to 'Reply-to' or not to 'Reply-to', but this was the question -> "Re: SPUG:PDF concatenation tool?"

Michael R. Wolf MichaelRunningWolf at
Fri Jan 24 13:45:23 CST 2003

Dan Sabath <dan at> writes:

> I'm curious if there is a reason that the reply-to header is not
> set.  I accidentally sent this privately to Tim rather than to the list.
> -dan


[ This reply got long.  The simple answer is in the first 2 lines.
The remainder is a historical perspective of man/machine interfaces. ]

Try "follow up" or "wide reply" in your MUA instead of "reply".

You can probably solve the problem by user education or user interfa

There's been a whole lot of messages over the Internet since the
original RFC defined the Reply-to header.  It may have even been
called the Arpanet back then.  At that time, newsgroups were public
forums and emails were private communication.  Separate tools were
created for the different types of protocols that handled the two.

The recent blurring of the forum type and the delivery mechanism has
caused much user confusion, and even an identity crisis for the tools.
The SPUG list is netnews-ish in its fourm type, but email-ish in its
delivery mechanism.  The fourm type may induce you to load your
netnews brain/finger bindings even though it's delivered via "email".
[See GNUS sidebar] Mental metaphors morph -- They still call
themselves Teamsters, even though they no longer manage animal teams.
In hindsight, they should have called themselves Transporters, since
their core business is transportation, not power source management.

As humans, we're more interested in the content of the message.  Our
tools grew up interested in the wrapper (i.e. protocol) of the message
(NNTP, POP3, SMTP, etc.), and therefore have historical views of what
"reply", "follow up", "send", and "post" really mean.  My own
definitions are so clouded by my personal history and tool usage that
I won't even try to define them.  I'll just point to the fact that
different protocols and different tools have (for historical and
hysterical reasons) different definitions of common actions.

Summary:  Figure out how your tool does what you want it to do.  If
that's different than what you want, see if you can configure the
tool.  (I do have to do a similar config in GNUS for email forums.)
Else, you'll have to reconfigure (i.e. train) the user (i.e. you).


GNUS sidebar

    By way of illustration not proselytizing, the reason that I like
    emacs GNUS as my email reader and my netnews reader is that it
    simplifies my message interface by separating the content from the
    delivery mechanism.  I group all my Perl stuff together --
    newsfeeds from my ISP, NNTP interfaces to, and email
    collected from various ISP logins.  My "news" is interleaved with
    my "netnews", grouped by category rather than delivery mechanism
    (SMTP, NNTP, etc.).  All my perl stuff (email and netnews) is
    collected into one section of my list.

            nnml          -- email (from various logins)
   -- NNTP from
     -- NNTP from, one ISP
            (else)        -- NNTP form, my original ISP

        I deleted various marks and message counts to unclutter the

        : nnml:perl.SPUG.XP
        : nnml:perl.qotw-discuss
        : nnml:perl.qotw
        : nnml:perl.advocacy
        : nnml:perl.beginners
        : comp.lang.perl.announce
        : comp.lang.perl.moderated
        : comp.lang.perl.misc
        : comp.lang.perl.modules
        : nnml:perl.personal_references

    Lest you be too eager to try it out, I must warn you that there's
    a steep learning curve to using this power tool.  It's open
    source, created by rocket scientists (but not technical writers)
    in their spare time.  I've already invested in that curve, so I
    continue.  I'd suggest broadening your search if you're
    interestred in converting.  You still may choose Gnus, but at
    least it will be a well-balanced decision.

Michael R. Wolf
    All mammals learn by playing!
        MichaelRunningWolf at

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