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Sender address

The From: line on Groups messages is changing to a simpler format, one that will make it easier to avoid sending replies back to a list that were meant to be private. The new way reduces but does not eliminate the possibility of accidental list postings, still requiring the user to carefully check the To: line of any message before hitting Send. But it will now be much easier to see that the new format is the address of the list, as seen here:

  • Previous format: testlist+info=electricembers.coop@npogroups.org
  • New format: testlist@npogroups.org

Questions and answers

1. How will this change affect reply behavior?

The short answer is, it will not. It only makes it easier for the user to see when the wrong behavior is about to happen and to back out of it.

The difference in those two formats above is entirely cosmetic. Their actual function, ie. where an email goes if sent to that address, is identical: it goes to the list. But users are now able to see much more easily if their reply is about to go back to the list, simply by checking the contents of the To: address before hitting Send.

Apple Mail users: Note that in Apple Mail, if you see only the recipient name and not the actual email address in To: when composing a message, you need to turn off the “Smart Addresses” feature. Read more here: http://osxdaily.com/2015/12/17/show-full-name-email-address-mac-mail-os-x/

2. Why did EE ever think the old unreadable format was a viable choice?!

Briefly, it was because the From: field should have nothing to do with where replies go, as long as the separate Reply-To: field is set too, as it is on all Groups messages. That “should” refers to standards laid out in the RFCs, the technical agreements that make the internet function.

However, as we have discovered, some (maybe even most) popular email programs fail to respect this particular standard 100%, ignoring the Reply-To: field in at least some circumstances and instead directing replies improperly to the From: address. If you have ever experienced the horror of accidentally sending a private reply to a list, then your email program is one of those that fails in this way.

3. Okay, but why did you complicate it to begin with? What are the drawbacks to the new format?
There are problems that arise when we use the simpler format, resulting again from the behavioral quirks of certain email programs including Apple Mail, which the more complex format was intended to alleviate. Those problems will now return, unavoidably, in these areas:

a. Full name display: Apple Mail will not actually show you the full sender name in the From: line if the sender email address matches an earlier message. It may in fact show the wrong name, that of someone else who has previously posted to the same list, for every message received on that list. (wait, is this true?? or is it really just #2?)

b. Address book entries: Apple Mail will not actually show you the full sender name in the From: line if the sender email address matches an entry in your address book. It will instead display as the sender name whatever is set as the contact name (eg. “My Listserve”) in the address book, for every message received on that list – thus totally hiding any useful information on list message authorship.

If your email program is misbehaving in these ways, you might want to look for any relevant View or Display options, such as the Classic view in Apple Mail, and see if you can get it to display the full true From: field for all senders. Ultimately, if you cannot get your email program to function usefully, you may need to consider switching to a different program. We can highly recommend the free and stable Thunderbird, from Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox web browser.

(And we apparently need to also tell them about turning off this ridiculous “Smart Addresses” feature, or else they won’t/might not even be able to see the To: address in order to check it before sending: http://osxdaily.com/2015/12/17/show-full-name-email-address-mac-mail-os-x/)