When people join active community projects their inbox will suddenly grow in size. People have a finite amount of time and if it is not possible to manage the volume of mail effectively they will soon leave the community. It is therefore important to ensure that your project has a set guidelines and useful personal email productivity tips.

Project Guidelines

Forums or Mailing Lists?

Some people prefer mailing lists, some people prefer forums. The trick is to provide a solution that satisfies both users. That is, have a mailing list with a good online interface for reading and posting or use a forum that also allows full interaction via an email client, that is allows full reading and replying to posts via email.

Avoid online forums that do not allow users to receive an email with notifications of new posts. Furthermore, avoid forums that send notifications with a link back to the online site rather than containing the content of the post. It is inconvenient for those with an email preference to have to download mail, open mail and then click a link in order to read a post. this is especially true in large and active communities where each reader will typically follow some topics in detail and only skim others.

Clear Identification

Ensure emails sent from your list/forum can be clearly identified by the email client as having come from your list. Most good email list/forum software applications will add a header to emails sent thorough it that allow filters to be set up for sorting email as it arrives. The importance of this will be discussed in the section on filtering in the "Personal EMail Productivity Tips" section below.

Some people also like to have an identifier in the subject line, such as a "[LISTNAME]" type prefix.

Archive Mailing Lists

FIXME: project memory stuff

Clearly State Archive Policy

FIXME: draw from ASF archive policy

Provide tips for effective EMail contributions

FIXME: draw from ASF email top tips


Google Groups Yahoo Groups GMane - an online archival tool with a forum like interface ASF public archive policy ASF Email contributions tips

Personal Email Productivity Tips

Reading Email

Here's the way I work. I used to do this with thunderbird but GMail + GTD Inbox rocks (yes I know, privacy and data lock-in are serious issues, if anyeone knows of a great online, open source, GTD email client I'd love to switch). Most of the searches etc. are already set up for you using those tools.

Then in each mail session:


FIXME: tips on automatically filtering mail as it arrives


FIXME: tips on automatically tagging mail as it arrives (link to GTD TimeManagement stuff)

Sending Email

FIXMEL draw from Netiquette

Understand how to write good emails

FIXME: draw from jakarta mail guidelines

Ask Questions the Smart Way

FIXME: summarise Ask Questions the Smart Way


OSSWatchWiki: EmailManagement (last edited 2013-04-15 13:56:25 by localhost)

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OSS Watch is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and is situated within the Research Technologies Service (RTS) of the University of Oxford.