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Re: public vs. private replies



Tim May writes:
> [...] has asked that we reply in e-mail to him, to avoid
> "cluttering the list more than I already have...," but the logic of
> this is faulty. The few lines of a response such as this one, or even
> of several such responses, are as nothing compared to dozens or more
> people sifting their own archives so they can each independently send
> [...] what they find. Hence my public reply.

I'd like to amplify this point, which is missed all too often on Usenet and
mailing lists. Replies to requests for fairly widely-known factual information
should be directed to the forum (i.e. the mailing list, newsgroup, or what 
have you). This practice not only prevents duplication of effort by the 
repliers, as Tim mentioned, but also prevents duplication of effort by others 
interested in the same answer. I try to make a point of replying to the whole 
list when someone asks for a list of remailers, mail-news gateways, etc. for 
precisely this reason.

As I see it the basic principle rests on a simple comparison of the number of
replies desired with the likely number of replies. If you anticipate getting
many more replies than you want, you should ask for replies to the entire
forum in which you place the query. Otherwise, seek private email. This is
certainly not a perfect heuristic, but it's an excellent starting point IMHO.

For example, a few months back I wanted to give away an old AM/FM/
shortwave radio, so I posted to a local newsgroup. I asked for initial public 
replies, so that I wouldn't be flooded with mail before I had the chance to
announce that a recipient had been selected (first-come first-served). After
the initial expression of interest, further correspondence continued in 

> In my opinion, having personal access
> to past posts is several orders of magnitude more important than
> having MIDI-MIME JPEG-II TeX players [...]

It takes more disk space from one's personal quota, though (for those who
suffer under such restrictions). :[

Let's not head down this road again....
"You've gotta keep `em separated !" -Offspring

 -L. Futplex McCarthy; PGP key by finger or server   "The objective is for us 
  to get those conversations whether they're by an alligator clip or ones and 
  zeroes. Wherever they are, whatever they are, I need them." -FBI Dir. Freeh

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