[opensource] Mailing list vs contact form

Brian Swaney swaneybr at opensource.osu.edu
Fri Mar 4 17:05:44 EST 2011

Hash: SHA1

Here is the problem:

We're pretty hesitant to embed some remote scripts, for the privacy
and security of our users. The site is, I believe, pretty secure
despite its openness, and we'd pretty much lose all that security once
we link to someone else's script we don't control. I am pretty sure
some kind of embedded chat client would require that, but we could
always provide a link to the IRC page (as much as I hate IRC).

If we point the form to the mailing list, as it is now, then users
will get their messages bounced (and discarded). If we fix it to
accept their messages, then not only will they not get a reply (not
being registered on the mailing list), but it will open our mailing
list to an onslaught of spam. You wouldn't believe how many messages
opensource-owner at cse gets, and there is a reason messages from
unregistered users are discarded. In order for this to work, we'd have
to somehow subscribe everyone who selected the mailing list option,
which might annoy people who don't realize it's happening. If we made
some kind of script that submitted users' messages to the mailing
list, they would be posting anonymously so we could never give them a

Brian Swaney
Open Source Club at
Ohio State University
Website Administrator

On 3/4/11 2:08 PM, Matt Meinwald wrote:
> It is definitely possible to have a dropdown entry on the contact form that
> sends to the mailing list if that is desired, perhaps not directly through
> drupal, but I'm sure we could make it work. It would go to the moderated
> account, so would not cause spam (except to the moderators of course :)
> As far as the category descriptions, perhaps that page should *start* with
> something mentioning the mailing list and IRC instead of listing it last or
> maybe even have a contact page that is separate from the contact form,
i.e. have
> no direct link to the contact form on the website except within the
"Contact Us"
> page.
> -Matt Meinwald
> On 03/04/2011 01:43 PM, Michael Yanovich wrote:
>> Hi Peter,
>> I think this is a great idea. We do almost always have someone active
>> during all parts of the day, including in the middle of the night.
>> Setting up an embedded web-client of freenode isn't very difficult:
>> http://yanovich.net/freenode.php It works pretty good with the overall
>> theme of my website.
>> However, to further address Brian's points. I think by default
>> information sent through the contact form should be posted to the
>> mailing list, and the user has to specifically select to opt-out. I
>> think explaining that would help alleviate the problem we have now.
>> Michael Yanovich
>> On 03/04/2011 01:21 PM, Dietz, Peter M. wrote:
>>> Hi Brian,
>>> You might want to look at embedding a web-irc client into your
contact us page. The good news in your case is that you have an active
IRC, with operators standing by almost all hours of the day.
>>> The project that I work on has a web IRC and users randomly come in
and ask questions.
>>> http://demo.dspace.org/#irc
>>> P.S. The modern web surfer is almost completely blind to a block of
text with instructions.
>>> --
>>> Peter Dietz
>>> Systems Developer/Engineer
>>> University Libraries
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: opensource-bounces at cse.ohio-state.edu
[opensource-bounces at cse.ohio-state.edu] on behalf of Brian Swaney
[swaneybr at opensource.osu.edu]
>>> Sent: Friday, March 04, 2011 10:37 AM
>>> To: Open Source Club
>>> Subject: [opensource] Mailing list vs contact form
>>> Here is a problem I am kind of stuck on, and hoping somebody here can
>>> help out with it. There is an increasing trend of people asking their
>>> general questions using the contact form at
>>> https://opensource.cse.ohio-state.edu/contact . What usually happens
>>> is that someone somewhere asks a question somewhere else (e.g. 8-HELP)
>>> about open source software, and they get referred to our website.
>>> Admittedly, this is much better than the IT staff's past attitude
>>> about "unsupported software," but end-users seem to assume that the
>>> contact form is where they should submit their problem tickets. Our
>>> contact form is intended for something like if ACM-W wants to invite
>>> us to another quiz bowl, if Northrop Grumman wants to present before
>>> our meeting again, or for some other reason (e.g. website/registration
>>> problems) someone wants to privately contact a small subset of the
>>> current Open Source Club administration without speaking to the club
>>> as a whole.
>>> While I don't have a problem personally answering people's questions,
>>> there are not a lot of people who get copied on things sent through
>>> our contact form, by design. It is not a support forum, and therefore
>>> what often happens is nobody included in the Open Source Club
>>> administration is able to answer the question, and at best the user
>>> gets a response that "we don't know, ask somewhere else (mailing
>>> list)" which they never do. Lately, the only things on the mailing
>>> list are meeting announcements for the Open Source Club and other
>>> people's tech events around Columbus, while the contact form seems to
>>> get all the people asking for support.
>>> On the contact form, there are 4 options, and each of them is, I
>>> thought, spelled out pretty clearly. It also explicitly says if you
>>> are looking for support that you should use the mailing list. As an
>>> anti-spam measure, the mailing list requires registration, so I can't
>>> effectively link the contact form to it. As a compromise to this
>>> policy, anonymous messages can be sent by anonymously posting on our
>>> website, and they will be sent to a moderation queue. If we turned off
>>> the registration requirement, then everyone here will wind up with a
>>> LOT of spam. Does anyone have any suggestions? Is it possible the
>>> contact form is not worded clearly? Are people intimidated by using a
>>> public forum to ask questions about open source software? Am I just
>>> incoherently ranting about nonsense nobody else cares about?
>>> -------- Original Message --------
>>> Subject: Re: [General inquiries] Open Source Music
>>> Date: Wed, 02 Mar 2011 19:02:50 -0500
>>> From: Matt Meinwald <meinwald at opensource.osu.edu>
>>> To: Brian Swaney <swaneybr at opensource.osu.edu>
>>> CC: info at opensource.osu.edu
>>> Brian,
>>> My suggestion would be to reply *and* forward the question to the
>>> mailing list,
>>> telling him you are doing so. Let me know if you'd like me to do this.
>>> On 03/02/2011 05:20 PM, Brian Swaney wrote:
>>>> I would ordinarily suggest this user check the creative commons or
>>>> something, but this is really the kind of thing which should be
>>>> asked on the mailing list. I don't want to turn someone down, but
>>>> what seems to be happening is that every time someone gets
>>>> referred to us, and they find the contact form, they use that and
>>>> completely disregard everything about our mailing list. I don't
>>>> want to scorn these guests, or refuse help for failure to follow
>>>> instructions, but they're just looking for a quick answer to a
>>>> question. It just seems like the only thing the mailing list is
>>>> used for anymore is announcements for a bunch of other people's
>>>> meetings/events.
>>>> To be clear, I am not in any way frustrated by getting questions
>>>> like this, but I'm frustrated in that I'm one of the only people
>>>> who actually GETS the opportunity to answer, and in many cases the
>>>> question is specific to something else I am not familiar with or I
>>>> just lack the expertise, and am unable to help (along with the
>>>> rest of our administration). I would really like if
>>>> questions/comments on our contact form were limited to things that
>>>> could only be addressed by the club administration, and for
>>>> anything other kind of issue the whole club gets a chance to
>>>> answer. On the contact form, I have clearly spelled out what each
>>>> option is for, and that anything not aimed at the leadership (e.g.
>>>> proposal for a presentation) should be sent to the mailing list,
>>>> but I've seen half a dozen of these and nothing close to them on
>>>> the list.
>>>> Any suggestions? Should I ask THIS question in the mailing list? Is
>>>> this just my own personal opinion that nobody else is bothered by?
>>>> Did I word the description on the contact form badly?
>>>> On Wed, March 2, 2011 12:51 pm, <snip> wrote:
>>>>> <snip> sent a message using the contact form at
>>>>> https://opensource.cse.ohio-state.edu/contact.
>>>>> I'm looking for open source music. Sort of stock music which
>>>>> could be used in a student production as background music (no
>>>>> vocals). I talked with the digital union and they suggest I ask
>>>>> you.
>>>>> Thanks, <snip>
>> _______________________________________________
>> Opensource mailing list
>> Opensource at cse.ohio-state.edu
>> http://mail.cse.ohio-state.edu/mailman/listinfo/opensource
>> _______________________________________________
>> Opensource mailing list
>> Opensource at cse.ohio-state.edu
>> http://mail.cse.ohio-state.edu/mailman/listinfo/opensource
> _______________________________________________
> Opensource mailing list
> Opensource at cse.ohio-state.edu
> http://mail.cse.ohio-state.edu/mailman/listinfo/opensource

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