Strathspey List FAQ

What is the Strathspey Mailing List?

The Strathspey mailing list is a forum for the discussion of all aspects of Scottish country dancing, e.g., dance descriptions, dancing technique, the history of dances and dancing, learning or teaching how to dance, …

We also welcome descriptions of new dances, announcements of events like workshops or balls, or anything to do with Scottish dancing that the subscribers might find interesting.

The mailing list is unmoderated, i.e., everything that is submitted is forwarded directly to the subscribers of the list.

Please refrain from posting chain letters, “virus” warnings, commercial advertisements that have nothing to do with Scottish country dancing, and other non-topical material, important though they may seem.

(See here for the full informational brochure.)

How do I subscribe to/unsubscribe from the Strathspey mailing list?

Subscription and unsubscription requests are handled by an automated mechanism, which is explained more fully here.

How do I change how the mailing list works for me?

You can change various aspects of the list by sending specially formatted e-mail messages to a special address; see the list’s “help posting”, which you can obtain by sending a message (any message) to, for details.

There are so many messages, what can I do?

At times there can be rather a lot of traffic on the Strathspey list, and your other e-mail can all but disappear in the deluge (depending on how much you get otherwise). There are basically two approaches you can take to handle this:

  • The sophisticated thing to do is to obtain a mail program that can pre-sort your mail into different “in trays” (these days, most of the popular ones seem to be able to do this). That way, you can divert all the Strathspey mail off to one side to read it at leisure. It depends on the computer system you’re using whether such a “filter” is available - please contact your local guru.

  • The other possibility is to subscribe to the “digest” mailing list, see the question below dealing with this for details.

Can we have a tag like “[STRATHSPEY]” in every message’s “Subject:” line?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Tags like these clutter up the subject lines for everybody, and with the type of stupid mail program popular nowadays, messages will accumulate tags until they look like “Re: [STRATHSPEY] Re: Re: [STRATHSPEY] Foobar”. Please learn how to set up your e-mail program to put all the Strathspey mail into a separate folder; you can use the

List-Id: <>

header which is part of every Strathspey message to recognise Strathspey mail. The feature in question is often called a “filter”.

(If your e-mail program can’t do it, look around for a more up-to-date one – chances are that the one you’re using is so antediluvian that you are missing out on many other convenient features, too. There are very good e-mail programs available for little or no money on all significant computing platforms today.)

So what is this digest mailing list?

The “digest” mailing list collects a number of individual Strathspey messages into a “digest”, which is sent out approximately once every day, or two days, in one single big e-mail message. This is convenient if you don’t want your mailbox cluttered by lots of messages from Strathspey.

The digest seems like a good idea at first glance and is moderately popular with Strathspey subscribers, but it has several serious drawbacks. Possibly the most serious one is that it is more difficult to reply to individual messages in a digest (although your e-mail software may help there). You will have to take special care to remove those messages that you’re not replying to (please DON’T just stick “I agree!” at the top of a message that then quotes the complete digest). Also, taking part in a discussion in this way breaks the archive. Another disadvantage, of course, is that you’ll be getting most messages somewhat later than the subscribers to the “regular” list. If it was up to me (Anselm) I would stop providing the digest because of these issues – the basic reasoning being that the inconvenience the digest causes to both digest and regular subscribers (not to mention the person in charge of the list) does not justify the (moderate) convenience of the digest subscribers –, but I don’t want the hassle of antagonising those people who have been using it for 20 years.

So if you feel the digest may be good for you, please think again. It is much better to use the suggestion in the previous answer to direct Strathspey mail to a separate folder in your mail program – this will make writing replies a great deal easier and is also less likely to mess up the archive. I would really like to see all digest subscribers figure this out so I could get rid of the digest, but then again I would also really like to see lasting peace in the Middle East, which is an event that is much more likely to occur within my lifetime.

If you still want to receive Strathspey as a digest, check the “help” message provided to you by the mail system when you subscribed. (You did hang on to that one, didn’t you? If you didn’t, send a message to for another copy.)

I’m going away for two weeks and don’t want all those messages. What can I do?

If you don’t want to receive messages from Strathspey for a while - e.g., because you’re away on business or on holiday - the simplest thing to do is to set your subscription to “nomail” using the method shown in the “help posting” mentioned earlier. You can also unsubscribe by e-mail using the process outlined above and read up on what you missed later using the Strathspey Archive.

Incidentally, if you’re away without unsubscribing from the list and want to leave an “answering machine” program on your e-mail account that tells everybody when you’re going to be back etc., please be sure that it won’t try to send its canned reply to the Strathspey list for every Strathspey message it receives (or any mailing list, for that matter) - amazingly enough there are mail servers sold for good money which are stupid enough to try and do this! The list software is reasonably good at filtering these absence notices out, but it is still somewhat of a nuisance. In the worst case, it can lead to infinite e-mail loops (but fortunately this hasn’t happened yet on Strathspey).

How come my messages don’t seem to be distributed for hours or days on end?

If you send a message to the list for distribution you should have a copy back very quickly (minutes, if things are very slow). If you don’t get a copy until hours or even days later, even though you have received other mail in the meantime, chances are that your message had to be “moderated”.

The list is set up to refuse messages from addresses it can’t find in its subscriber database. (This helps keep the list clean from unsolicited non-SCD advertising, among other things.) Such messages are sent to me (the list owner) for “approval”, meaning I check whether they are bona-fide Strathspey submissions and, if so, tell the list software to post them after all. However, even subtle differences in your “From:” address as compared to the one you used when you subscribed to the list (like “” vs. “” or “”) can cause your submissions to be delayed for approval.

You can check what the list thinks your address is by looking at the “Return-Path” header that your mail program should make available to you (possibly with some prodding). This looks something like “” and means that this is a Strathspey message that the list sent to “”. So your outgoing messages should have “From:” for you to be able to post to the list with no delays.

(NB. Moderation for non-subscriber mail isn’t functional right now, and the messages in question will simply be discarded. Try to submit stuff from a subscribed e-mail address for the time being. Thank you for your kind cooperation.)

How can I find out who else is on the Strathspey list?

Unfortunately, you can’t – other than by reading people’s submissions and browsing the archive. For one, I don’t even have names for all the subscribers myself – some of the addresses in the distribution database don’t give a clue, and others are just aliases for local distribution lists, where people want to save network bandwidth by getting just one copy of each message from our server and sub-distributing that to a number of local users.

Another important reason is that the names and addresses of the Strathspey readership could be considered privileged information under German data privacy laws. If I were to give out lists of names and addresses, I would at least need to give people an opportunity to object to being included on such a list. Since the mailing list software doesn’t offer such a facility (yet), I would have to maintain the user list manually, and I simply don’t have the time for that.

Are postings to the Strathspey mailing list archived anywhere?

Yes - there is a section on the Strathspey Server which offers an archive of all postings to Strathspey (all but a few from the very beginning, that is).

The archive lets you browse through the various threads, look at the contributions of specific authors, and locate messages that contain specific words or phrases or that have been posted at a particular date or range of dates.

What should my messages look like?

Most subscribers prefer Strathspey messages to consist of pure (ASCII) text. Some e-mail programs are set up to send messages in HTML format, or as both HTML and ASCII. HTML-only postings will be refused, and messages containing both HTML and ASCII parts will have the HTML part stripped before they are sent out to subscribers.

The list is set up to refuse messages of more than 32 kilobytes in length. 32 kilobytes is about 15 pages of single-spaced typed text, so that shouldn’t really cramp your style. Usually such messages arise when you try to send an attachment in a word-processing format such as that of Microsoft Word - but in general you shouldn’t do that, since the list does not distribute such attachments anyway. Consider that not every list subscriber does have a copy of Word around (I, for one, don’t), and that the same content can normally be expressed much more succinctly in an ASCII message. If you do want people to look at your beautiful flyer, then by all means put it on the World-Wide Web, although chances are it won’t look just the way you wanted it on any computer except your own …

How come my e-mail address gets mangled when I send messages to Strathspey?

(This answer applies to AOL and Yahoo! subscribers). AOL and Yahoo! have seen fit to configure their systems such that messages from people with an “” or “” address will only be accepted (by AOL and Yahoo!) if they come from an actual AOL or Yahoo! mail server. This means that if the Strathspey mail server redistributes them unchanged to list subscribers on behalf of their original senders, those subscribers who are on AOL or Yahoo! won’t receive them, and may even be kicked off the list entirely if too many of them occur so they trigger the “this address seems to be unreachable” check.

This is unacceptable (not that AOL or Yahoo! would care), and there isn’t a lot I can do. One solution – and, according to various pundits, the most preferable one – is to kick all AOL and Yahoo! subscribers off the list and ask them to come back when they have found an ISP that understands how e-mail works and doesn’t deliberately break mailing lists. I don’t really want to do this because (a) rather a lot of Strathspey subscribers use AOL and Yahoo!, and (b) the technicalities behind this are such that people don’t tend to care as long as they get most of their other e-mail. Another solution is to tweak the e-mail addresses of AOL- and Yahoo!-based senders on outgoing copies of their messages such that AOL and Yahoo! no longer think that the messages in question purport to be from AOL or Yahoo!. This is what the list does now. The downside is that it is more difficult to reply to the senders of such messages directly, but there is little to be done about this.

Three notes before I finish, for those who are interested in a bit of background:

  • “AOL and Yahoo!” in this explanation is shorthand for “all ISPs who subscribe to an idea called “DMARC in ’enforcing’ mode”. So far (November 2014) AOL and Yahoo! are the only two big ISPs that have done this, but others may yet fall for the same kind of folly.

  • The original motivation behind DMARC was to try to cut down on “phishing”, where some scumbag sends you a message that looks like it was from your bank, and asks you to enter your banking ID and password into a form on some iffy website (that looks like your bank’s) right now. The idea was that banks, outfits like Facebook which send out loads of notifications by e-mail, as well as outfits which offer commercial mass mailing (to legitimate customers) as a service would enable ”DMARC in enforcing mode”, which is a way of (a) specially marking outgoing messages in a way that only the legitimate owner of a domain like “” can do (in the business we call this a “digital signature”), and (b) refusing to accept messages that purport to be from “” but are not specially marked as per (a). This is a great idea in general and works well if it is limited to domains which are used for mass mailing and nothing else, but it really sucks for domains which are used for general e-mail usage (including subscribing to mailing lists), like “” or “”.

  • The apparent reason why AOL and Yahoo! have decided to use DMARC in enforcing mode for their bread-and-butter domains is that both have had embarrassing trouble with security breaches in early 2014, to the point where huge numbers of users’ account details (including e-mail address books) fell into the hands of spammers who were then in a good position to send out legitimate-looking messages to people that seemed to be from their friends on AOL and Yahoo!. DMARC in enforcing mode at least tries to protect AOL and Yahoo! subscribers from that sort of thing, but it is rather like trying to cure one’s headache by cutting one’s head off.