I personally think the Special Notice is fine where it is, because in the eyes of the user (not us) it is a delivery method, forget filters for a minute: I want to get the only the Special Notices, instead of individual or digest messages. (or nothing at all). I'd personally leave the structure as it is now, it's easier this way as you'll see.
But first, >>> If people WANT followed threads AND special notices, they should have that option.
I strongly advice against that; the reason a special notice exists is because it is a special message that should be delivered to all* members because it is (more than likely) something group-related that is very important and has to do with the group's well-being in some capacity. (or at least that's the main intention, one can use it for other stuff as well)
(*we're excluding No Email users currently, albeit IMO Special Notices should also be delivered to No Email users regardless as currently we have no way of reaching everyone in the group with a single special notice mailing if Nomail is enabled; to me from an admin POV N it really should mean "No [regular group chat] Email", but that's another story)
If you were to allow filtering/following of special notices, you'd create extra unnecessary work for the admin, because after a special notice mailing, they would then have to go to the Member list, and manually email the Special Notice FollowingOnly users who did not get that special notice due to their FO setting, not fun work since there are no filtering/sorting on those options in the Member List... (the exact same extra work you have to do now to reach No Email users (if enabled)
>>>theoretically, in a group with “disable no email” set, members could get around this using Special Notices plus Following Only and then simply not following any special notices. Logically, that should result in “no email.”
>>> I've tested this and special notices still get delivered. There is no way not to get special notices that I can find when No Email is disabled.
The special notice & nomail settings are not subject to the FollowingOnly filters, it says so in the light blue Advanced Prefs blurb: "Note: The preferences below do not apply if you select either Special Notices Only or No Email in the Email Delivery panel above."
The underlying issue as noted is that, if someone has Special/Nomail as their delivery, the screen still allows them to expand the panel and monkey with the AdvancedPrefs settings; so at the very least, I would either disable & grey-out the AdvPrefs options when Special/Nomail is selected, or possibly disable the AdvPrefs panel expansion (keeping it closed) and maybe change the caption to "Advanced Preferences (not applicable for selected delivery method)", make it out of sight out of mind. Maybe also move the AdvPrefs panel right below Delivery and possibly also add some text after the Special/Nomail settings, maybe "(See Note Below)" or "(Non-customizable)" or something.
This would be quick and easy to do, very little code change/work, preserves user screen/feature/familiarity experience, and removes the (screen) visible sources of possible misunderstanding, hence immediate problem solved. (& modify the docs if needed as well)
But I also see the bigger picture you folks are presenting, and I do agree that the Subscription page can use improvements, not just in this area. So I created a sample screen and added there your how & what panel-combi suggestion (but I kept the existing structure as is to save on unnecessary work), and while at it, (possibly to Mark's chagrin! :), I added a few more suggestions of my own since he would be working there anyway; thankfully, with the exception of (optionally) remembering the panel expansion state, the rest are cosmetic or one liners.
See attached, explained further below:
- If not going to combine the Delivery & AdvPrefs panels, at least move the AdvPrefs panel below Delivery since they are related, and (optionally) have it remember its closed/expanded state.
- Better yet as suggested, combine the Delivery and AdvPrefs panels, leaving it as "Email Delivery" or change to "Email Delivery Preferences", and delineate it in 3 subsections. (delivery, filters, max attachment size)
- Possibly go down one pt in the light-blue blurb text so it can tightened and sized down, so it presents a smaller visual "break" between the delivery and filter subsections. Maybe changing it to light-grey background could also help tone it down some, I don't know.
- Headline those subsections; no criticism intended for anyone but we could stand using more english-like captions in certain user screens, for example in the Delivery section add a headliner like "How would you like to receive group messages?" above the options; precise and to the point, and everyone understands exactly what it means and does, with the context of the provided options below it.
- Similarly, change the existing "Message Selection:" headliner to a user-friendly "Which group messages would you like to receive?" (or "Customize which group messages you [want to] receive:")
- Maybe change "All Messages" to "All Messages, or"; it gives that subsection more of a smooth reading flow based on how visually vertically-close the two options are currently; or alternatively leave text as is and add a bit more space between the ALL and FO options.
- Remove the "Replies:" caption, IMO it is not necessary if also "Auto Follow Replies" is changed to "Auto Follow Topics I Start or Reply To". (of course one who likes to argue could say that there is some benefit to FollowOnly users of certain types of groups if this would be split into those two options but I'll shut up and not push my luck)
- Rearrange slightly the Max Attachment caption and dropbox, so the caption now becomes that subsection's headliner.
- Either hide (collapse) the entire Following subsection (and move MaxAttach & resize panel) if Special/Nomail is selected and re-expand if any of the other options is selected; or alternatively leave onscreen but set to All+clear rest+grey out, if Special/Nomail is selected, that would actually reflect what the Note blurb says. (not applicable hence All Messages)
- Finally possibly also tighten-up the Signature panel, there's some white space that's not needed really, and also the textbox could be a bit less high, the whole Sig panel takes more real estate that it should IMO. Or leave it as is but make it collapsible, and possibly have it remember its closed/expanded state, with the initial default of closed.
I think the end result makes for a cleaner and more streamlined flow & use screen, and also answers the side-effect concern, there's no effect whatsoever in the other multi-group list area Delivery selection menu.