The list was down. That wasn’t the first time that had happened: the server was on the fritz, something had clogged the pipeline, or the night custodian unplugged something. But no one told the list manager, who was simply sitting back, waiting for service to start up again, just as it always had done in the past.
Finally, after a full day without listserve traffic, one savvy list subscriber who knew the ins and outs of mailing list management, took it upon himself to forward a rejected message to the list manager. In that rejection notice were the magic words: “the list had been held.” That provided the key to what had gone wrong.
The list manager went into the list’s web interface to explore the situation, only to find that some gremlin had transformed the heavily trafficked list from unmoderated to moderated status, yet failed to designate an editor-moderator to weigh upon which lists should be approved for distribution, creating a backlog of more than three hundred messages sitting in limbo. Feeling like the Roto-Rooter man, the list manager went to work approving messages which merited distribution and tossing out the detritus.
What surprised the Roto-Rooter list manager was the number of messages which contained nothing more than “test” or “Is the list down?” What were these subscribers thinking? Sending messages like that were the equivalent of trying to compose and send e-mail on an ATM or using Green Stamps in lieu of U.S. postage to mail a letter. Out of nearly 3,000 list subscribers, only one had the foresight to contact the list manager directly and enclose a copy of a rejection message. The rest were sending off messages which were the equivalent of hollering “downed tree” in a forest of deaf mutes.
Now, what’s the lesson in this experience? If there’s no list traffic, a subscriber who’s still subscribed to a list and whose e-mail isn’t being diverted to a secret spam file sends no effective message simply by querying the entire mailing list about its viability. Contacting the list manager with a copy of a rejected message is the solution.