[nSLUG] Please do not use Reply for new topics

Daniel Morrison draker at gmail.com
Fri Oct 9 15:32:29 ADT 2009

2009/10/9 odoepner <odoepner at gmail.com>:
> Nabble follows RFC 2822. Many email clients do that, too.
> If you rely primarily on the subject line, you get all kinds of
> side-effects:

I don't advocate relying *primarily* on the subject line. Obviously
these References are very handy for threading. However it seems silly
to blindly follow the references without any regard for the subject,
considering people's behaviour.

> - The software has to parse out things like "Re:", "Fw:", "AW:" (German
> Outlook speak for "Re:"), etc.

This is a very good point.

> - Emails with boiler plate subject lines like "Re: your message" will all be
> in one (huge?) thread

Not a problem if the References are also used.

> - Using the subject line to summarize your individual reply email becomes
> impossible

Don't understand what this means.

> - Correcting the subject line during a thread becomes impossible

OK, but why are we willing to accept that people's behaviour results
in incorrect subject lines, but not that it results in incorrect
References headers?

> - The standard reference headers (according to RFC 2822) have to be ignored

Even if the subject line were used "primarily", this does not follow.
It's not a black and white world.

> - Error messages with standard subject lines like "Delivery Status
> Notification" will form a thread

Duplicate of "boilerplate subject" above, which is negated if the
References are also consulted.

> All that just because some people use "Reply to" in a sloppy way.

Sloppy, but convenient, easy, efficient. Also the problem it generates
is opaque.

> Gmail seems to do a little more (or less) than just look at subject lines to
> detect "conversations" (a Gmail concept). It does not seem to follow RFC
> 2822:
> - I just sent two emails with identical subject to myself (using Gmail) and
> they showed up a separate conversations.
> - Then I replied to one of the emails and changed the subject line. That
> showed up as a third separate conversation.

The Google people seem to agree with me: it's not worth threading
messages in which the subject line changes, because it's most likely
that it is a new topic, not a correction of an old topic's subject

Admittedly, this makes a lot of sense for private mail, and less sense
for a mailing list, which is very much more like a usenet group in

Sorry to have stirred up such discussion. I still agree with your
recommendation, since all this talk is pretty insubstantial - the
archives already have a certain behaviour and we are not going to
change it by discussing :)


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