Tips for email contributors

This is a collection of tips for assisting people to contribute to all ASF mail lists.

  • Respectful and considerate communities are one of the pillars of the Apache way. Please aim to provide constructive comments and do not denigrate others.

  • Send your comments to the appropriate mailing list. Well-directed conversations are more productive and easier to find later. See ASF mailing lists and the Contact Apache FAQ.

  • Remember that most people are participating in development on a volunteer basis and in their "spare time". These enthusiasts will attempt to respond to issues. It may take a little while to get your answers.

  • Most list participants are very busy. Their replies might appear to be curt when they direct you to a document, or give a short answer without niceties. If they spent too long preparing each reply, then they would become exhausted.

  • Please do not send private emails about development or usage questions. Rather keep the discussion on the mailing list, where we can all assist. This also enables other people to learn from such common questions. The time spent answering these questions is far more effective, and it helps the community to grow.

  • Become familiar with the mailing lists. As you browse and search, you will see the way other people do things. Follow the leading examples.

  • Do not engage in personal attacks. That is not our way. If ever you see one happening, then either help to defuse it or don't comment and let the conversation die.

  • Try not to use the word "you". People get defensive when they think that comments are directed at them personally. Consider using "one" or "we" or even "me". Also stay away from "you said" then paraphrasing - too easy to misinterpret their words.

  • It is also better to direct your comments to the list in general, rather than to any specific person.

  • Avoid the use of gender-specific terms like "he" or "she" simply by writing better sentences: "Rene agreed to fix issue 542".

  • Research your topic before beginning to discuss a new issue. Search and browse through the email archives - your issue may have been discussed before. Do not just perceive a problem and then rush out with a question - instead, delve.

  • Take the time to clearly explain your issue and write a concise email message. Less confusion facilitates fast and complete resolution. Everyone will benefit from the extra time on your part. The less unnecessary discussion, the better.

  • Every contribution is worthwhile. Even if the ensuing discussion proves it to be off-beam, then it may jog ideas for other people.

  • Use sensible and concise email subject headings. Search engines, and humans trying to browse a voluminous list, will respond favourably to a descriptive title.

  • Keep each topic focused. If some new topic arises then start a new discussion. This leaves the original topic to continue un-cluttered.

  • Do not cross-post message. In other words, pick a mailing list and send your messages to that mailing list only. Do not send your messages to multiple mailing lists. The reason is that people may be subscribed to one list and not to the other. Therefore, some people will only see part of the conversation.

  • Do not send HTML; send plain text (Content-type: text/plain) instead. Sending HTML decreases the number of people who will read your email and is the single most common cause of mail being rejected by the apache.org inbound spam filtering. If your mail bounced and the error message said the spam hits include HTML_MESSAGE, re-send the message as plain text.

Other email guidelines