Style of mail messages

Murray-Rust Dr P (
Fri, 26 Jan 1996 12:52:08 +0000 (GMT)

Firstly can I congratulate everyone on the very high standard of mail
message (excluding my typing :-(). The atmosphere that has been
generated has been tremendous and there is already a real sense of
community. From experience of the PPS-1 course here are a few
suggestions you might like to consider:

(a0) Mail problems

ORGANISERS KNOW. Mail can cause a lot of problems (often the hostname
has changed, the DNS is down, etc) and so if you get bounces, undelivered
mail, etc. that is something we should know about and discuss.
(Electronic communication is an intergarl part of modern bioinformatics
and so 'part of the course' - even if implicitly :-)

(a) variety of lists.

In PPS-1 we had seven lists of which about 5 had very active traffic at
times. This course will probably have a larger number of mail messages
and it may be useful to get new lists set up at some stage. On multiple
mail lists there is often a tendency to concentrate all the mail on a
single list so that everybody gets everything and we are now running at
ca.20-30 mails a day. Some people have no difficulty dealing with this
number (many CS experts get several hundred mails per day and have robots
to answer them). However I suspect that a lot of people on the course
have had fairly quiet mail boxes until now and some of them may feel
'swamped'. If so, please let us know.

If there is a *lot* of traffic on a particular subject it's worth
fissioning into another list. (There's sometimes the danger that one
creates a new list and that as soon as it is created the traffic stops ,
so think carefully as to whether it has a permanent place.) For example,
I think it may be useful to start separating out the group traffic - if
you are in (say) Uracil you may not need to know what Thymine are doing
and vice versa.

(b) Subject threads

You will have noticed how important Subject headings are. The standard
has been very high here :-). Subjects have two functions:
- you can decide whether you want to read the body of the message
(Some of you may be offended by the idea of 'delete before
reading' but if you have several hundred msgs/day it's
- it can be used for indexing. You will have seen how hypermail
manages to organise the threads so that replies within a
particular Subject are kept together. This is extremely
valuable both for browsing through the list and also
if we come to index the list automatically. (For example,
you might want to find all threads on BioMOO within the
technical list and to go through from Jan-Dec is a lot
of work. BTW: *anyone who has had experience of indexing
mail lists would be much appreciated :-)*

(c) volume of message.

As far as possible keep your messages as short as possible. Many of you
have free access to the Net but some of you may have to pay for your
traffic (I do at home) and so large messages can cost the *recipient* money.

Here are some things to avoid:
- huge 'signatures' , especially pictures. A maximum of 4 lines
is normally recommended on most newsgroups.
- quoting previous messages. Quote what is necessary and cut out
what is irrelevant or has been posted several times before.
In general if you are replying to someone else (especially
if it's recent) include <= 10 lines for each comment you make.
It's good style to show that parts have been omitted and
people use various devices like 'snip', [...],
[copious discussion on foo removed...]

(d) HTML and SGML. Some hypermailers will interpret angle brackets as
markup (especially URLs). In that case if you wish to include stuff with
angle brackets you may have to spell it out (e.g. 'This is how I write my
HTML ... [HTML follows] ..." may get rendered bizarrely by some browsers.

(e) Person-to-person.

Think carefully whether all 100+ people involved on the course wish to
see your message and whether it may not be better to mail it to a selected
group of, say, 6.

BTW* - it could be very useful to have mail aliases for the groups at BBK
(John??) In that way people could mail to a given group without having
to constantly update all their own mail aliases.

(f) Privacy

Remember that everything you post is visible on the WWW for everyone to see.


Peter Murray-Rust 44-181-9662554 T "Nothing exists except atoms and empty 44-181-9662109 F space; all else is opinion" Democritos.
Biomolecular Structure, Glaxo Wellcome, Greenford, Middx, UB6 0HE, UK
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