Many people subscribed to the TidBITS mailing list wrote us last week to inform us (or complain) that two copies of TidBITS-295 had appeared in their mailbox. "Did you hit that Send button twice or something?" and "Stop that!" were common refrains. Well, there’s no single button that sends TidBITS out the door, so we couldn’t press it twice even if we wanted to. But it’s clear from the reaction that some comments are in order.
First, the problem last week was caused by a misconfigured machine at Pennsylvania State University, but it could have been anywhere. The TidBITS list is configured to reject unauthorized attempts to distribute material, but every now and again this is going to happen – it’s a fact of life in the online world. The TidBITS list has been remarkably free of accidents like this over the last few years, and subscribers can take some satisfaction in knowing the list successfully rejects several "spamming" attempts per week (including the usual chain letters, advertisements, and inappropriate materials).
Second, isolated subscribers will occasionally receive multiple copies of an issue. In all cases so far – including the one that occurred last week – there’s nothing we’ve been able to do about it. The most common cause of receiving duplicate copies is a problem with a subscriber’s Internet provider or a machine between your mailbox and the LISTSERV at Rice University. Our best (and only) recommendation in this situation is to contact your system administrator to see if they can identify or fix the problem.
Third, if you think there’s a problem with the TidBITS mailing list and want to tell us about it, don’t. We maintain several test subscriptions to TidBITS and are aware of any problems just as soon as everyone else. Writing us only contributes to a flood of essentially identical messages, and until we get a proverbial "staff of thousands," it takes us time and resources to deal with that flood. We appreciate the concern, but we do keep an eye on things. Really.