Ipods.com offer is really not a good thing to do.