tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

E-mail filtering of mailing lists

I'm on a few mailing lists, with the Brighton New Media (BNM) List having by far the most posts per day (getting about 2,500 posts a month.) Being that it's for web bods like myself, there are some tools for searching and getting other info out of the archive, mainly being put together by Tristan Roddis.

Tristan has a script compile statistics for each month on who is posting the most (e.g. January 2004.) I was thinking of tying this, or more likely a home-brew version of the same thing, in to an e-mail filter which would send messages from the top 3-5 posters of the previous month direct to the Trash folder.

This is not to say that the people who post the most have nothing interesting to say, but I've noticed over several months that generally the top posters do post a very large amount of rubbish, and it could well out-weigh anything interesting they might have to post. I'm including myself in this as I have been in this top rank of posters in the past.

The inspiration for this sort of filter comes from a few months ago, when two members of the BNM list were arguing a lot on the list, and consistently both would be top of the posting statistics. Really, nothing they were arguing about was interesting to me and I could have filtered all posts from both, but then one of the parties started arguing with someone else, whereas the other poster calmed down and started posting both less, and more useful messages. Therefore, the idea behind a dynamic filter would be to catch the people who are posting a very high amount, and likely have a low signal to noise level in their posts, but to start allowing them through again when their behaviour has improved / they've got less free time and post less to the list.

This wouldn't stop me reading posts from someone who constantly posts drivel at relatively low frequency. For them, I'd still need to set up a particular rule to filter their posts, but that's easy and there are very, very few people who it's worth doing that to anyway.

This type of filtering is quite brutal and therefore useful, interesting posts would be missed. However, I have noticed on popular mailing lists generally if someone I've filtered posts something interesting someone else replies and leaves in enough information for me to see the original message, or at least know whether I ought to dig around in the Trash folder and find it. Therefore, most useful information will be visible, if not in it's original form.

Hmm, perhaps a beta test with me setting the rules manually for a few months is called for.
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