ADMIN: posting guidelines

doug at doug
Mon Jul 31 22:02:04 PDT 2006

# linux-users at 

Posting Guidelines  

New list member?  Great!  Welcome!  Here's how to make best use of this mailing list and get yourself a slice of the best Linux help available anywhere.  Now read on ...  


Errm, first a delicate point.  Often users accessing a list like this for the first time don't realize that mail doesn't show up immediately, certainly not for several minutes, and maybe not for some hours.  In the old days, it took as long as the camel bearing the news took!  So some tend to post "test" messages.  Please don't! 

It really is a netiquette faux pas; it gets on the regulars' nerves and will likely get you flamed. Especially empty test posts.  If you insist on sending a test post, please entertain the regulars with a (not too off color) joke, or entertaining story. Prepare to have your test post graded by one of the regulars (a.k.a. old-timers).  


You may notice that we occasionally get many hundreds of mails a week here. That's a lot of mail, and a lot of reading for the people who read this list, who, after all, are the people who are going to answer your questions.  So it's in your interest to reduce the amount of reading they have to do.  Often, you can get an answer faster without posting your question at all.   

Before you post, you should try: 

  1. Reading the manual for your system. 

Some day you will encounter the phrase "RTFM", which stands for "Read the Fine Manual" (except 'F' doesn't really stand for "Fine").  If you ask someone a question and they tell you to RTFM, it's an indication that you haven't done your homework and you should look harder (or for the first time) at the material they indicate. 

By the way, when these people use terminology like "read(2)", they are referring to the man page in section 2 of the manual which deals with the "read" command, and you would access this page by the command "man 2 read," typed at a command line. Yes, there is a command line. Let's not go through that just now ...  
For the command line deficient out there who are running a recent version of [KDE][1], you can just type man:read in the [Konqueror][2] URL bar for a beautifully html-formatted man page.  

By the way, regular posters use a lot of acronyms. "BTW" means "by the way", BTW.  
You can find useful acronyms on the [SxS][3] in the [Bedtime Reading][4] section as follows:  
and then there's always  

  1. Searching the archives. 

Your question could very well have been answered in the past, because you are not alone in the universe!  Other people have used the same software as you.  Other people have bought the same hardware.    
Search the [SxS][9], by clicking the **Search** link at the top of the page.   
No luck?   
Try [Google][10], fill in the search field with likely words, hit return and see what comes up.  
What? Still no useful answer? You're out of luck, then. Naw ... perhaps you just need to practice using search engines.  Use words that are likely to get a response, and repeat the search refining the keywords each time you until you get just the responses you want.  It's a very good idea to let "Linux" be the first of them! For example:

  linux mandrake faq  
should pull up references to a mandrake Linux faq.  
Still no success?  OK. Then you're down to  

  1. Posting on the list.

How should you post?  Here is what the technical experts (and even many of the list members) want to see:  
i) data, data, and data, but not your impressions.  That is, no "narrative description" but instead an exact reproduction, by copy and paste with the mouse, of each and every datum that you are basing your ideas of what is going on on. Do not trust yourself to type! Use the mouse.  You will miss data of great significance to others that will mislead (and possibly annoy) them, such as a space, a capital letter, a digit instead of a letter, etc.,  etc. 

ii) This is already implied by the above, but include debug logs and/or full error messages (repeat, the originals, not hand copies).  Do not "attach" them.  Include them in-line in the text because people need to see them simultaneously with your commentary, and in the context of your narrative. Post a reasonable amount of those logs (rows <= 25). It is also reasonable to post the logs to a publicly available web page if you really think the entire log needs to be examined. Just provide a link to the published log file in your mail. Most list members have access to the Internet and the interested parties will be able to retrieve it.  

iii) Again, this was implied above, but it's worth emphasizing. ASCII (text) is preferred by 4 out of 5 list members who read mail. Don't use HTML or add any vcards or alike, unless you don't mind the ridicule. Some list members read e-mail with character-based mail readers such as [Mutt][11], or [Pine][12]. HTML-formatted mail is tough to read in those mail readers.  
iv) Another niggling issue with text only mail readers has to do with line wrap. Some mailers don't automatically wrap incoming text. It looks really awful when you're looking at a long paragraph with no line wrap set. If you want the broadest possible audience, and to accommodate list members who read with text-based mail readers (many of whom have the greatest technical expertise that will be able to assist you with your problems) set your line wrap so that it's easy to read, somewhere between 70 and 80 characters would be good. 


The Subject: line of a message is what will first attract people to read it, if it's vague or doesn't describe what's contained within, no one will read your mail.  They have better things to do with their life. 

However, Subject: lines that're too wordy tend to be irritating. 

For example: 

Good Subject:   
 "xinetd failure MDK 8.0, error:"cps time argument not  a number" 

Good Subject:   
 "bind 9.0 RH7.3 fails to cache multiple cnames" 

Bad Subject:   
 "Can't dial to Internet!!! Pulling my hair apart,  nothing works! HELP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" 

Bad Subject:   
 "HELP!!!! Ftp doesn't work for me at all, how come  !?!?!" 

Simply put, try to think of what will best help the reader when he or she encounters your message to the list. Also think about who you want to answer.  Do you want a psychiatrist?  No?  Then avoid "HELP !!!!" as a subject line. If you want an expert in oracle databases, then post   
"oracle vX.Y on RH7.2. How assign passwd?". 


When following up to a message, many mail readers provide the facility to quote the original message with each line prefixed by > , as in 

In article <1232 at>, sharon at wrote:   
>>>> I think that basketweaving's really catching on, particularly   
>>>> in Pennsylvania. Here's a list of every person in PA that   
>>>> currently engages in it publicly: [..]   
This example began to quote a horribly long article, but broke off and indicated the missing text with ellipses "[..]". That's excellent posting technique! i.e. 

  When you quote another person, edit out whatever isn't directly relevant to understanding your reply.

Please, please, remember to do that. 

This gives the reader of the new message a perfect idea of exactly what points you were addressing.  By including the entire previous message, you'll only annoy your readers, assuming you get any!  Who knows what your "yes, I agree" is referring to if you quote all 100 lines of the original text! Maybe you are agreeing that hanging is too good for shoplifters. Maybe you are agreeing that it's a good morning. 

Now here's another part of good posting technique: 

  Always put your response below and between the quoted text!

That means, as you read through the text you are replying to in your editor, you remove the bits you are not interested in commenting on, then when you come to a bit you want to comment on, you leave the relevant sentence in place, add an empty line, and write your comment right below it, then leave another empty line.   

Then you carry on through the rest of the text. You left the quote and your comment nicely framed and easily comprehensible. Even more importantly, you let somebody new come in and comment on your comment while keeping the framing correct. 

Why NOT "top post"? Well, here are some answers: 


In this editor's opinion, you have to understand that you are not writing a business letter to another company's lawyers, which is about the only real life situation in which you will affix the entire previous conversation to the end of your reply! If you think so, then you are mistaking the nature of the medium you are in - we likely already have access to your previous message, thanks to the wonders of electronics, but we might not be bothered to go and look at it or might have forgotten it and its detail, so we appreciate a little orienting context in just the right place, but please not the whole flipping thing.   
Note to digest readers:  
If you happen to be a digest reader, and you want to reply to a post, it is very important that you not only trim the unrelated text from your reply, but also change the subject line to indicate which particular subject within the digest you happen to be responding to.   


It is not uncommon for list members to feel the need to offer up an Off Topic post on occasion. It is common courtesy to amend the Subject: line with something that would indicate the Off Topic-ness of the message. This allows those list members who are not interested in your blathering on about Aunt May to quickly move on to the next post. Some are even known to filter out posts with "[OT]" in the Subject: line. Then again, this list has a high tolerance for [OT] posts, and many list members, in fact, enjoy them. It wouldn't be surprising to find that some members filter on [OT] just to read those first.  
If you feel the need to really wander Off Topic, perhaps it'd be best to move the thread to the [general][16] mailing list. You could even blather away on our very own [irc server][17].  
In the context of this guideline, going Off-Topic on a thread should not be confused with Thread Hijacking.  


"Thread Hijacking" is the process of starting a new thread by replying to an existing one. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that, but what this practice fails to take into consideration is that most mail readers provide a thread view for messages. This allows readers to display an entire subject thread in a neat and orderly fashion. Mail readers thread based on header references, like  
 In-Reply-To: <Pine.LNX.4.58.0503101825390.24928 at>  
This particular header reference would indicate that the message is in reply to a message with the ID of "Pine.LNX.4.58.0503101825390.24928 at"   
By employing thread hijacking to create a new message to the list, you would cause your new message to appear in the middle of an entirely unrelated thread when thread viewing is enabled in other list members' mail readers.  
Never fear, however, there is an easy way to avoid this problem. You can still post messages to the list, just use the New Mail (or similar) button (or menu item, or keystroke) and compose your new message to [linux-users at][18]. A new message, without any In-Reply-To reference will be created, a new thread will be started and no hijacking will have taken place.  


"ESR's How to ask smart questions"   

"Netiquette Guidelines RFC1855"   


These "Posting Rules" (published under [GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE][21]) have been assembled/rewritten from various on line sources, it does not claim to be complete, see URLs above, just a quick start. 

Special thanks to the authors of the usage guidelines for comp.os.linux.setup, upon which this guideline is based:  
Peter T. Breuer and Michael Heiming (orginial authors) as well as Bill Unruh, Bit Twister, Sybren Stuvel, and Peter Karlsson.  
Netiquette 2005-03#1

Tim Wunder, Bill Davidson, Doug Hunley and Klaus-Peter Shrage also contributed to revising the guideline to make it suitable for a mailing list as opposed to a usenet newsgroup.

**[The Editors][22]  

**Revision 20050310**  

   [17]: irc://
   [18]: mailto:linux-users at
   [22]: mailto:editors at

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