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The Internet

Yahoo broke mailing lists, oops

As many of you know, Dara and I host our own teeny Internet site, including Web and mail support. As part of this, we host several mailing lists, using MailMan as our mailing list system of choice.

This weekend one of our users on the LexFA list (that’s the mailing list for the Lexington Fantasy Association) reported a weird problem to me. He was subscribed to the list with a Yahoo email address, but not receiving email from the list. I logged into the list’s administration website, checked the member settings, and determined that he was indeed correctly subscribed to the list, and not set Nomail or blocked for too many bounces or anything of that nature. As far as the list was concerned, he should have been getting mail and wasn’t.

So, since software testing is in fact what I do for my day job, I immediately went, “Hey, I have a Yahoo account myself. Let’s see if I can reproduce this problem.”

I COULD. I was able to subscribe my Yahoo account to the list. I was able to post to it–which I confirmed by monitoring the list’s archives, where the message showed up. Likewise, Dara confirmed by monitoring our system logs that the message got to our server.

Where it fell over, however, was that message trying to get back to Yahoo so that my Inbox could actually see it.

And further investigation finally got me to this Computerworld article. The tl;dr version of this, in case you aren’t a techie, is that basically Yahoo instituted an anti-spam tactic that sounds good in theory: i.e., it’s trying to prevent spammers from sending mail that pretends to be from legitimate Yahoo users. Yahoo has a setting in place that basically now says “If you get a mail that claims to be from a Yahoo user, and it didn’t actually come from our servers, you should bounce it because it’s probably spam”.

The problem with this, though, is that it breaks mailing list behavior. Because what happens now is this:

  • Yahoo user sends a mail to a mailing list she’s on.
  • The mailing list goes “ah, I have a mail from a subscriber! I shall send it to all the other subscribers!”
  • Then the mail tries to come back to the Yahoo user. Except now Yahoo’s own servers see this mail come in, which is claiming to be from a Yahoo user. (Because it IS, because it’s the user’s own mail to her mailing list that she’s on.) BUT, Yahoo also sees that this mail didn’t come from Yahoo’s servers. (Which it didn’t, at least in our case, because our mailing list is not hosted with Yahoo.)
  • Yahoo’s servers go “MUST BE SPAM” and promptly ditch the mail before the user ever sees it.
  • End result: the user wonders where the hell her mail is, and whether something is broken about the list, or whether she got unsubscribed by mistake. When all this time, nothing is wrong with the list at all.

Yahoo, as per this Help link on and this link on the Yahoomail tumblr, is aware of the problem. However, their suggestion for how mailing lists should handle this is suboptimal–i.e., that we should set our mailing lists to have the list be the sending address. This would result in not being able to see who sends what messages.

So for now Dara and I are moving forward with an attempt to do a distribution upgrade on our mail server, for starters. If this is successful, this should let us upgrade our MailMan system to a version that’ll handle Yahoo’s more stringent settings.

In the meantime, though, if anyone reading this is trying to get mailing list mails at a Yahoo address and you’re having trouble with it, chances are good that this is why. You may need to consider getting your mail at an alternate address.

Apologies to folks directly impacted by this on our mailing lists–hopefully we can get a more recent version of MailMan running, and fix this problem! more as I know it!

ETA Dara and I were up till 1am last night trying to fix this, and now we do at least have a fix in place. We updated our MailMan install to the latest available version, 2.1.18-1, which has settings to talk to what Yahoo did and let mail come on through. However, THAT required Dara to do local tweaking of the source code so that we could actually have emails to the list still have identifiable senders, about which she is displeased. She posts about it here.

The Internet

One of the odder things to happen to me on the Internet in a while

I saw this post on Thought Catalog going around Facebook tonight, and decided I’d take a look at it–only to be whomperjawed at the first quote I saw in the list.

It’s attributed on that page to N.K. Jemisin, but actually, it’s mine. From this post of mine back in February, during the SFWA Petitiongate brouhaha. I got asked at the time by one of the commenters on that post if I could be quoted, and she in fact quoted me over here on Jim Hines’ last post on the matter.

Dara and I did a bit of searching and as near as we can tell, the point of confusion might be this list of quotes on Goodreads on political correctness. The quote appears there–attributed to both me AND to Ms. Jemisin, although she appears higher in the list than I do. So perhaps whoever entered that set of quotes on Goodreads mixed up their attributions.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a very healthy respect for a lot of the powerful things Jemisin has said about the politics involved with the SF/F genre online in the last couple of years, and I’m hoping to get into reading her actual novels. I know I don’t operate even remotely on the same level as a writer as she does. And in a funny way I’m kind of honored that my words are getting mistaken for hers.

But, y’know, they’re still my words. And a writer’s words are, after all, her entire reason for calling herself a writer in the first place.

The Internet

Facebook, this is NOT COOL

I’ve been seeing a great deal of brouahaha going around about the news that Facebook conducted a psychological experiment on users in 2012, manipulating their news feeds to see if showing them more negative content made them post more negative things, and likewise with more positive content.

I fall well and thoroughly on the side of THIS IS NOT COOL, FACEBOOK. Because while yes, we may have technically agreed to this with the Terms of Service we all clicked on to use the site to begin with, this is a step above that, and I feel it should have required serious informed consent for people who were selected to participate in this study.

If nothing else, I know way too many people who are dealing with a lot of hugely stressful situations in their lives, and in some cases, who are actively fighting depression. It is seriously, seriously not cool to put those people at risk by manipulating what news updates you show them, when they don’t need that kind of crap in their lives. None of us do, really.

Some of you may be saying “well yeah, duh, Facebook. What do you expect, they’re evil, we knew that already!” I grant you, this is the latest in a long line of NOT COOL things that the site has done, and I grant that continued use of the site puts you at risk for that kind of shit. I also freely admit that I get too much use out of Facebook to just bail on it on general principle. What then, can users do about this kind of thing?

For myself, I usually bypass any dickery Facebook wants to pull with my news feed (like the whole NO DAMMIT WHEN I SAY I WANT STUFF IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER I REALLY MEAN THAT thing that they seem to be willfully ignoring over and over and over) by putting all my top critical people into personal Lists, and checking those lists instead of the main feed. If you don’t know how to do that already, I recommend that as a workaround.

Also, I directly subscribe to pages I want to follow (for various bands and individual musicians) in an RSS reader. Which does still work, for the time being, and which is an argument for keeping an RSS reader around.

I don’t hit Facebook in any browser in which I haven’t installed an ad-blocking plugin. Because I have no interest in seeing any of the ads they’re likely to show me. And I also made a point of turning off auto-play on videos on my news feed, because SUPREMELY ANNOYING.

If a third-party site wants me to log in with my Facebook account, I will make a point of avoiding doing that, with a few specific exceptions. I don’t mind having Goodreads and Tumblr linked over to Facebook. Anything else I’m doing–especially anything I’m buying–again, Facebook doesn’t need to know.

Last but not least, I continue to be wary about what I put up on Facebook. Over and over, the site keeps asking me for things like “have you seen this movie?” or “have you read this book?” It wants to know where I live, what my phone number is, and all sorts of other things that, frankly, are none of Facebook’s business. I know that the site really just wants to know all this to data-mine me and figure out what ads to show me, but again, screw that. People who want to know what books I’ve read can follow me on Goodreads, which is the only place I need to be keeping track of that. Anything else about me, if I don’t post about it publicly, you probably don’t need to know. If you DO need to know, I will tell you.

So yeah. I’m not going to stop using the site–it’s too useful to me, and I talk to too many awesome people on it, particularly in Quebec music fandom. But I will use it with my eyes open, and I’ll continue to ask myself whether any given thing I post really needs to go up.

I encourage you all to do the same.

The Internet

Oh look, more snobbery about people reading the wrong things

While the SF/F genre’s been busy with yet another round of You Wimmens Are All Crazy, There’s No Sexism in Science Fiction, looks like Slate decided to put up an editorial rant about how adults who read YA should be ashamed of themselves. I’ve seen a unilateral reaction of “fuck you” directed at Slate, justifiably so.

I’m not going to link to the article because I’m not going to give it the click traffic; if you really want to read it, io9 does link to it in their excellent rebuttal.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–any form of “you’re reading the wrong things” snobbery is bullshit and it needs to stop. And in this particular case, people who roll their eyes and assume that YA novels are dumbed-down, simplistic crap just because they’re marketed to teenagers clearly has no actual working familiarity with the best that YA has to offer. It’s also dismissing the mastery that an author can bring to a story, in general. And while I’m not a regular reader of YA, I’m here to tell you: it’s rare that I’m compelled to plow through an entire trilogy as fast as I can cram the words into my head. But the Hunger Games books did that.

Also, two simple words: The Hobbit.

Sure, it’s not marketed as YA, but Tolkien absolutely intended children to be the primary audience for that story. And sure, it’s not nearly as complex and dark as The Lord of the Rings. But Tolkien lavished his love for the language all over that book, and turning up your nose at it just because “oh well, it’s intended for children, and I am a Mature Adult” means you miss out on a masterpiece.

Others have pointed out, too, that YA gets a lot of shit because of more than a little sexism, too. A lot of YA authors are female. A lot of YA readers are female. It’s not a coincidence that “YA is simplistic claptrap for children” goes hand in hand with “women write YA because they can’t write real science fiction”.

At the end of the day, though, it still all boils down to “Hey you, you over there, you are reading the WRONG THINGS, and now I’m going to appoint myself the arbiter of your reading choices”.

I’m tired beyond belief of this. Literature readers sneer at genre readers. Male authors sneer at female authors. Male readers sneer at female readers. SF/F sneers at romance–hell, everybody sneers at romance, and boy howdy am I sick of that in particular. Now we’ve got sneering at people for reading books because of a mistaken idea that “marketed for a young audience” equals “claptrap”.

The other two words I’ve got for that: “fuck you”.

About Me, Other People's Books, The Internet

A few things make a post

Some good reading on the Intarwebz today! First up, I bring you today’s Big Idea column over at the Whatever, where Mr. Scalzi brings word of Brad Meltzer’s new children’s books about Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln. Parents of small children, especially daughters, go check this out. Especially if you’re fans of Calvin and Hobbes. The art for the Amelia book looks adorable.


Meanwhile, Jim Hines has put up a good post today going over a writing advice question I hear time and again: i.e., whether you should try to write to the market. I said over there, and I’ll say here too, that even though “don’t try to write to the market” and “be aware of the market” seem contradictory on the surface, for me they’re actually kind of not. You want to be aware of what people who aren’t you are writing, so you aren’t writing in a complete and utter vacuum, and accidentally writing stuff that people lost interest in reading five or ten or even more years ago. Plus, you never know what awesome ideas you may have spark for your next book.


Fellow Carina fantasy author Shawna Thomas is talking up her work over at Eleri Stone’s place, and in particular about coming-of-age fantasy. Go give her a look, ’cause fantasy by Carina is love!


I’ve been following the news posts on for a while now, because hi, yeah, Tolkien geek, yo. But this post of theirs made me up and join their message forums for the express purpose of voicing my appreciation to their forums member who wrote some nice fanfic about Dís, the mother of the dwarves Kíli and Fíli, the only female dwarf Tolkien ever named. Looks like Cirashala’s getting her epic on with further fanfic about the character, too, based on what she’s saying in the thread that the news post links to. I approve!


And last but least, speaking of Tolkien, I’m posting about reading fantasy in other languages over on Here Be Magic today! I talk up the Trilingual Hobbit Reread, but also a couple of the novels I want to read out of Quebec SF/F as well, like the ones by Élodie Tirel I’ve been talking about, as well as Esther Rochon.

C’mon over and tell me about nifty non-Anglophone genre works English speakers should know about, won’t you?

The Internet

Link salad for Sunday

Here are a few links of interest that’ve come across my radar over the last few days. Posting them here, just to clean out some browser tabs, and to give y’all an idea of what I’ve been reading on the Interwebs!

On the topic of why the notion of “Mary Sue” is oftentimes sexist, a thing which has been bubbling around in my brain for a while now:

Mary Sue, what are you? or why the concept of Sue is sexist, from adventuresofcomicbookgirl on tumblr

An Introduction to Mary Sue and Her Critical Uses and Abuses (text) from author Kate Nepveu on her dreamwidth account

On the entitlement and sexism of one particular asshat’s posting of a picture while attending a school play:

“I’m Not Apologizing for Voicing My Opinion”: Entitlement Goes to a Middle School Play from Bitter Gertrude

And on Disney’s imminent shakeup of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, relevant to my interests as an owner of QUITE a few Star Wars novels, not to mention my stint on Star Wars MUSH:

Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded universe, on arstechnica

The Internet

On fanfic and how NOT to treat its authors

I’ve been seeing a good-sized explosion rolling around the Interwebs about this story, covering how a woman named Caitlin Moran put Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on the spot by making them read some saucy fanfic she’d pulled off the Net. Without, it goes without saying, the permission of the fanfic author in question.

And I’d just like to go on record as joining my voice to that of the author of the above link, expressing the many and varied ways in which that was SO TOTALLY NOT COOL. It makes me irritated on behalf of the actors and even more on behalf of the creator of the fic. It smacks of pointing and laughing, and of telling somebody that the art by which they’ve chosen to express themselves is worthy only of ridicule.

Certainly, I am fanfic-friendly. I’ve written quite a bit of it myself, both in actual fanfic form and in the form of the hundreds of roleplay logs I still have in my personal archive to this day. And as a writer, I’d be tickled to death if somebody decided to write fanfic either about the Warder universe OR the universe of Rebels of Adalonia.

But mostly, I’m a fan of not pointing and laughing at people. There’s way too much of that in the world. And not enough encouragement of people to make some goddamn art.

Here, have a link roundup of others discussing this:

Author Martha Wells posts about it on tumblr

Mary Robinette Kowal, as usual, is awesome

The author of the fic in question, from what I see on her tumblr, is also awesome

In closing, remember, kids, Wheaton’s Law applies here, just as in all walks of life.