Cc:ing Yourself on Sent Mail on Mefi Mail February 20, 2008 9:51 AM   Subscribe

RFC on carbon-copying Mefi mail you send to your home address, too.

The other day, I was trying to clear out my Mefi mailbox. I realized I could clear out my inbox because Metafilter carbon-copies me on all new Mefi Mail messages, so they were already in my normal e-mail system. However, my sent messages remain in my sent mail box and can't make their way out of Mefi Mail.

I made the suggestion to pb that such a "cc yourself" feature could be rolled in to the next iteration of Mefi Mail, so that people can essentially use their preferred e-mail client (Thunderbird, Mail, Outlook, Gmail, what have you) to archive their MefiMail communications. He appeared to like the idea, but after running it past the admins, he said that the feedback from them was that it would be too much of a power-user feature.

However, it was then suggested I solicit feedback on the idea from MeTa.

The reason why I particularly like this pony is because we all have multiple messaging mailboxes on various systems. At the very least most of us have, in addition to our normal e-mail inbox, our work e-mail systems and Mefi Mail. Many of us also have other inboxes with our doctors (e.g. RelayHealth), our banks, our credit card companies, and so on.

The overriding precept I'm thinking of here is that whatever can be done to consolidate said mailboxes or get them interacting with your "main" inbox is a feature all users, not just power users, would appreciate.
posted by WCityMike to Feature Requests at 9:51 AM (49 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- loup

Wouldn't it have been easier to just type, "Request for comment..."?
posted by amro at 10:01 AM on February 20, 2008

I would really appreciate a search feature for my MeMail box.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:02 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

WCityMike, I don't want to get into too much detail about how we make the sausage around here, but we did have a conversation about this yesterday and the consensus was that we should keep MeFi Mail as simple as possible. As I mentioned to you via email, once a conversation gets to the point that you need a full-featured email client for sorting, searching, archiving, or prioritizing, it might be time to switch to email for your conversations. MeFi mail is meant to be lightweight.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:03 AM on February 20, 2008

I hear what you're saying pb, but I feel like I'm only getting half a pony when I can only stable one side of a conversation.

As somebody who painstakingly copies the text from sent MeFi Mails into personal emails, I'm with Mike on this. At the very least, I'd like to be able to MeFi Mail myself, just to get the forward into the offline loop.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2008

ugh. Talk about beating my head against a dead horse apologies for the wording of that comment.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:14 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm here at your suggestion.

Very true, but you didn't add my side of the argument from our exchange. You mention it's bad form to post private e-mail publicly, yet you described our email exchange in some detail, omitting my arguments against the feature. If I sound a bit exasperated, that's why.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:26 AM on February 20, 2008

Take it to MeMail, you two.

As for the request, I don't combine with other mail systems, so I have no dog in this pony.
posted by languagehat at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2008

<ABBR title="Request for Comment">RFC</ABBR>

posted by blue_beetle at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2008

eh, we just have a little misunderstanding. I thought our emails were private, so I was surprised to see them described here in Metatalk. The point I want to get across is that you can switch to email at any point if you need a full-featured client.

on preview: true languagehat, will do.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2008

*deftly sidesteps email etiquette issue*

I'd be all for a cc-yourself feature, or failing that a way to export your sent folder in some sanely machine-parseable way. I hate having data, even trivial data tied up behind something that requires screen scraping.
posted by Skorgu at 10:55 AM on February 20, 2008

I still wish there was a way for me to use email, and user foo to use MeFi mail, and neither of us to have to cry ourselves to sleep at night. Proposal:

1) foo clicks "send MeFi mail" from my profile.
2) foo fills out the form with an ill-considered argument and sends it.
3) I get an email from
4) I click reply in my email client of choice, compose a scathing retort, and send it.
5) foo gets a MeFi mail.

The randomized email addresses can live for some short period of time (say, a week?) or maybe be one-time-use only (a link in the message to foo's profile would be good, too). They'll be non-discoverable (preventing mass mailing) and will decay somehow (preventing harvesting). I don't get foo's real email, foo doesn't get mine, and we both get to use our private flaming environment of choice.

Behavior where I choose to initiate the dialogue is a harder cookie.
posted by Plutor at 10:56 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I hate having data, even trivial data tied up behind something that requires screen scraping.

I feel the same way. And I like Plutor's suggestion. That would solve this problem as well as others without introducing any new complication for us (though, of course, that would add complication for pb in making it happen); it would actually simplify the way we interact with MeMail by removing the need to completely switch modes from email to MeFi whenever we receive a message.
posted by scottreynen at 11:04 AM on February 20, 2008

true languagehat, will do.

Shucks, that was meant as a wry joke—I was actually enjoying the spectacle—but I guess in theory it would work better as a private discussion.
posted by languagehat at 11:05 AM on February 20, 2008

What you mean, "We," WCityMike?
posted by shmegegge at 11:08 AM on February 20, 2008

posted by SteveTheRed at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2008

(because I'm too lazy to type "seconded"....damn, now my fingers are tired!)
posted by SteveTheRed at 11:11 AM on February 20, 2008

RFC may stand for 'request for comments' but normally it means an internet protocol specification. I've never heard it used outside of that context, Other then in this post of course...
posted by delmoi at 11:27 AM on February 20, 2008

I'm still stuck on the needing to clean out the MefiMail part of the description. Why would I want to get rid of my welcome message from Mathowie (which is all that is there now)?
posted by genefinder at 11:28 AM on February 20, 2008

Plutor's idea is nice in theory, but a pain to implement and process incoming mail and all that it entails, so it's not something we'd be able to do here anytime soon.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:29 AM on February 20, 2008

I want my MefiMail to go directly to my Blackberry, plz.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:49 AM on February 20, 2008

MefiMail is a nice pony already for minimal contact between Mefites. It is useful for sending clarifications or observations that would not add to a published discussion.
If it does not replace standard email carriers, that might be because it was never intended to. I am nowhere near being a nerd, but even I have 7 or 8 edresses that can be used for lengthy exchanges.
posted by Cranberry at 11:58 AM on February 20, 2008

iamkimiam writes "At the very least, I'd like to be able to MeFi Mail myself, just to get the forward into the offline loop."

This is all I'd need. A check box under the "Forward MeFi Mail to email? : " selector that when checked would also send all my sent mefimails to my email. Call it "CC sent MeFi Mail to email? :"
posted by Mitheral at 12:20 PM on February 20, 2008

Sorry WCityMike. Reading it again I can see that is what you meant. Though it seems to me that both you and iamkimian were advocating a per message setting (like ebay does it). And I think you lost me when you started talking about integrating mailboxes though I see now that you were supporting your case. That or I was lost because of the 45 minutes of sleep I got last night.

At any rate, it was expressed that routing sent messages to the registered email might be too confusing. I don't think the specific interface change I suggested would be.
posted by Mitheral at 12:49 PM on February 20, 2008

This is one reason why I vociferously demanded that Matt let us keep real email addresses on our profiles when he said he was going to get rid of them -- because MeFiMail isn't email, it's limited-scope instant messaging. Which is fine for what it is intended to be.

That said, I wouldn't really mind being able to archive/forward/whatever my MeFiMail; it might be something I might even use sometimes. Not too stressed either way, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:51 PM on February 20, 2008

I think this is a useful feature, and may actually encourage people to take the conversation out of MeMail because the entire conversation is in their email box automatically.

Also, I wonder if anyone would be asking for this feature if it'd been called "Instant Messaging" instead of "Mail", as folks generally consider such conversations to be fleeting and temporary.

then again, I log all my IMs, and perhaps I am not a special snowflake
posted by davejay at 1:02 PM on February 20, 2008

That comment didn't parse well. Let me try that again.

I think this is a useful feature, and may actually encourage people to take the conversation out of MeMail because the entire conversation has already been moved to their email box automatically, rather than requiring any kind of active involvement to move the thread out of the email box.
posted by davejay at 1:04 PM on February 20, 2008


...out of the email their MeMail box

That's it, no more commenting for me today.
posted by davejay at 1:05 PM on February 20, 2008

I would dig it.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:08 PM on February 20, 2008

I could give or take the core cc-on-send idea, ultimately; if it's a cinch to implement and folks like the idea, eh. It's not something I'd use—the big win on the forward-on-receipt thing for me is as an external alert system, not the external view itself—but hearing people's opinions on the idea is fine.

But I agree very much with the idea that MefiMail should be treated as a lightweight internal messaging system, a sort of low-stakes, low-barrier-to-entry way to get ahold of a fellow user. If you're having conversations with someone to the degree that you're missing the features of a real email client, that's probably a sign that you should take it off of MefiMail and into actual godblessit email.

So the cc-on-send idea as a way to round out the existing concession to external clients isn't really objectionable; but as a sort of symbolic vanguard for a dozen other feature requests and expansions that would load more complexity and featureset stuff onto what is intended as a lightweight messaging system, it's something that gives us pause.

(As pony druthers go, I'd be more interested in just building a mefimail search tool than with futzing about with cc-on-send tools go, but I can appreciate the anti-scraping inclination too.)

Essentially, I took the suggestion to discuss the matter in MeTa to mean I should describe the situation there in order to obtain feedback.

I don't think anybody thinks you meant harm, WCityMike, and I don't think you really did any, but at the same time I can see why pb blinked so much. Maybe the lesson here is that if you're going to go the Metatalk route, it's better to present your idea on its merits alone and stay away from characterizations of what we're thinking or what we've said in conversation. We'll know the thread is here and can add our thoughts/opinions on our own, without the weird tension of having someone (however well-meaning) putting words in our mouths while simultaneously pitching their request.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:10 PM on February 20, 2008

RFC = Request for Change? Remote Function Call? Request for Clarification?

Or Racing Filly (Child)?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:13 PM on February 20, 2008

I know, and I hear you. The thing with "take it to metatalk" is that, ultimately, that's an option that remains to anyone who feels like private correspondence with admin(s) isn't the path that whatever they have in mind needs to take. We're usually not going to tell someone not to do that; I can think of occasional exceptions where I've strongly recommended someone hold off on doing so for one reason or another, but it's an outlier sort of thing.

But we usually mean, when we get as far as saying that in an email conversation, something like "I've given you my/our take on it, but if you feel you need to get an opinion from folks other than me/us, you can start a metatalk thread and pursue your question there."

Whereas sometimes what happens is someone acts on that more along the lines of "please start a metatalk thread telling everybody what you think about the correspondence we've just had". Which can be a little bit weird. I think what you were aiming for was more the former here, and really it's only shades of the latter, but that's part of the issue, and again it's probably better to not try to sum up what we've said (or what you think one of us has said the other has said, second hand) when you could instead just state your thoughts and let us do our own talking.

Tends to lead to fewer spit-takes and misunderstandings in general, basically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:15 PM on February 20, 2008

Okay, let me restate it. There's two separate things (simplifying a bit here) that can happen when we say "well, you can take it to metatalk" after some email correspondence:

1. Someone can say to Metatalk, "Here's my idea/proposal/complaint."
2. Someone can say to Metatalk, "This is what the admin team thinks, regarding my idea/proposal/complaint."

The former is pretty much universally what we're expecting to see happen when we say that.

The latter kind of sucks, because it puts us in the position of not being able to actually say what we mean, leaves us on the defensive from comment one, and pretty much frames the post more like a leverage play than a straight-faced request for comments.

I think you were trying to do 1. I think you did a little bit of 2, apparently by accident, and I don't think anybody really believes you were being malicious, but it's a bit frustrating to see it happen. And pb has the (dis?)advantage of not having been drug through the wringer a few dozen times before, so I think he was maybe more taken aback than Matt or Jess or I would have been if any of us were the principal being namechecked, and I don't really blame him for that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:42 PM on February 20, 2008

I'm guessing that a .csv download for backup is also an impossibility?
posted by Memo at 3:51 PM on February 20, 2008

Memo, how about a .csv download for your Mefi Mails that don't include quotation marks or commas? I'm partially kidding, but coming up with a machine-readable format that works well for conversations isn't an easy task. We could do .csv, but there would inevitably be formatting issues that we'd have to support. We could do some sort of XML format, but we'd need to come up with our own schema or use RSS, and you're left with the problem of how to import that data into a client. (Does any client even import .csv?)

So it's not an impossibility, it's just a step down a road we're not yet ready to take with MeFi Mail.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:07 PM on February 20, 2008

Here was my take on it.

I use a "cc yourself" function a lot on various sites, but it's always a random contact form I'll likely never see again, and I know any replies will take place over email only as opposed to being on a site. Therefore, before I respond I like to sometimes look back at my original point of contact to get up to speed.

MeFi Mail is a lightweight on-site message platform and we only added email notifications outbound as a courtesy measure so you don't forget to look at the tiny icon and miss some time-sensitive message. We could have chosen to simply email you a notification without the message like a lot of other message platforms do on sites, but we all found it kind of annoying when facebook or myspace sends you an email about a message but you have to login to see it. We followed flickr's lead in this regard and added the full text of a message to the notifications. There's a side benefit in that you get all your incoming MeFi Mail indexed in gmail and though it was totally unintended, it's a plus.

When it comes down to adding a "cc myself" checkbox below a new message form, I kind of feel like that's a confusing option to many users that we'd need to explain. Also, it's not on a one-time use website where responses will take place over email -- everything will continue to be on the site. We have a sent mail tab that never deletes messages unless you tell it to, so your archive of stuff will always be there.

Also it's important to keep in mind that when we set out to do private messaging, we deliberately drew lines in the sand to keep us from going overboard and trying to build a duplicate of gmail. We're still a tiny team of just one programmer, one half-ass programmer (me), and three mods (including me), all with full plates of Things To Do every day on MeFi. We cut a lot of corners (no search, no threading, etc) so that we still had the time and energy to move on and build other important new features.

So I guess my entire explanation can be summed up as "power user feature, no thanks" but that seems to gloss over all the thinking behind it. To me, it feels like wanting a full archive of all sent and received messages for a web site message platform within gmail is kind of like wanting to have the full Topps 1988 Major League Baseball card set just to have the complete set. It's not like you can't easily see any previous sent messages and yeah it's cool that all incoming mail is in your email app, but since we don't do any interaction with email into the system, asking for email copies out that requires a (potentially confusing) new UI element seems a bit like overkill to me.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:38 PM on February 20, 2008

please don't upset pb. He does such an awesome job exercising all the ponies we already have!
posted by misha at 4:40 PM on February 20, 2008

pb: suggestions:

One: collapse all repeated newlines into a single newline and make a \n\n-delimited plaintext file, like mbox.

Two: a single big HTML page with all sent mail and with consistent html classes/ids so scrapers won't break in the future if the markup changes.
posted by Skorgu at 4:53 PM on February 20, 2008

I have a tangential question about username etiquette, WCityMike. You address pb as "Paul" and cortex as "Josh," and I'm reading it as you addressing them by their known first names as a kind of respect for their admin capacities. It's similar to the way people refer to mathowie and jessamyn as "Matt" or "Jess" or "Jessamyn." But there's another semi-formal convention that we don't address each other by our Real Names, even when they're listed in our profiles, instead using our handles as presented in the threads. No accusation here, just a question about whether pb and cortex want to be included in the "Matt" and "Jess" camp, and indeed, whether mathowie and jessamyn themselves would rather use their handles than their names, or whether any of them—or anybody else reading MeTa—care at all. Is it just me who reads "Paul" and "Josh" as sounding weird?
posted by cgc373 at 6:02 PM on February 20, 2008

It's a slightly weird territory, but I kind of think of myself as being exempt from being bothered by it—my identity is really, really open and I tend to open up emails with "hi, it's cortex" and close them with "Josh". I'm curious how pb feels; I have to admit that I alternate between "pb" and "Paul" even in mefi admin emails, though I'm getting used to "Paul" now by force of habit and dint of familiarity (I didn't know him at all before he came onboard).

The more general case of random users pulling real names from other random users' profiles is odder and stickier, and every once in a while we see someone doing it to be a jerk, but there's also situations where e.g. I know someone on the site well enough that I will use their real name without thinking about it. And it's hard for me to really objectively judge how much the "Josh" or "Paul" thing reads weird, put up against all of that as an outlier case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:11 PM on February 20, 2008

It reads as pretty weird to me, and I would feel weird using anyone's first name in a thread, even people I know (I just checked my user activity with the nifty search feature: boyfriend's username? 1 post and 29 comments. boyfriend's first name? 0 comments). Like being a kid and calling a "grownup" by their first name, it feels wrong.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Like being a kid and calling a "grownup" by their first name, it feels wrong.

That's funny to me. I answer to jess and jessamyn but only people who have known me since high school, or my family, call me jess regularly. Everyone else calls me jessamyn. When I'm talking about pb or cortex I have a tendency to call them by their real names but I'm aware that for some people saying "Oh Josh said this hilarious thing..." could be sort of construed as "Well plebes call him cortex but I know him as Josh, Mr. Millard if you're nasty" or something.

I think for mods it's pretty much assumed that people are going to use your real names. For other people, yeah we still try to enforce the "use usernames not real names unless you're 100% sure it's okay" policy since the profile pages are marked no-follow and the other pages aren't. Some people really don't want their real names and MeFi usernames linked and we try to respect that to the extent that we can.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:39 PM on February 20, 2008

Matt, et. al., thanks for the explanations. Good suggestions and observations all around.

Can I get my pony points back on this thread? I'd like to save them for a pegasus.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:14 PM on February 20, 2008

Man, some people are getting way too much MeFiMail.

Here's a solution: be less popular.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:30 PM on February 20, 2008

I don't know where the confusion is, ceeg, may I call you ceeg? Personally, I address pb as "Josh", cortex as "Jessamyn", Jessamyn as "Her Royal Highness", and Matt as "Sir Rumpety Pumpety". It's as plain as the rub on the fish in your pants.
posted by ooga_booga at 10:21 PM on February 20, 2008

Jessamyn is a beautiful name, why call her something else? Of course, I'm biased because I had never seen that name before and sounds kinda neat in my head (which probably means that I'm pronouncing it wrong).


Does any client even import .csv?
I realized afterwards that I said .csv because I've seen forum software that offer it as an option for backup but only because they accept .csv files for importing.
posted by Memo at 4:28 AM on February 21, 2008

Calling cortex and pb by their real names kinda weirds me out. I don't know why, exactly, but it just seems wrong. I've used 'Matt' and 'Jess' in the past, though that seems less strange; probably because I can see it as a shortening of their respective usernames. (Much the same way I might call stavrosthewonderchicken 'stav' or 'stavros').

But calling people by their real name when their nic is something completely different? It seems to assume a familiarity which I don't think I have earned yet.
posted by quin at 8:29 AM on February 21, 2008

Nope, you addressed them. Just adding my noise to the signal.
posted by quin at 9:11 AM on February 21, 2008

I'm curious how pb feels;

No big deal to me either way. A lot of people I know from the online world call me pb IRL, and I sign my emails as pb. My offline friends call me Paul. Here I'm careful to use usernames when addressing people since we're in this context. Someone reading might not know that pb is also Paul, so they could get thrown off when switching names up. I think sticking with usernames helps with clarity.

ahh I see on .csv, Memo. Yeah, I suppose mbox would be the way to go as Skorgu suggested. But since MeFi Mails aren't emails, I'm not sure how they'd import, exactly. (See? Usernames!)
posted by pb (staff) at 10:26 AM on February 21, 2008

Is having a "CC yourself" checkbox really a 'power user' feature? Really?

There are lots of trivial mail systems that have those things. Hell, when I sent an ecard – a freaking ecard – yesterday, it had such a box. Lots of 'send this article to a friend' systems do, too. It's pretty common/standard. If you have an email account, it's not really hard to figure out the concept. It's just a nice way of keeping track of everything you send.

Forwarding incoming messages to a regular email address (which I think is great and handy) strikes me as more of a complicated feature than an auto-CC-myself checkbox.

I don't really get that much MeFi mail so this whole discussion has minimal personal impact, but I just thought that it's really odd that people think of auto-CCing as being much more of a complex addon than auto-forwarding. It seems like a pretty simple thing to me.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2008

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