How to run mailing lists of the Society For Creative Anachronism (SCA)

Cassiel C. MacAvity

    To state succinctly, there is no cause or justification for breaking a mailing list to force all replies back to the list.

    When a mailing list administrator is faced with this decision, the administrator will always win, either by continuing as the administrator of a mailing list that allows the free choice of either of the two forms of reply, or by walking away from a list that has been incorrectly set to so force no choice.

    For those who have not previously run into this clash of administration vs malpractice, the most cited source is

    An additional round of comments that I have enjoyed---especially as I know the author--- is

    For myself, what I have found to be particularly applicable to an SCA oriented mailing list is that the SCA is a game of courtesy, politeness, and care for not just oneself, but particularly for one's fellow players. The SCA is a lot of fun, and the activities that go into and effectively constitute the SCA are an absolute blast, but the all out, can not be barred, bottom line is that if all of this is instead an ongoing desperate scan for the next knife into one's back, the next slip on the floor to become the declared laughingstock of all, this does not constitute a game of fun, this becomes a undeniable and utterly loathsome hellhole.

    To repeat what is already known from the link listed above, the action of forcing all replies back to a mailing list has the effect of overriding and hijacking the good functions of an email program. Where all but one such program that I know of has two reply buttons to particularly permit the choice of the individual user to reply to either one or many, this hijacking removes that choice without the will of the user, sometimes without that user being aware of that loss---until a private message is sent to the public list.    Of the one email program exception that I've learned of, that one program's sole reply button then pulls up All the possible return addresses, leaving the user remaining in full control of where and to whom the user is replying.

    Another feature of the SCA is that pretty much by definition, the SCA is also an environment of encouraged learning and study, of learning new skills and playing with new ways. If an individual in the SCA has been unaware that standard, normal, email programs have two different reply buttons or otherwise offer and entire set of addresses to reply to, then such knowledge is new information which that individual can now make use of in an encouraging, supportive, and courteous environment that does not seek to trip up and ensnare by deliberately resetting a list to redirect all replies.

    On the other hand, to claim that no subscriber is capable of learning the standard and expected functions of his or her own email program, to state the blatant lie that breaking a mailing list is “being courteous to the users by giving them what they want” is to claim that these users are total and complete idiots who are unwilling and unable to learn anything, which thus equally blatantly begs three questions;    One, as what the users want is to reply to the list, seeing as they indeed already have that capability and are not prevented from exercising it, then why lie about such capability? Two; if the SCA mailing list administrator so chooses deliberate discourtesy and ensnarement by forcing all replies back to the list, what is such a person doing in the SCA? Three, if the user in the SCA is indeed so unwilling to learn any sort of new information and skills, what is that user doing in the SCA?

    On the occasions when the mailing list of The Kingdom of The West has been so incorrectly and discourteously set to so force all replies back to the list, then time and time and time again the comment that was not supposed to hit the list, for many reasons each time, did hit the list. The sender was embarrassed, often a subject of commentary was embarrassed, and sometimes West Kingdom functions were disrupted. All of this occurring completely and totally needlessly. Whether the list is that of an entire Kingdom or that of the smallest shire or discussion group, very specifically, and directly, such a blatant removal of this right of choice is completely and unjustifiably discourteous and presumptuous and utterly unbecoming of a game that is so based on courtesy and consideration.

    On a scale much smaller than the Kingdom of The West, there was an SCA group mailing list that I had been assisting in running. The group itself has had a historic mix of newcomers and nobles, longtime members of the peerage and those who play irregularly or in the general background for assorted reasons and choices. Following a change in the configuration of the mailing list, several people on the list noticed that where the list had been configured to reply singly to sender and reply all to list, the new configuration pointed to only the list. After a short while, some two or three different people made polite requests for the consideration of others, observations that such a setting made some people extremely uncomfortable, that they saw a very genuine concern that not only might someone missend and be forced to deal with the consequences, but that everyone on the list would also be forced to encounter the unwanted occurrence. My statement on the matter was to note the technical reasons, and then follow up with noting that I saw no point in having my choice removed from me or anyone else. And as these were stated, others stated what they instead wished of the list. For them, the list was most emphatically not a means of communication of and among the courteous and considerate, the sole purpose was to project their will among others regardless of results, to have an arena of their entertainment wherein each and every unintended and accidental misstep was deliberately and completely to be used as a source of amusement.

    My response to this last was, and I quote, Ewww. Following that, there were a few additional polite pleas for consideration of both individuals and the list. And finally, of the demands for spectacle and defamation and the total disregard of any and all others, aside from my stated opposition, aside from the polite requests for the consideration of others, there was utter and complete silence. When the Seneschalle called for a vote, the stated tally was eight in favor of being able to choose, and nine in favor of forcing replies to the list. The Seneschalle's proclamation was that the list would indeed be so configured so that all replies would be forced to the list.

    Following this announcement, I wrote to my fellow administrators, they being the Seneschalle and the two previous seneschals. I pointed out to them that what I had witnessed in the previous two or three weeks was an utter and complete disgrace and a clear demonstration that the game of fun, of courtesy, of goodwill towards others, the reasons why I first associated with the group, was no longer being played and was no longer the least bit desired in that group whatsoever. And because of these facts I was henceforth resigning as administrator and clearly had no reason to claim or associate with such an obscenity. And as that note went out, a mailing list reply to the vote announcement turned up;

"And just to make it more fun, my vote isn't in the poll results. Sigh...

Anybody else get missed?

Someone who wanted "Reply" to go to the sender only... "

    The sender of that last was one of my fellow mailing list administrators. The sender of that is just One of those in that group who holds the rank of Peer in the SCA. The sender of that, like so many others who claim to be, or claim to aspire to be Peers of the SCA, Peers of The West, was absolutely, totally and completely silent as I and seven others were left to twist in the wind with no help, no support, no assistance, Nothing, as vehement and absolute claims were made and made repeatedly that the sole reason and purpose of the SCA is to be an enraged and screaming mob at a bar fight that screams Blood, Blood, how Dare you question Our Absolute Right to crush and destroy Absolutely Anyone we please . . . . . .

    I have no further association with that morass of poison, and I will continue to have no such association. The behavior shown there is utterly, completely and deliberately unbecoming of a gentle, of a peer of The West, of the slightest person in the SCA, and I will continue to hold such with the utter and complete contempt that is the only response of any time or circumstance. During the two or three weeks that the discussion was being held, at times I told my bosses and coworkers at my job what was going on, and, very simply, they were horrified---several stated that to choose such behavior was completely bizarre and unconsciable, they agreed that such was exactly like deliberately choosing that one may discuss the firing of a fellow employee by announcing that firing over a public intercom.

    As a personal reaction, I have been playing in the SCA since early 1996. In the SCA, excellence in personal skill, in congenial interpersonal behavior, in courtesy, in the care and support of others, is awarded, is held up for the admiration of others, is rewarded with an Award of Arms, with Leaves, with Peerages, so that others may themselves be so inspired and moved. Myself, following this display of "Peerlike Behavior of Undoubted Peers", I now find myself utterly and totally devoid of any interest whatsoever in any award, mention, peerage, or any trace of same.

    I am personally amused and intrigued by the details of ongoing projects and activities, and since the blatant debacle I had to watch, I have continued in the SCA solely because I can be indeed so amused, and absolutely have continued only because I have been able to continue to find my own such amusement.   

    I have never needed a title or oath or reason given to another to study, to learn, to play.    I have never needed a title or oath or reason given to another to speak and to be silent, to come and to go, to strike and to spare, to do and let be, in such matters as concern the Kingdom on my honor, and fortunately, neither does or has anyone else.

    For reasons of competence and skill, for reasons of courtesy towards my fellow list members, for reasons of personal self respect, I will not run a mailing list that is so broken and misconfigured as to force all replies back to the mailing list.   

    If the Seneschalle---Any Seneschal(le), President, commander, Whatever---so decides for whatever reason that a list that I assist with shall be so configured, then I am quite perfectly happy to hand the list off and let someone else handle it. The alternative is not worth my self respect or my honor or that of anyone else.

The Curia

© Cassiel C. MacAvity