Tags and the BMW Mailing Lists

Introduction

Many changes have occurred since the original veterans on the BMW Mailing List shared information about BMWs with fellow scientists and engineers that had the common bond of BMW ownership and fanaticism. The Internet has changed a great deal since the late 1980s when only those communities knew how to harness the great potential of the Internet.

Fast forward to 1999. In addition to countless model-specific BMW mailing lists, there are now two major Internet mailing lists to serve the needs of the international (English-speaking) BMW community. Each of these lists has their positive and negative aspects, so it has become a matter of personal choice which list one subscribes to (or both, if one has a large enough mailbox).

These lists are as follows, and can be accessed directly by clicking on either of these links:

On both lists, contributors are constantly looking for ways to improve the situation in the wake of a tremendous increase in the number of email messages these lists generate. Sadly, some of our most thoughtful contributors have unsubscribed over the years due to the difficulty in dealing with this increase. For all readers, it requires a tremendous effort to sort through the raw data in the digests that enters our mailboxes daily. And if we dare let a week or two of messages arrive without reading them, we return to find our mailboxes flooded.

As I said, there are already some very well run model-specific lists on the Internet, and these should supplement the general BMW Mailing Lists, not replace them. Therefore, we should continue to bring together contributors from all points of reference. At the same time, rather than discourage participation on the list, we should make it the responsibility of the end-users to decide what each of us chooses to read. Let users filter out the messages they don't want to see based on their own criteria.

The Undigestifier

In an effort to improve the situation, John Firestone wrote an program, called an undigestifier, to separate large digests into their individually composed messages. This has helped tremendously. In addition to splitting up the digests (which now can be done automatically on the BMW UUC Digest), each user of the undigestifier tool can filter out messages based on the sender's e-mail address or undesired subjects. You can click here to download a copy for your Unix mail system. I know of no other similar program for PC or MAC mail programs at this time. Sorry.

What can individuals do?

There are a number of voluntary steps each contributor can do to help make their posts to the list more effective. And not surprisingly, most of these are common sense and apply to every mailing list you subscribe to:

• Read the FAQ that is listed with every digest you receive.
• Read the FAQ that is listed with every digest you receive before you post!!
• Use description subject lines - this is very important. Just because your mail program doesn't force you to put in a subject doesn't mean you shouldn't use it. Other than your name, the subject field is very important because it the first method used to identify your posting. A subject of "help needed" will be passed over by 90% of subscribers, whereas a subject of "<E30> Warning: Control Arm Failure Discovered" will inspire most readers to take notice. Since the goal is for as many other subscribers to see and read your message, the effort you put in to this step is paramount.
• When replying to a message, do your best to catch up on the digests and make sure that the question has not been answered satisfactorily already. "Me, too" posts are useless and only cause you to be labeled as self-centered.
• Decide whether you should reply to the individual (if it already is a Frequently Asked Question) or to the entire list. Ask yourself: "does my reply help the general BMW community, or am I writing this to massage my ego and hear myself speak?"
• When replying, quote only the relevant portion of the original note and please take out the blank lines and headers. Use a well-established quotation character (like the ">" at the beginning of each quoted line). Again, ask yourself: "does the community benefit from me quoting this information or will they view me as lazy and self-centered for quoting pages of useless irrelevant nonsense?"
• If you are asking a question, be sure to include relevant information such as the production year and month of your car, mileage, repair and accident history, and any other clues that might help us diagnose your problem. If you appear to put in a sincere effort to describe the problem you are having, you will be thoroughly impressed at how willing subscribers are to help you. If you don't, and expect the readership to be clairvoyant, you will likely receive many negative responses.
• Post no more than 80 characters per line. Most mail programs can handle 80 characters just fine. But for the general list-reading population, using colors doesn't help. Being lazy will only serve to cause your fellow subscribers to ignore your message, which doesn't help you at all.

Why Tags

Chances are, if you're doing all that, this is a tremendous help, and it will surely be appreciated by your fellow subscribers. But some of us want to further categorize e-mail into folders based on the subject, and use mail programs that make this easier.

Everyone wins when tags are used often and consistently. If you have a question, it will be seen more quickly by the very people you want help from. It will help those of us who answer questions, since we're looking at the notes we can answer first. It makes sense - if I'm an E28 expert, and I read the notes that have the tag <E28> on them first, I'll be able to offer a quick response to your question.

Here's an example of what subjects in a digest might look like:

Subject: <E28> Brake accumulator lasted only 30k miles
Subject: RE: <E30 M3> Cracked subframe discovered
Subject: RE: <E28> Best aftermarket Katalyzator
Subject: <OT> Using Kleen Wheels with my Airplane ABS

Conclusions

These tags defined above are not finalized - hopefully, they never will be. These are currently a recommendation based on the collective discussion of some contributors to the BMW Mailing Lists. They were selected based on two main factors: ease of recognition and volume of e-mail. I did not create any tags for motors, for example, since few people know of the motor by number. As well, I didn't always use the E-numbers, because in the case of the 6er, 7er, and 8er, these are not nearly as widely known. If you have any suggestions, corrections, or comments, send me e-mail.