[linux-elitists] Proposal: Roster accessible to subscribers

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Mar 23 11:32:27 PDT 2009

About a week ago, I wrote listadmin Don Marti off-list, suggesting he 
make a change to linux-elitists's list configuration.  His reaction was
that we should invite comment from subscribers.


My suggestion:  Currently, the membership roster is accessible to
nobody but the listadmin.  GNU Mailman offers three choices for that
setting:  viewable by public, viewable by members, viewable by listadmin.
I recommended altering the list from "viewable by public" to "viewable
by members".

Here is a mailing list whose roster is viewable by public:
http://lists.svlug.org/lists/listinfo/officers  (Note "Officers
Subscribers" header and "View Subscriber list" button near bottom that
takes you to http://lists.svlug.org/lists/roster/officers .  Note that
one of the recipients' addresses is in italics and parentheses,
indicating that delivery is turned off.)

Here is a mailing list whose roster is viewable by members:
http://lists.svlug.org/lists/listinfo/svlug  (Note "svlug Subscribers"
header and "View Subscriber list" button that, if you also provide a
subscribed e-mail address and password, takes you to
http://lists.svlug.org/lists/roster/svlug .)


Jason White recently posted that he's sent a posting through the GMane
newsgroup gateway, and had stated that someone had evidently manually
approved his post on the mailing list side of the gateway, and invited
someone subscribing his address to prevent future postings being held.
I thought his interpretation unlikely, and attempted to visit the roster
to confirm my surmise that his posting address (jason at jasonjgw.net) was
subscribed, accounting for his posting not being held.  My larger point
was going to be that nobody subscribes (or unsubscribes) you from
mailing lists, that it's self-service -- but also that Mailman looks
only at your posting address to determine if it's a subscriber posting,
and doesn't care what route your message took or where it originated.

So, my visiting the roster (to see if jason at jasonjgw.net is on it) 
typifies one reason why one wants roster access: to check someone else's 
status to comment on a related thread.

Another is to verify whether or not a friend is still on-list.  Imagine
a situation where you've routinely held on-list exchanges with someone
for years.  You post something likely to get a response from him/her,
and are surprised that it doesn't.  In that situation, the first place I
go is the roster, to see if my friend unsubscribed, or has delivery

A third typical reason is simply to see whom you'll be addressing,
if/when you post.  The http://lists.svlug.org/lists/roster/svlug  
roster (reachable from http://lists.svlug.org/lists/listinfo/svlug  if
you are a subscriber) shows two columns:  Left side is 445 non-digest
members, 47 of them in italics and parentheses showing disabled
delivery.[1]  Right side is 160 digest members, 18 showing disabled

At the top of the two columns, respectively:  "12 private members not
shown" and "4 private members not shown".  We'll return to that matter
in a moment.

Looking through the displayed subscription addresses, you might
recognise friends and old acquaintances, reporters, notables, your
professors ;-> , business executives, other interesting folk.  It's 
of interest to know, to at least that degree, to whom you're speaking.

My larger point about those three types of reasons is that they're
_normal_ things one should expect to be able to do on a mailing list --
and that there's nothing to gain from disabling this normal capability.


1.  "I want my privacy, and so don't want my address displayed."

Answer:   Toggle your subscription to "hidden".  Done!  (That is what
the "private members" on the SVLUG mailing list have set.)

In the case of linux-elitists, as usual, start from the listinfo page:
http://zgp.org/mailman/listinfo/linux-elitists  Near page bottom, enter
your e-mail address to enter subscriber options.  Enter password (or
have it mailed to you).  Change "Conceal yourself from subscriber list?"
to "yes".  Done.

2.  "Spammers will find me."

Answer:  Toggle your subscript to "hidden".  Done!  You will also want
to carefully avoid posting, as that will put your address in the
archives.  Note that the roster's presentation on the Web (e.g., when
made available to subscribers) does do minor address obfuscation.
Also, it's vanishingly unlikely that spammers will join a mailing list
just to get a small roster of addresses. 

3.  "I shouldn't have to set a configuration item on my subscription
manually, just to hide from spammers."

Answer:  Bite me, loser.

I believe Don would appreciate comments from various subscribers who
care about this issue.

[1] One of those is "reiser at namesys.com".  I figure he'll have 
"nomail" set on that subscription for a _long_ time.   (However, I don't
know if it's worth adding to netiquette guidelines "If you're planning
to do something likely to land you in prison for 15 years to life, be
kind to lisadmins by setting 'nomail' on your subscriptions.")

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