Mailing List Guidelines

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These guidelines apply to the mailing lists of FOSS Nepal and might be applicable to other mailing lists of similar nature. Please read them before subscribing. While participating in the lists, please follow them: repeated offences may result in the permanent revocation of your posting privileges by list administrators.

Communication and collaboration tools like mailing lists, IRC channels and wiki make the heart of any Free/Open Source Software community. Not all members/volunteers can physically participate in discussions. The success of any free software community can be directly related to how effectively it harnesses the power of the internet. For those not familiar to such ways of communication however, there might be a need for this document. Jack Wallen wrote in ZDNet, "Linux and open source community hold some common bonds. One of those common bonds is etiquette."


  1. Remember the Context: People subscribe to the mailing lists to discuss the subject(s) related to the list. Many members on the list are hard at work working in one project/company or the other. Some of them take breaks to check the lists to see what's going on and how they can help. Don't waste the subscribers' time by posting messages unrelated to the purpose of the list. FOSS Nepal mailing lists are places to discuss free/open source softwares (development, advocacy, awareness and policy). Of course there will be the occasional off topic post you will need to send. For such instances, see point. 8.
  2. Help others help you: Try to make your posts concise. Please collect relevant data before posting a problem. Include information like the name and version of the distro you are using, the version of the kernel, the specs of your hardware (if required) and what drivers you're using (if required). If there are relevant logs, error messages and codes, please collect them too. The more relevant information you give, the more likely you will get help. See point 5 on how to include such information if they are long.
  3. Do your homework: most of your queries have already been answered, so search the archives (past messages) of the list and other public sources of information (google a bit, browse the wiki). If they don't help, mention what you've already done and how that didn't solve your problem.
  4. No HTML Please: HTML messages are not acceptable, please send plain text messages.
  5. Save Bandwidth: If your post contains long error messages or parts from log(s), attach them in a text file. If the attachment is large (say, larger than 10-15 Kb), upload it somewhere (HTTP/FTP) and include the link in your mail. There are many public places where you can upload your code, error messages and other text information (an example is Binary attachments and proprietary file-formats are not acceptable.
  6. Inline Reply: All the messages in the mailing list are archived (saved) for future reference. So, snip off unnecessary parts of the original message while replying. Few things are as irritating as a single-line reply followed by many lines of previous messages. Make a habit of inline-replying: break the original message into two or more sections, each followed by a specific reply or comment. If you're not replying/commenting to/on a particular point, you can write such parts at the beginning or the end of your mail.
  7. No Top-Posting: Top-posting is evil, don't do it.
  8. Use appropriate tags: There will be times when job-offerings, advertisements or some off-topic messages need to be posted. Before posting such messages, think to yourself if it is necessary. If it is, please append appropriate tags before the subject of your message. For example: [Commercial], [Job], [Ad] and [OT] for commercial, job-postings, advertisement and off-topic messages respectively. As an example, the subject could be: "[Job] Expert PHP Program wanted for a Kathmandu-based outsourcing company." More than one tags for a single mail are ok. I propose another tag [Nepali], read point. 11.
    1. Cross-Posting: Cross-posting is when you post a single message to several mailing list and/or people. Don't do this unless absolutely necessary. This is generally considered a bad practice, but might be necessary too. Please append the subject of such mails with [X-Post].
  9. Remember the Subject and Thread: (A thread is a series of messages, including replies on one particular 'subject.') Make the 'subject' of your message as descriptive and concise as possible. And do not hijack threads: start a separate thread (with a relevant subject) if a thread spawns a new topic for you. Never steal someone else's thread from them. For example, if people are discussing about 'how to install a graphics driver,' don't reply the thread with a message that says 'which graphics card is best supported in Fedora Core 10.' Similarly, don't start new threads for topics which are already being discussed in an existing thread.
  10. Don't get personal: Be polite, and don't use unacceptable language. Respect other people's freedom of choice of distributions/editors/e-mail clients/licenses. No one minds a little sense of humour though. But racist and sexist jokes aren't acceptable. Do not denigrate or display bigotry towards any particular community, group, sex, race or country on the list. If you like a member's web site, do let her know, but not on the list -- send a message to her personal e-mail address. If you're responding to a job posting, make sure you don't respond to the list - it's bad etiquette and worse, your boss may be reading!
  11. Mind your Language: The FOSS Nepal mailing lists are English-language mailing lists. Use good, understandable language. If you need to send messages in languages other than English, please use a tag like: [Nepali] in front of your subject. Nobody minds minor grammar or punctuation errors but please don't mix languages (like English and Nepali) in the same thread and never use informal language (like romanized Nepali: "teso gare kaso hola?", leetspeak: "there r other wayz 2 sho that u'r l33t") A mailing list is not a Facebook, twitter or a cell-phone.
  12. Respect the Law: Do not discuss any illegal activities.
  13. Remember: If in doubt, send a message to the List Admin(s) and ask. List Admins typically put their Admin hat on infrequently, but when they do, please listen. If an Admin decides something, it's final. If you can't contact List Admin(s), mail: info [AT] fossnepal dot orgy (no y in the end).

A little background

This section is an attempt to explain why the above guidelines are necessary. They are not 'guidelines' for no reason.

  • People use different kinds of systems. Though many of us are used to used web-based email services like gmail, many others use their own mailboxes or buy mail service from providers. They might have limited space on their mailboxes. They might be away on vacations. Sending big attachments, long mails and unrelated messages will fill their inboxes. This prevents other, possibly more useful or sometimes urgent mails from reaching them.
  • Different people subscribe to a mailing list for different purposes and many have their own ways of subscription. People who get large volumes of mails (possibly from other mailing lists too) manage their mails using filters. Some webmail providers also provide the facility of creating and using filters. Filters help manage mails. For example, someone who's a Firefox developer/user (and interested in only reading mails related to Firefox) may create a filter that ignores all other mails from the list but fetches those containing the word 'Firefox' in them. Similarly, someone looking for a job will use appropriate filters that alert him of new job-postings. That's why subjects of messages are important. For the same reason, appropriate tags should be used before off-topic messages, and threads shouldn't be hijacked.


This is a work in progress. I've tried to collect information from different sources of information (including guidelines from other popular mailing lists) and add some established ideas.

If you believe that anything in this document needs to be changed, feel free to edit this page or please send us your suggestions. Thanks to those who have already sent suggestions. I felt the need for this document because many posters to FOSS Nepal mailing list are unaware of such etiquette.

Though FOSS Nepal is a very friendly place where most people wouldn't mind unless you offend the larger community in some sensitive issue, you might not be as lucky outside FOSS Nepal. So, making a habit of following these guidelines will be helpful to anyone who might subscribe to free software mailing lists.

Bibekpaudel 04:51, 14 September 2009 (CDT)