The mailing list mode email address book trap

Steps to reproduce:

  1. Use a forum in mailing list mode.
  2. Receive a forum message from someone you want to stay in contact with.
  3. Add the sender to your address book, because you think this works like an old-school mailing list.
  4. Send a private message to that entry in your address book.

Oops. Your private message went to the whole community.

I’ve witnessed this in a community that uses a competing forum application (I won’t name and shame here), but it affects Discourse as well.

When sending to the address in the From header, the message should either bounce, or go to the sender as a PM. Maybe the forum administrator should be able to choose the behavior.

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They did work like this? News to me.

One Yahoo mailing list (I replaced with Discourse) would send from so if you saved this address and attempted to send a mail to it, it would have done exactly the same thing?

I believe you can and should already set this up and is determined by the person who manages the domain and the email service account - usually the admin.

On one of my sites I occasionally get even fairly tech savvy users replying to the notifications because the email ‘from’ name uses someone’s account name which confuses them.

However, if your admin has set up reply-by-email, that will work as described - it will reply to the topic!

I don’t think this is a bug, isn’t this simply a misunderstanding and misuse of the functionality and risk of enabling this feature?

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Twenty years ago this was all the rage, and precisely why Google and Yahoo moved away from the model with their Groups products.

Discourse has a mailing list mode which emulates some of the features seen on products such as ListServ, but it’s not ListServ. Anyone looking to substitute an old mailing list needs to understand the differences beforehand and educate their users, otherwise this kind of problem is inevitable. It’s not a bug, just a consequence of trying to use one product as if it were a carbon-copy for another.


The big difference, and how to explain it to your users, is that Discourse does not ever give out anyone’s email address. For those trained On listserv in the 1990s, it’s a difficult transition.


You wouldn’t believe it Jay, but the the guy who used to do this most is one of the youngest on the group and an experienced web developer!

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We changed the format of the From header which should make it more obvious that the email was sent by Discourse instead of the user.