Re: in toto - Steven J. Coker
Subject: Re: in toto
From: Steven J. Coker
Date: November 17, 1998

As usual, I edited the previous message for brevity.  The omitted parts were not
needed for anyone to understand the request to which I was responding.  That
being:  "Many of us are not as computer literate as others and have no idea how
to cut and paste these messages.... Any help would be appreciated."

Since you've posted your full message, I'll now offer some further comment.  You
stated: "That message came to me on several different lists..."

That is the reason why I posted the reminder to the Forum regarding SCRoots
Policy against forwarding of chain letter style messages like the one in
question.  There are thousands of different mailing list services such as this
one.  A typical list service has several hundred subscribers.  Some services
have thousands of subscribers.  

The message in question showed that it had been forwarded to at least the
following 9 mailing lists.

 CLARKE-L        FRYAR-L         WAGONER-L
 small-L         JOHNSON-L       caldwell_l

I'm confident that, like most chain letters, it eventually will find its way to
many more mailing lists and will probably be circulated and recirculated again
and again.  Forwarding chain mail style letters is a violation of SCRoots Forum
Policy and a violation of Rootsweb Policy.  Rootsweb has declared that sending
any message to more than 5 mailing lists generally constitutes SPAM.  

Chain letter style messages have a way of "snowballing" in cyberspace.  Like a
snowball rolling downhill, they grow larger each time they are forwarded.  But,
because of the nature of email, they also multiply themselves each time they are
forwarded.  Here is an example of what happens.

Assume we start with a 2k chain letter style message.
It is sent initially to to 5 mailing lists.
Each list has a modest 100 subscribers each.

2k x 5 Forums x 100 Copies/Forum = 1 Mb Server Traffic

Assume 2 people in each Forum forward it to 1 more Forum.
  5 Forums x 2 Forwarders/Forum = 10 People Forwarding
 10 Forwarders x 1 More Forum/Forwarder = 10 More Forums
 10 More Forums x 100subscribers/Forum = 1,000 New Copies
By Forwarding rather than copy/pasting, the 2k message grows to a 4k message.
4k x 1,000 New Copies = 4 Mb More Server Traffic

2 More New Forwarders per New Forum
 10 Forums x 2 Forwarders/Forum = 20 People Forwarding
 20 Forwarders x 1 More Forum/Forwarder = 20 More Forums
 20 More Forums x 100subscribers/Forum = 2,000 More Copies
By Forwarding rather than copy/pasting, the 4k message grows to a 6k message.
6k x 2,000 New Copies = 12 Mb More Server Traffic

2 More New Forwarders per New Forum
 20 Forums x 2 Forwarders/Forum = 40 People Forwarding
 40 Forwarders x 1 More Forum/Forwarder = 40 More Forums
 40 More Forums x 100subscribers/Forum = 4,000 More Copies
By Forwarding rather than copy/pasting, the 8k message grows to an 8k message.
8k x 4,000 New Copies = 32 Mb More Server Traffic

Etc., Etc., Etc.,

    49 Mb

In just 3 generations of "minimal" forwarding of a small message in this
scenario the load on the mailing list server has been 49 Mb.  Each additional
generation of forwarding this chain letter message will increase the server load
significantly.  Also, many messages "bounce" due to timing errors, failed
addresses, etc.  So the messages will likely be sent multiple times to some
subscribers increasing the real server load.

Most of this work on the server will be wasted.  Since the message will be
completely off topic for most of the Forums it is forwarded to, most people will
either ignore it or react hostilely at someone sending off-topic chain letters
to them.  The few who may benefit from the message are probably in the few
Forums where the message was on-topic.

The point here is two-fold.  

  1. Don't send chain letter style email.
  2. Don't forward chain letter style emails.

Each Forum has a specifically defined topic.  Messages should not be sent to
mailing lists unless they are On-Topic for that list.  The sender should use
good judgement in determining the most appropriate mailing lists where their
messages will be most relevant to the topic.  They should never "shot-gun" a
message to a large number of mailing lists.  Such "shot-gunning" is considered
to be SPAM by Rootsweb.

If someone has a message which they think merits broad spectrum publicity, there
are other, better ways to achieve the goal.  One of the best ways is to contact
the publishers of newsletters like the Rootsweb Review and ask them to publish
it in their newsletter.  Another way would be to find an appropriate web site
and ask the web site manager to post a notice on the site.  If they want to
distribute the message to mailing list services where the message would be
Off-Topic, then they should first contact the manager of each such service and
ask for permission to post an Off-Topic message.

That is enough for now.  It is 3a.m. and I need to get some zzz's before going
to work.

Steve Coker
Forum Manager

Pat Stoewe wrote:
> This is the e-mail I sent Steve prior to the brilliant editing. Only
> fair that I copy and paste the entire question from the beginning for
> ya'll to see....

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