The holding pen

The holding pen is where Alaveteli puts any incoming responses that can't be matched to a request automatically.

Alaveteli works by emailing requests to the correct target authority. That email message is sent from a unique email address — that is, an email address that is associated with that single request (technically, Alaveteli hashes the request ID to generate a unique address and uses this as the Reply-to: address).

So whenever an authority replies (by email) to a request that Alaveteli has sent, that response will be addressed to that request’s unique email address. The email is received by your installation’s MTA, and is passed on to Alaveteli. In this way, incoming messages are easily matched with the request they are responses to — this is important because your site displays the responses underneath their original request, on the request’s page.

Normally, this works fine. But sometimes things go wrong, and a message comes in that can’t be matched with a request. When this happens, Alaveteli puts the message in the holding pen .

Messages wait in the holding pen until an administrator redelivers them to the correct request, or else deletes them.

Why messages end up in the holding pen

There are several reasons why a message might end up in the holding pen:

  • the authority “broke” the reply-to email
    This can happen if the authority replies “by hand” to the incoming email — for example if the person at the authority accidentally loses the first letter of the email address when they copy-and-paste it. Or if they copy it manually and simply get it wrong.

  • there’s something unusual about the way it was sent
    For example, if it was delivered here because the address is in the Bcc: field, and is not the To: address.

  • a partial email address may have been guessed
    Someone guesses an email address which Alaveteli doesn’t recognise. Perhaps they have misunderstood how the addresses are formed, or maybe it’s a deliberate attempt to send spam.

  • the response is to a request that has been deleted
    If you delete a request, Alaveteli cannot deliver responses to it.

  • the response has been rejected and rejections are set to go to the holding pen
    Incoming mail that is correctly addressed but not accepted for the request goes into the holding pen if the request’s handle_rejected_responses behaviour is set to holding_pen (rather than bouncing the email back to the sender, or simply deleting it). Responses may be rejected for various reasons — for example, if a response is sent from an unrecognised email address for a request whose Allow new responses from setting is authority_only. See instructions on how to manage requests for details.

What to do: redeliver or delete

You need to be an administrator to modify the holding pen.

There are two things you can do to a message in the holding pen:

  • find the right request, and redeliver the message
    Alaveteli tries to guess the right request to help you, so sometimes you can just accept its suggestion.

  • delete the message
    If the message is not a response, you can delete it.

For instructions, see removing a message from the holding pen.

If the To: address does not belong to a valid request and the message is clearly spam you can add that email address to Alaveteli’s spam address list. Subsequent messages to that address will be automatically rejected — for instructions see rejecting spam that arrives in the holding pen.