Replying to email

Conversations can occur within a group, or because of a group. We have updated OnlineGroups.net to give you more control over how people reply to email, so you can better control the conversations in your groups.

When you reply to an email the message from a group the message can go to one of two places:

  1. To the group, or
  2. To the person that sent the original message.

Normally a reply is sent to the group, so the discussion occurs within the group: we call normal groups discussion groups for this reason. Most people are forbidden from posting to an announcement group, so for these replies are sent to the person that sent the message.

For large public groups people may be intimidated replying to the group, especially if they just want to send a note of thanks. Also some groups act as large announcement groups, where everyone can post to the group but little discussion happens within the group. Instead the discussion happens directly between group members.

The reply-to interface for a group.

The three reply-to settings for a group.

To handle these cases we have added the new Reply-to setting — found in the General properties page of your groups, linked from the Admin section of the group page. There are three options for setting the default behaviour of replies:

  • Group, where replies go to back to the group, where they are archived, and then sent on to all the group members (including the original author, and the author of the reply). This is the default behaviour of discussion groups.
  • Author, where the reply is just sent to the original author of the message that is being replied to. This is the default behaviour of announcement groups.
  • Both, where replies are sent to the group, and an extra email is sent to the original author. This is sometimes used when the administrator wants to make it very clear that the original author will get the reply. However, it is also confusing because they get two copies: one direct, and one from the group. Because of this we discourage the Both option.

People do occasionally ignore the To field when replying to a message. Because of this there will always be occasions where people are surprised by the Reply to behaviour of a group, and demand that the group change. Changing the behaviour will just cause people to be surprised differently, rather than fix any problems. We suggest you take any surprise as an opportunity for a teachable moment.

Reply-to technicalities

The Reply to setting changes the Reply-to email header. When you hit Reply to a message your email program copies the list of addresses from this header to the To field. You are free to edit the To field, so the Reply to setting for a group should be seen as encouragement, rather than a strict rule!

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