1993-03-03 - META: prefixes for easy filtering

Header Data

From: root@rmsdell.ftl.fl.us (Yanek Martinson)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: ad8e63b2975eb14dd2b37fc5f60c697423127134c0072c21cbe5b6586a74fb15
Message ID: <m0nTiSl-0001y6C@rmsdell.ftl.fl.us>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-03 01:52:18 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 2 Mar 93 17:52:18 PST

Raw message

From: root@rmsdell.ftl.fl.us (Yanek Martinson)
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 93 17:52:18 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: META: prefixes for easy filtering
Message-ID: <m0nTiSl-0001y6C@rmsdell.ftl.fl.us>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

> is problem: break the current list into topic areas.

A similar situation occurred a while ago on the Extropians list.  Many
people were complaining about excess volume, people were
unsubscribing, and there was talk of splitting the list into many
sublists.  There are some problems with sublists.  Many people would
subscribe to all the lists, or many of them.  List management chores
((un)subscriptions, bounces, address changes, etc) would increase.
Many messages would get "cross-posted" to several or all lists, and
thus would appear many times in everyone's mail box, thus even
increasing the number of messages to sift through.  There are other
problems, which I will not mention now.

I proposed a simple solution which is in use now, and has greatly
increased the quality of the list, makes it easy for everyone to only
read the messages they want, and does not require deployment of any
new software.  The actual volume has not decreased, probably it even
increased.  But the information flow is so much more manageable.

The solution is the use of prefixes in Subject: lines.  When you post,
prefix your Subject: line with a short "tag" such as "ANON:",
"DCNET:", "PGP:", "DCASH:", or others.  For example, you would see
subjects like

PGP: new version available
ANON: an new idea for anonymous replies

etcetera.  When reading your mail, just have your mailer sort the mail
by Subject: line (if your mailer can't do that, get a new mailer), and
all messages about PGP will come together, all messages about
anonymous remailers will be in one area, etc.  Then it's easy to
delete them all without reading, to save them to a file for future
reference, or to read them if that is a topic you are interested in.

The beauty of this system is it's anarchistic nature.  There is no
need for people to maintain an official list of prefixes, or to vote
on new ones (as is done with newsgroups), or to ask someone to create
one (as would be necessary for mailing sublists).  There's no need for
the group as a whole to agree on anything.  Just start using them.
Try to find a logical prefix for each message that matches its subject

Most likely people posting on the same topic will choose same or similar
prefix.  After some initial fluctuation, different prefixes for the same
topic will converge to one that will become customary for that topic.

New prefixes will pop up every once in a while, and the ones not used
will fade from the group memory.  This is a flexible, dynamic system.

As a starting point I will make up a prefix for each of the sublists 
you proposed (if you don't like my prefix, use a different one!):

   ANON:    anon/pseudo_cpunks   Anoymity/Pseudonymity
   REMAIL:  remailers_cpunks     Remailer Technology
   DCNET:   dining_cpunks        DC Nets
   RANDOM:  random-cpunks        Random Generators
   DCASH:   digimoney_cpunks     Digital Banking
   PGP:     pgp_cpunks           PGP App/Current Info 
   FLAME:-) ziplips_cpunks       Crypto-Censorship
   WHISTLE: fweee_cpunks         Whistleblowers (The "Keith Peterson Area"?)
   MEET:    physmtgs_cpunks      Physical Meetings/Conferences  

Here are some more:  META: discussions on the list about the list
itself, such as this post, or the post I am replying to which suggested
splitting the list.  Complaints about high volume, messages saying something
does or does not belong on the list, etc, would use this prefix.

ANNOUNCE: important messages that everyone may be interested in.

FRIV: for jokes, parodies, other frivolous posts.

If a post fits in more than one subject area, the main prefix should
be put first, for sorting purposes.  The other prefix(es) would follow,
separated by slashes.  For example "PGP/ANNOUNCE: new version available"
or "RANDOM/FRIV: why not just flip coins?".  This is in no way mandatory,
it's just a convention that developed on Extropians, and it may be
advantageous to use it, to ease further processing.

Some other ideas:

You can use procmail, elm filter, slocal, or any other mail processing
tool to handle messages with different prefixes.

For example if you are a very busy person, or are reading your mail
over a low-speed link, you may want to save all REMAIL/ANNOUNCE
messages in a "remailers" file, delete all FRIV, META, and FLAME
messages, and for each other prefix, save the message to an
appropriate folder for reading later.

If you were not interested in discussion, but wanted to keep up 
on what's going on, you would have the filter delete all the messages
from the mailin list that do not have an ANNOUNCE: prefix.

Or, if you have enough time and/or are using a high-speed connection,
you may just sort all the messages by Subject: thereby lumping all the 
messages on a subject together.  Then you can decide which you are going
to read first, which ones you want to delete, etc.

If this idea takes off, and most people will start using prefixes, further
evolution of the concept is possible.  For example a group of extropians
are developing some software on the list host machine that will let people
customise their subscription, for example choosing not to receive messages
with a certain prefix, not to receive messages that don't have a prefix,
or choosing to receive only some selected prefixes, plus any new prefixes
that come to use.

All this is sometime in the future.  Right now, let's start by just
prefixing each subject line with an appropriate prefix.

Yanek Martinson