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Problems with Code in SERIALST Digests Birdie MacLennan 06 Aug 2009 20:41 UTC

Hi Everyone,
Some of you who receive SERIALST as a daily digest have written
recently to report problems with heavy coding and "formatting garbage"
that gets included in messages and makes the Digest mostly unreadable.

If you are affected by this problem, try changing your digest setting
your serialst subscription option to the mime or html setting.  Here's
how:  send a one line message to:
Leave the subject line blank.
Your one line message should say:  set serialst html digest

If you don't like the html digest setting, try the command:
                                    set serialst mime digest

If you want to abandon the digest, try the command:
                                    set serialst mail
(the problem does not exist when you receive individual messages as
they are posted)

If you want to signoff or unsubscribe from SERIALST, send the command:
                                     signoff serialst

You can also manage your subscription from the subscriber's corner
link on the web site:
(to manage your subn on the web site, you need to set up a login
account with a userid and pw)

Finally, if you have problems updating your subscription options
because the server doesn't recognize you because of an address change
since you signed on, feel free to send a message to the address:, and one of the moderators will try to

     Why Does the Default Digest Contain so Much Code?

The problem started occuring sometime in June.  Essentially, that is
when we lifted a long-standing ban on posting messages with HTML
formatting to SERIALST.   This was at the request of a subscriber who
was having problems posting messages to SERIALST due to special
character formatting codes in the messages which neither of us could
figure out how to strip.   This inspired a testing period during which
the HTML filters were lifted.  We found that allowing messages with
HTML code works fine for individual messages and web archives.
However, it also wreaks havoc with the default digest setting in
LISTSERV, which doesn't support anything besides plain text ... and,
unfortunately, doesn't know how to convert coded messages to plain
text.  It reminded me that this was one of the reasons that we didn't
accept messages with special formatting codes for so many years -- it
messes up the default Digests!

I consulted with the SERIALST Moderator Group, and there was general
consensus that we should continue to allow HTML formatting for
individual messages and web archives -- but also advise subscribers
with the Digest setting of the problem and potential work-arounds.
That was preferred over filtering out the messages with code, in order
to preserve the plain text digest formatting.
I also ran a report on SERIALST subscriber settings found that, in a
list of 3265 subscribers, 442 are set to digest, or about 12% of
subscribers.  Many of the digest subscribers are still set to the
default (plain text), so I assume you are receiving digests with the
nasty code displays; many of you are also set to HTML or MIME digest
settings -- one of these settings often solves the problem.  Some of
you may opt for the generic mail setting, to receive individual
messages that look normal.  Some of you may wish to unsubscribe, too,
and that is fine.

Remember that SERIALST's web archives are freely available:
If you set a bookmark there and click on the "Date" in the top column,
you can search the archives or browse the latest monthly messages by
ascending or descending sort order, etc.

Sorry for the long message.
I hope this helps clarify some of the issues and problems for those of
you who may have been wondering.  If you have questions or comments,
feel free to email me directly.

As always, thanks to the Moderators Group for your advice and support:
Ann Ercelawn, Vanderbilt University; Stephen Clark, College of William
& Mary; and Bob Persing, University of Pennsylvania; and Marcia Tuttle
(occasional consultant).

Thanks, too, to you, many subscribers and contributors who keep
SERIALST alive and busy -- and who bring your concerns to our attention.

Kind regards,

    Birdie MacLennan
    Bailey/Howe Library            E-mail:
    University of Vermont           AIM/IM:   birdieatbailey
    538 Main Street                  Phone:   802-656-2016
    Burlington, VT  05405, USA         Fax:   802-656-4038
  Library Professor / Director, Resource Description and Analysis
                SERIALST Listowner & Moderator