Auntie Mel's Rules Of Thumb

These Rules of Thumb for posting to the Lackey list are posted about once a month, on average; they're an attempt to keep the traffic down to a loud roar rather than a deafening howl. It would be nice if new subscribers read these before posting ... but one can't have everything.

These ideas probably apply to just about every other mailing list around, too. If you want to quote them elsewhere, fine, but please ask me first.

<soapbox mode>

1) Trim quoted text.

Trim headers to the minimum. We're looking for something along the lines of "<X> said:" rather than six lines of quoted header with no content.

Is all of what you're quoting still relevant? We want enough left to keep track of the discussion, not its entire history. BUT -- see 1a).

1a) Preserve attributions.

Try, however, to keep track of who did say what. Being misquoted is annoying; being quoted as saying something you did not, more so.

2) Think before you post.

I try to read through all of the list mail that has arrived before I post; especially on the weekends, if someone has a general question, the chances are extremely good that someone else will already have answered before I see it.

It is obvious that with the delays caused by processing the mail, sending it out, etc., you can't guarantee that nobody will have answered a question before you, but if a couple of days have gone past, the chances aren't bad.

2a) Keep the fluff level down.

People's mail systems vary, and many people receive the mailings as a digest. The latter group, in particular, cannot just delete individual messages, and I will not tolerate people being driven from the group because they cannot keep up with the level of mail, if that level is being artificially inflated by fluff. I don't mind the occasional off-topic message, but if you're posting several such per day, consider yourself warned.

(Alt.books.m-lackey, the Lackey newsgroup, is far fluff-heavier than this list, and this is most likely because it is (generally) easier to skip unwanted articles within news readers rather than mail readers. It is also the main reason why I read about two articles a day from the newsgroup, if that.)

2b) One-liners are a Bad Thing.

If you feel that you have to respond to someone with a one-line comment, and that comment is not an answer to a question that has been asked, consider replying by mail directly to that person.

(Comment: at the moment, because this is a discussion list, the default is that, when one hits the 'Reply' button, the mail is directed to the list at large, rather than the sender of the message to which you are replying. If you do not know how to change this, if necessary, you should talk to your local support folks. Asking for help on the list is unlikely to be productive, since we don't know what mail system you're using, and they vary wildly.)

2c) Long .signature files are Right Out.

The suggested length of signatures on Usenet is four lines. On this list, where many people post several times a day, it is probably safe to assume that people will remember who you are after the first post. Therefore, attaching an 8 - 10 line signature to every post is seen as antisocial. Don't do it.

2d) But, but, why can't they just delete or skip over or unsubscribe?

Why should they have to?

Some people pay for every byte of mail they receive. (Yes, this is still the case in some countries.) Some people pay phone charges to download their mail. (Just about anyone in the UK who logs in from home, for starters; local calls are not free in the UK.) I -- or, to be strictly accurate, my business -- pay for the link to the Net over which list mail is sent.

Yes, your off-topic postings can inconvenience people. Yes, your long signature is costing people money. No, they can't just ignore it. So don't be so damn selfish.

3) If you've got a query about how to subscribe/unsubscribe/(etc)....

Read the FAQ. The relevant section is posted here semi-regularly; it's also available via the Web, via FTP, or by mail.

send mail to, leave the subject line blank or use "No Subject", message to read
get mercedes-lackey lackey_faq.1

Don't post your query to the list. If it's a list-related question, and the answer's not in the FAQ, then send me mail at

Bear in mind that I work (fairly) normal office hours -- this means that questions mailed to me over a weekend may not be answered until Monday. I might log in over the weekend, but assuming that that will be the case is likely a Bad Idea.

4) Other things not to post:

Almost anything that you have found online, unless it's obviously and specifically Lackey-related. Especially if it says "Please post this to anywhere you can".

Notable examples:

  • anything saying "Make Money Fast"

  • any mention of the Good Times virus (it doesn't exist)

  • any request for postcards/business cards/get well cards to be sent to a little boy who's dying of cancer (he didn't die; he's still alive, and he really, really doesn't want any more cards. Neither does his local Post Office, which is also my local office at home!)

  • anything about forthcoming legislation (this is an international list, and as such any legislation is likely to apply to no more than half of the people on the list)

If you think that there should be an exception, mail the item concerned to me -- -- and if I agree with you, I'll forward it to the list. But I'm an unreasonable bitch, as you probably already gathered by reading the rest of this post, so don't get your hopes up.

</soapbox mode>

Phew! We now return you to your regularly scheduled discussions.


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Last updated: October 17th 1996

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