"Reply To"

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
Somebody here understand the pros and cons of the email "reply to" field?

A club I am associated with (U3A) has set up a management system on-line database, which is capable of sending out group emails to members registered email addresses, while the email addresses themselves remain private on the system (amongst other handy things like membership fees etc etc). I could use this facility for one of my club responsibilities, so far I have used a dedicated Gmail account for it.

The trouble is that, so far, emails that have originated from the system have a "black hole" (pun not intended) source address, and no "reply to" field so that replies would default to the black hole destination unless the recipient edits an appropriate destination address into the "to" field before clicking "send". Emails have a line of text in them saying "when replying, please send to xxxx", but that's not a very user-friendly way of going about things and relies of the user getting it right (and many of that age group are only just coping with computer technology as it is).

It could be that the administrators don't know about "reply to", and need educating. If there were a reply to option when authoring an outgoing email (which a number of people can do with sufficient permissions), the replies (if any are expected) could be routed to the right place automatically. Am I right?

On the other hand, it could be that "reply to" is deprecated or maybe frowned on because of being a spam indicator.

My local U3A did not create the database system in the first place, some appropriately knowledgeable people elsewhere within U3A came up with it and developed it, and it is gradually propagating through the U3As as more get to hear about it and apply to use it (replacing tedious and error-prone manual record keeping). As far as I can make out it is all one huge database, with permissions sectioning it off for the various individual U3As. If the developers have not thought of "reply to", we will have to feed this back to them. On the other hand our local administrators may have simply missed a trick.
 

af123

Administrator
Staff member
If there were a reply to option when authoring an outgoing email (which a number of people can do with sufficient permissions), the replies (if any are expected) could be routed to the right place automatically. Am I right?

It depends on the MUA (email client). Most will either automatically use value of the Reply-To header when composing a reply or offer the option to the user via a dialogue or similar
Automatic replies will usually not honour the Reply-To header, but that depends on the recipient's email server.

On the other hand, it could be that "reply to" is deprecated or maybe frowned on because of being a spam indicator.
No, it is not deprecated and I doubt it would be a spam indicator.
 

Trev

The Dumb One
You can change the reply to address in gmail.
'Settings' > 'Accounts and Import' tab > 'Send mail as' > Edit.
Any use to you? I haven't actually tried it myself, but it looks like it might be what you want.
Should you not be addressing them in the BCC field so that all recipients don't get the email addresses of all the others?

Or don't I understand the problem?
 
OP
Black Hole

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
Or don't I understand the problem?
No, I don't think you do. Yes, I use BCC (as long as I don't forget!) for the distribution list using the existing system with the Gmail account.

The problem is that with this new U3A database system, emails can be sent to all members or various selected groups from the database system itself, but as far as I can see no reply-to system has been implemented so any replies will go into the database email server (black hole) and not where they ought to go. That's not very useful. I'm trying to gauge whether it is something that I should raise with the developers via the admins.
 

Trev

The Dumb One
You're right. I didn't. That does seem a bit of a shortcoming in the database mailing system if you can't add a reply to address.
 

af123

Administrator
Staff member
but as far as I can see no reply-to system has been implemented so any replies will go into the database email server (black hole)
It's possible it captures automated replies in order to automatically manage email addresses which no longer exist or aren't working.
That wouldn't conflict with the Reply-To: header though were there a facility to add one.
 

EEPhil

Number 28
...so any replies will go into the database email server (black hole) and not where they ought to go. That's not very useful. I'm trying to gauge whether it is something that I should raise with the developers via the admins.
It seems to be standard practice for distribution lists to have a "black hole" as a reply address. For example the IET sends out mail with "Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response" tagged on the end. This is probably by design to stop automatically generated replies clogging up the sender's inbox. "Emails have a line of text in them saying 'when replying, please send to xxxx'" may not be user friendly, but it is common.
I have a gmx.co.uk email account and two aliases (via IET, and the university alumni body). I've used the university alias as the reply-to field, but it is often ignored - possibly filtered by the university (Could be filtered on the way to colleagues still employed at the university, or by the aliasing system). It is possible that the admins/developers are aware of reply-to and the shortcomings.
 
OP
Black Hole

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
If that's the case, and the lack of reply-to isn't just an oversight, the system is only suitable for broadcasting bulletins and is inconvenient for anything which should elicit a response.

Thanks all.
 
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