bug#46472: Make lisp/mail/uce.el obsolete

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bug#46472: Make lisp/mail/uce.el obsolete

Stefan Kangas
Severity: wishlist

While digging around, I have happened upon lisp/mail/uce.el.

Here is how it describes itself:

;; The code in this file provides a semi-automatic means of replying
;; to unsolicited commercial email (UCE) you might get.

It sends an email to the sender, as well as the abuse and postmaster
emails for the senders domain containing a fairly polite request to be
taken off any lists.  I think these days, it is pointless to reply to
spam, and no one is (or should be) doing it.  It only verifies to the
spammers that your email is valid, which is useful information to them
and will do nothing but ensure you stay on their list.

This seems like a relic from a more gentle and perhaps naive time of the
internet.  Nowadays, people should not waste their time on doing that,
but instead use a spam filter.

IOW, I think this library is useless these days.

So how about moving it to obsolete/?



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bug#46472: Make lisp/mail/uce.el obsolete

Eli Zaretskii
> From: Stefan Kangas <[hidden email]>
> Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2021 15:58:53 -0600
>
> ;; The code in this file provides a semi-automatic means of replying
> ;; to unsolicited commercial email (UCE) you might get.
>
> It sends an email to the sender, as well as the abuse and postmaster
> emails for the senders domain containing a fairly polite request to be
> taken off any lists.  I think these days, it is pointless to reply to
> spam, and no one is (or should be) doing it.  It only verifies to the
> spammers that your email is valid, which is useful information to them
> and will do nothing but ensure you stay on their list.
>
> This seems like a relic from a more gentle and perhaps naive time of the
> internet.  Nowadays, people should not waste their time on doing that,
> but instead use a spam filter.
>
> IOW, I think this library is useless these days.
>
> So how about moving it to obsolete/?

What are the reasons for moving uce.el to obsolete/ ?

What you say above was always true: replying to spam bears an inherent
risk.  This didn't change in any way, so how will we justify
obsoleting this package now?  I don't think our personal opinions on
which is or isn't useful practices are reasons good enough to make it
harder for others to use those practices if they so wish.  It isn't
our prerogative to tell others what to do or not to do in these
circumstances.

So my vote is against obsoleting this package, if the above reasoning
is the only grounds for that.



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bug#46472: Make lisp/mail/uce.el obsolete

Stefan Kangas
Eli Zaretskii <[hidden email]> writes:

> What you say above was always true: replying to spam bears an inherent
> risk.  This didn't change in any way, so how will we justify
> obsoleting this package now?

I think the methods for dealing with spam has developed quite a bit
since 1996, so I'm not quite sure I follow this argument.  The
justification is that no one should waste time replying to spam; they
should use a spam filter.

If you are looking for strictly technical reasons for obsoleting it, of
course they exist too: Anyone that wants to reply to an email using
pre-written drafts can do so using skeleton, tempo, abbrev, etc.  Those
are better tools that cover this use-case.

> I don't think our personal opinions on which is or isn't useful
> practices are reasons good enough to make it harder for others to use
> those practices if they so wish.

Whether or not replying to spam is good or bad is not really a matter of
personal opinion; it is objectively bad.  You can find any number of
security and privacy experts that could explain why:

- You will confirm your email address is valid, ensuring you get more
  spam.

- Sender address is probably fake.  (For example, you might unwittingly
  participate in flooding someones mailbox.  The abuse@domain and
  postmaster@domain is also unlikely to be able to act on your reply.)

- You open yourself up to various kinds of social engineering.

- You might leak information (e.g. on your email server and setup).

Encouraging this bad practice by shipping uce.el puts unknowing users at
risk, and promotes a bad method of dealing with spam.  We should instead
discourage this bad practice by moving it to obsolete/.

> It isn't our prerogative to tell others what to do or not to do in
> these circumstances.

Anyone would of course still free to continue doing whatever they want
(for example by making a copy of the obsolete libary for their own use).

But I think we should be equally free to (strongly) recommend against
bad practices.



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bug#46472: Make lisp/mail/uce.el obsolete

Stefan Monnier
In reply to this post by Eli Zaretskii
>> So how about moving it to obsolete/?

You have my vote.

> What are the reasons for moving uce.el to obsolete/ ?

I don't think it's useful to anyone.
Moving it to `obsolete` might let us discover that I'm wrong on this
point, of course ;-)


        Stefan




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bug#46472: Make lisp/mail/uce.el obsolete

Eli Zaretskii
> From: Stefan Monnier <[hidden email]>
> Cc: Stefan Kangas <[hidden email]>,  [hidden email]
> Date: Wed, 03 Mar 2021 16:22:16 -0500
>
> > What are the reasons for moving uce.el to obsolete/ ?
>
> I don't think it's useful to anyone.
> Moving it to `obsolete` might let us discover that I'm wrong on this
> point, of course ;-)

I'm against this method of "discovery", sorry.  This package doesn't
require any maintenance, so let's not invent any maintenance for it.
We have more important things to do with our time (I hope).



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bug#46472: Make lisp/mail/uce.el obsolete

Glenn Morris-3
In reply to this post by Stefan Kangas

Replying to spam is at best pointless, but most likely actively harmful.
Emacs having a package to help you reply to spam is at best pointless,
but most likely actively harmful.

This is one of the many things that makes Emacs look antiquated.
I find the refusal to even obsolete such things demotivating for working
on Emacs. So IMO the cost for keeping such things around is non-zero.



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bug#46472: Make lisp/mail/uce.el obsolete

Eli Zaretskii
> From: Glenn Morris <[hidden email]>
> Cc: Stefan Kangas <[hidden email]>,  [hidden email]
> Date: Thu, 04 Mar 2021 14:27:29 -0500
>
> Replying to spam is at best pointless, but most likely actively harmful.
> Emacs having a package to help you reply to spam is at best pointless,
> but most likely actively harmful.

Yes, Stefan already said that up-thread.  I don't see how our views on
what is and isn't appropriate response to spam should be mandatory for
the few users who may disagree.  This is free software, users are free
to do whatever they want with it.  Which is also something I already
said, so I don't see why do we need to reiterate the same arguments
without saying anything new.

> This is one of the many things that makes Emacs look antiquated.

Why "antiquated"?  Is there any other, more modern method we support
to respond to spam?

> I find the refusal to even obsolete such things demotivating for working
> on Emacs. So IMO the cost for keeping such things around is non-zero.

I sympathize with your feelings, but feelings aren't limited to one
side in a disagreement, and you are not the only one who finds this
and similar disputes demotivating.  Which is why I think we should try
to stay technical and not emotional.