NetBSD Developer Documentation: Information about the www mailing list

Responding to mail

Miscellaneous Notes

Responding to mail

What is involved in being a member of the www-rotation?

It involves covering one week every five or so. Tasks include

  • Answering user questions to and (to a lesser extent) , including directing users to an appropriate list, or forwarding information onto specific developers.
  • Entering news items.
  • Updating FAQs.
  • Minor htdocs fixes.

You can certainly get by with less than an hour a day, though everyone is always encouraged to add more faq/news/information to the site...

Who can reply to mail?

Mail to is handled by a team appointed for the purpose. Each member of the team is given one week in a rotation during which they have the primary responsibility for responding to the mail. To do this they need to be subscribed to the www mailing list. This list is not advertised on the public pages but you can subscribe by going to

While the team has the primary responsibility for handling the www email, others are free to help out if they see a message that they think they are better suited to answer but they should first clear it with the on-call person. The purpose of this rule is simply to make sure that conflicting information is not sent to the correspondent. If a message is outstanding for a while, its probably OK to answer (the person on call could be busy) but still pop them a quick note that you are going to be handling it.

Are there special requirements for the form of the replies?

While there is no rule about specific format, messages should be clear, polite and in good taste. In particular, do not denigrate other operating systems. Review your messages for spelling and grammar. Generally try to direct correspondents to specific web pages or point them to our mailing lists for followup questions.

Any other rules about the messages other than content?

Each message should be copied to and replies must be set to that address as well. This just makes sure that everyone on the team can review the messages not only to catch any mistakes that may be made but also to help others formulate similar answers when it is their turn in the rotation.

Also, try to respond to each message within approximately 24 hours (if possible). A quick response goes a long way to showing our users that we care about their feedback and is always appreciated.

I saw a mistake in a reply.

If you see that someone made a mistake in their reply, do not respond to the correspondent. Reply to the list explaining what you think should have been said and let the original responder correct himself or herself.

How do we know when we are on call?

Basically, there is a rotating "on call" shift. Each Tuesday morning a message is sent to the list describing who is coming on, who just came off and who's on next. The person coming on then responds to the list acknowledging that they are on. Any message from the time that ack hits the list to the same event the following week are the responsibility of that person. In order to clearly demark the changeover it is important to note that you are responsible from the time you see your acknowledgement come back, not from when you send it.

Do I answer all mail when I am on call?

No. Mail concerning the mail-index server index, projects database and hardware database are answered directly by Tim Rightnour so there is no need to respond to those.

Should I respond to mail on other lists?

All members of the team are encouraged to respond to mail on other NetBSD mailing lists, especially the help list, but while the on call person is particularly encouraged to make sure that questions don't go unanswered, it is not as formal as the www list. Since is given as a contact address to the public, we try to give the feeling of dealing with a single individual there but other lists are seen as general discussion lists.

In addition, the members of the www list are also responsible for answering . The instructions here mostly apply after substituting 'mirrors' for 'www' and there are further instructions here.

Are there any other tasks for the on call person?

The on call person should be taking primary responsibility for updating the site based on messages received on their shift. All team members should feel free to update the site where they see changes needed. The www list can be used to discuss any proposed changes if it is felt that discussion is necessary.

Where can I find the archives for this list?

This list is archived on in the directory /mail/archive/www. The current email is in .current. The rest in gzipped files. Be aware that these archives are not cleaned for spam so there is a lot of garbage in them.

How do I join the www rotation?

To add or remove yourself from the rotation simply modify the file htutils/scripts/rotate/list and commit your change. Just follow the format of the other entries in that file.

Miscellaneous Notes

Commonly used acronyms (rfv, l-o)

There are a couple of commonly used acronyms one will see on the www mailing list.

  • rfv: request for volunteers - The acronym rfv is used in the Subject: line of messages containing content that should be added to the NetBSD web site. They usually are FAQ and News items that should be touched up and committed to htdocs.
  • l-o: list-only - The acronym l-o is used in the Subject: line of three types of messages. The first is when the on-call person wants to ask a question to the www list, regarding a piece of www mail, before responding to the sender. The second is when a person who's not on call has something to say about a piece of external www mail. The third is when someone notices a mistake in a reply that's gone out. The acronym l-o:, prefixed to the original subject, helps to differentiate what messages have had a response to the sender and which haven't.

Dealing with "I/O error: Attempt to load network entity"

Every now and then, people trying to (re)build htdocs get errors like:

[xsltproc] layout.xml -> autolayout.xml
I/O error : Attempt to load network entity
warning: failed to load external entity ""
compilation error: file /src/NetBSD-current/htdocs/./share/xsl/autolayout.xsl line 9 element import
xsl:import : unable to load
*** Error code 5

The problem lies within the XML based toolchain which tries to load a number of "catalog" files, and fails as it cannot find some configuration file.

The cause for this may be that either the "catalog" files are messed up, or because the XML toolchain can't find its configuration file. A common cause for the latter is setting PKG_SYSCONFBASE conditionally on BSD_PKG_MK being defined in /etc/mk.conf—htdocs doesn't define the latter. The cleanest way to get it working is:

    # note the addition of BUILDING_HTDOCS here.
    .if defined(BSD_PKG_MK) || defined(BUILDING_HTDOCS)

Online manual pages

Manual pages can be referenced using an XML entity, for example: &; which results in cat(1). They are all defined at htdocs/share/xml/man-refs.ent. The manual pages are hosted online at // To add a new manual page, add it to the man-refs.ent file and also email Kimmo Suominen about the new page if it doesn't exist on that webserver.

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