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Replying to posts on SIGCSE-members

In my copious spare time, I serve as one of the two Information Directors for SIGCSE, a professional society of computer science educators. My primary role as information director is to manage the mailing list — I moderate the list, I add members when they request to join, I look over bounced messages to figure out what’s going wrong, and so on and so forth.

In moderating messages, I try to pay attention to the needs of our readers who get the list in digest form. Those readers don’t really need to see lots of quoted material. (Arguably, they don’t need to see any quoted material.) Unfortunately, many of our members use the default mail mechanism of quote everything in the original message, which means that I get to reject their posts.

I don’t particularly like rejecting posts. It takes me about ten seconds to approve a post. It takes me a few minutes to reject a post (mostly because I usually send messages explaining why I have rejected that post, but also because I have to go to a Web site to reject a post instead of just clicking a link to approve a post).

So, every once in a while, I send a message to the list reminding folks of these policies. Here’s the latest version (written today).

Dear SIGCSE-members members,

I’m writing to remind you that a reasonable fraction of the SIGCSE-members mailing list gets the mailing list as a digest, and you should therefore think about how much quoted material to include when you reply to a message. If you’ve ever read a mail digest, you know that it can be painful to skip through large amounts of quoted material. So please edit your messages. In particular,

  • Please include only the relevant portions of the original post. Often, replies really only focus on one issue in the original post, and so should only quote that portion of the original post.
  • If the original post includes a long signature, please remove the signature from the quoted material.
  • If you are replying to a reply, try especially hard to focus on selecting only necessary material to quote. It’s rarely necessary to include the original message.
  • Please avoid attachments, if at all possible.
  • If your mail package modifies URLs, please restore the original URLs.

For example,

  • We had a recent series of posts on upper-division Web programming courses. The original post had a nine-line signature. Replies should have removed that signature, particularly when their mail packages expanded those to eighteen lines. (We did not reject those replies, but, upon reflection, we should have asked folks to edit more.)
  • We had a recent request for information on SIGCSE 2017 that included a list of kinds of information that would be useful. Replies often quoted the complete original message with a one- or two-line reply. It’s not clear that any part of the original message was necessary in those replies, since the message subject indicated the main question. Certainly, the list of kinds of information was not necessary in the replies. (We did reject most of these replies.)

I know that it takes a little extra time to edit your post before sending it. But please take the time to do so. It makes a big difference to many of your colleagues.


– SamR

Samuel A. Rebelsky
SIGCSE Information Co-Director

Version 1.0 of 2016-05-27.