Guidance points for COIN Mailing Lists

The Mailing Lists that are provided by COIN (Christians on the Internet) are regarded by their members as rather more than simple “chat lists”. Subscribers feel that they are a part of a community and, like all communities, the lists have established their own standards of behaviour.

This document attempts to give guidance on those standards so that members have a framework within which they can engage with the COIN community. It may look more formidable than it actually is but most of it is simple common sense and courtesy. In practice it is very rare to have to refer to ‘the rules’ on the list, and you are unlikely to feel that your contributions are being ‘regulated’.

1. The COIN Open mailing Lists

These Guidelines refer in particular to the main “Open” lists that are hosted by COIN though other private or restricted lists may also wish to adopt them. The open lists are:


2. Purpose of the lists

The COIN-hosted lists are intended for discussion of Christian issues, or the Christian perspective on secular issues, as they apply to the British Isles. They are open to people of any (or no) denomination. Those outside the British Isles are welcome to contribute to the lists, but are asked to bear in mind the specific purpose of each list when posting.

The following should NOT be posted to any list:

  1. Questions best raised on other COIN lists. Each list has its own specific focus and these should be respected. See the COIN website ( for details of the available lists, since new ones are added from time to time.
  2. Issues that are mainly relevant to countries outside the British Isles.
  3. Virus warnings, since the overwhelming majority are hoaxes. Information about which warnings are real and which are hoaxes can be obtained from various sources, such as It is acceptable to report receiving a virus attached to a list message.
  4. Copies of messages received from others, or from other email lists, unless you have the express permission of the author to do so. In virtually all cases the copyright of these messages remains with the author, so see also 2f below. You may (in fact you are requested to do so, see 3e below) quote messages posted on the list, and all contributors to a list are assumed to have implicitly given permission for quoting in this way back to that list.
  5. Copies of material available on the Internet. If you want to alert other users to something available on the Internet, please post a brief message about it and include the web address.
  6. Material that is still in copyright, except for short extracts. Under no circumstances should more than 400 words be quoted. An author and reference should always be given for material that is not your own, or at least an admission that you can’t remember where the quote comes from!
  7. Attachments of any type. Please make sure your emails are sent in plain text.
  8. Messages including other addresses in the header field, as this is a breach of the privacy of the people whose addresses are included.
  9. Advertising, unless the express permission of the Exec has been sought; ‘spam’; and anything illegal or libellous.

3. Courtesy

Users of the list are asked to show at least as much courtesy to others in their list messages as they would face to face; and to show at least as much courtesy to others as they expect to receive. However, bearing in mind the irregular verb ‘I speak plainly, you are brusque, he or she is downright rude,’ the following guidelines should be observed on the list regardless of your own views...:

  1. Anonymity. Because the COIN lists form the basis of an on-line community, the use of aliases is strongly discouraged. Those who have good reason for joining a list under a pseudonym should discuss this in confidence with the list administrators if it is not otherwise clear to the membership that they are doing so.
  2. No description of other denominations or perspectives within Christianity should be used if it is likely to be offensive to those described. If someone objects to a description you use, please apologise and do not use it again.
  3. Whilst vigorous debate on issues is encouraged, it should not be conducted at a level which would result in raised voices if you were face to face. Debate should also never descend to the level of personal attack.
  4. These are open lists, and many people read them without contributing. It is best not to say anything on any list that you would not want your minister, congregation or local newspaper to see.
  5. Just as you should not post messages from other sources on the COIN lists, please do not reproduce material from these lists elsewhere (either in electronic or print form) without the permission of the original poster. This not only shows a lack of courtesy, it may also breach the original writer’s copyright. The only exception is where something is CLEARLY intended for free distribution, such as a press release.

4. Frequency and length of posting

Different people have different ideas about how many messages it is acceptable to get from a list such as this. Experience has shown that the busier COIN lists are more often seen as having too high a volume than too low a volume, and that this can result in people leaving the list. To minimise this problem please:

  1. Don’t feel you have to reply to every post! Reply only to those where you have something specific to say, that doesn’t repeat a point you have made in a reply to someone else.
    There is no fixed limit to the number of posts per week, and the Exec does not want to impose one. Equally, however, it is discourteous if a few people dominate a discussion by the sheer volume of their postings. It is therefore suggested that if you REGULARLY post more than 20 messages a week to a list you consider carefully whether that is appropriate.
  2. Consider whether your message is of general interest, or only of interest to the original poster. If the latter, reply personally and not to the list. Always check your message headers to ensure that a message that is intended to be private is not sent to the whole list.
  3. Before pressing ‘send’, check that the message subject still accurately represents the content. If not, change it. This helps people to skip subjects they are not interested in.
  4. Please read all the messages in a thread before replying, since someone may already have satisfactorily answered a query.
  5. When replying, DO please backquote - preferably using angle brackets at the beginning of each line quoted,
    > like this.
    However, please do NOT quote the WHOLE of the original message unless it is short, and it is necessary to do so for clarity.
  6. In general, please try to be as concise as possible. Long messages are unlikely to be read in full by most people, unless warranted by the depth of argument contained within them. Conversely, messages that are excessively truncated and full of abbreviations are likely to be inaccessible to many readers.

5. Warnings and lockouts

Usually the postings from officers such as the Chair or Secretary of COIN have no greater importance than those of anyone else. On the rare occasions that such messages are posted referring to behaviour on the list, and signed off as ‘speaking as COIN Chair/ Secretary / List Administrator/ etc’, please pay particular attention to what they say. They will normally be highlighted in the message title as ‘Official – all please read’. Similarly if you are emailed by one of the officers of COIN in an ‘official’ capacity in relation to the list, please take what they say very seriously.

In extreme circumstances, the Executive of COIN reserves the right to impose a temporary or permanent exclusion from posting to the list. Normally this will follow warnings and the agreement of the Executive, but conceivably an immediate lockout might have to be imposed in which case the Officers have authority from the Executive to take that action without further consultation.

The Executive of COIN point out that this is an extremely rare occurrence and wish it to remain so.