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Date: Sun, 30 Dec 2012 02:31:58 +0400
From: Solar Designer <solar@...nwall.com>
To: john-users@...ts.openwall.com
Subject: Administrivia - quality of postings

Luis, John, Anthony, all -

I very much appreciate your use of this mailing list to help answer JtR
usage questions, which is naturally one of the purposes of the list.
Thank you!  That said, here are a few things you can do to improve the
quality and reduce the quantity of your postings:

1. One obvious thing you can do is properly quote messages that you
reply to.  Not only will this make your replies easier to read (as well
as make them shorter if you only quote _relevant_ portions of messages
that you reply to) - but it will also help avoid errors like this:

http://www.openwall.com/lists/john-users/2012/12/29/21

I think Luis' reply "Yup that looks about right" was actually referring
to a different posting - not the one Luis quoted (below the message).

Here are some guidelines on quoting:

http://www.complang.tuwien.ac.at/anton/mail-news-errors.html
http://www.netmeister.org/news/learn2quote.html

I understand that some MUAs and web mail interfaces may make inline
quoting difficult these days, so the above is currently a suggestion and
not an absolute requirement.

2. Before you hit Send, consider that your message will be sent to over
1000 list members (only a few of whom care about this particular topic)
and will stay in the list archive.  Messages like John's "Working on
it... Will report..." on something that takes only a few minutes to test:

http://www.openwall.com/lists/john-users/2012/12/29/13

and actually followed by a real reply 2 minutes later:

http://www.openwall.com/lists/john-users/2012/12/29/14

are better avoided.  We could have one message instead of two on this
occasion.

Keeping the other person aware of status would be helpful in a private
conversation - but less so on the mailing list, considering that each
message is also being sent to list members who don't participate in this
specific discussion thread.  So the threshold for when it makes sense to
post a "working on it" message should be higher - tens of minutes maybe.
I recognize that this is rarely known in advance, so a workable approach
may be to start to test a recommendation first, and only if this turns
out to be time-consuming (e.g., 15 minutes trying and no results worth
posting yet) then post a message about that (preferably include some
info on why the recommendation happened to be time-consuming to test -
then someone might suggest how to do it quicker).

To summarize, while e-mail usually arrives quickly and it may be
tempting to use the mailing list as if it were IRC, IM, or private
e-mail, it is different from those things.  One-line postings are rarely
a good idea.  If you're about to post a one-liner, think whether you'd
have more info to post shortly, and try to increase the value of your
individual postings and reduce their quantity.

This applies to what I call "thank-you only" postings, too.  If you feel
you'd like to thank someone who helped you (great!), consider including
some helpful content (for other list members) in the same posting.  John
did this really well here (thank you, John!) -

http://www.openwall.com/lists/john-users/2012/12/29/16

John's "Review of what worked" list from this posting may be helpful to
others reading the thread (including in archives of the list) and it
enabled me to give additional advice in a follow-up posting.  A mere
"Many, many thanks." one-liner would not achieve these things - yet too
often we see postings that don't contain anything but "thanks".

(As a moderator, I selectively reject these - but it does not feel good
either way.  If I accept a thanks-only posting, most list members are
essentially spammed by it.  If I reject it, the thanks does not reach
the intended recipient and additionally the list members do not know if
the proposed solution has worked or not.  Simply including more detail
in the posting addresses these concerns.)

3. We need to improve both the FAQ and John the Ripper itself as some
questions keep re-occurring, but regardless another thing john-users
list members may do before posting is searching the archives.

For example:

http://search.gmane.org/?query=%22partially+known%22&group=gmane.comp.security.openwall.john.user
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aopenwall.com+%22partially+known%22

(and you can customize the search query from there).

There's also:

http://openwall.info/wiki/john/mailing-list-excerpts

This is not to discourage posting about issues that were discussed
before (in fact, we need such repeated postings in order to be informed
of what's in demand), but rather to have new discussion threads based on
previous knowledge rather than started from scratch each time.  For
example, a perfect initial posting about customizing JtR for a specific
password pattern may include references to past postings on the subject
and be asking specific questions on how to customize JtR for the desired
pattern best, based on the options that had been discussed before.

4. I mentioned this many times before, and indeed this issue will keep
re-occurring, but just to make it slightly less frequent: when you're
about to post something on a new topic, please not only set the message
Subject accordingly, but also send your message to the list anew.  Do
not hit Reply on an unrelated posting just to save you the typing of the
list address.  Instead, copy-paste (or whatever) the list posting
address and send your new thread-starting message to there, without it
being any "reply".  Here's what happens when you hit Reply (even when
you have changed the Subject):

http://www.openwall.com/lists/john-users/2012/12/29/25
http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.comp.security.openwall.john.user/6030/focus=6037

Notice how Anthony's message and replies to it are part of another
thread (with the openwall.com archive, click thread-prev to see it).
Not a big deal this time - the other thread has calmed down, neither
thread is very long, and the threads are somewhat related - but it gets
worse in some other cases (lengthy and unrelated threads may get
inter-mixed in the archives, all because of one improper use of "reply"
instead of starting a thread).

None of the above is meant as criticism.  Once again, I appreciate your
use of this list.  I am merely making suggestions on how to use it better.

No replies to this message are expected (especially not one-liners!),
unless you have something to add or want to express disagreement with
some of my suggestions.

Sorry that this message is a bit long.

Thanks for reading, and have happy holidays!

Alexander

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