[Mailman-Developers] Dates again

Steven Kuck scrib at afn.org
Thu Dec 23 19:28:21 CET 2004

I've been off for a bit, but...

>> On Sat, Nov 20, 2004 at 10:42:24AM +0100, Brad Knowles wrote:
>>>     If there were a way to effectively detect when a "Date:" header
>>> was wrong and when it was okay, then I might be willing to allow the
>>> system to correct the "Date:" header in those particular cases.  If
>>> you've got a patch or additional code that can do that, I'd like to
>>> see it, although I can't promise it would be accepted by the Mailman
>>> developers for inclusion in an upcoming version.
As I've said, I don't speak Python.  I submitted the hack I created, and 
while it was rightly criticized for it's lack of subtlety, no one 
pointed out that those changes would have unintended consequences that 
would break the software.  THAT was of great comfort.  It has -intended- 
consequences that you might not like, but I've been running with it for 
more than a month now and what had been a regular issue with mis-dated 
messages is GONE.  Completely.  There has not been a single complaint, 
or even a mention, that the dates were changed out from under the 
author.  The date is important, but I don't know any author who 
considers it part of their composition.

My hope was that other people more fluent in Python might pick up the 
gauntlet.  For me, the hack works and it's simple enough to re-hack once 
in a while for a new version release.  There have been a couple 
proposals for the algorithm - nothing from the future, messages can't 
come from before a message they reference...  While I could probably 
learn to do a Python future date compare in a few minutes, I don't know 
how to look up the date of a referenced message.

I would also be happy with an option to bounce messages from the future 
or from too far in the past, but again, I don't know enough Python.  
Even if I did I wouldn't want to redo that code for a new release.  The 
beauty of the simple hack is that it is SIMPLE.  An elegant solution 
should be part of a release.  I can help pseudo-code an algorithm, but 
implementation and testing in Python is not in the cards right now.

Ian Eiloart wrote:

> Why would anyone want to sort a list by date? The date of a posting 
> isn't really relevant except:
> 1. So that we can understand the currency of the information. For 
> example, I don't want to be reading 1998 postings if I'm looking for 
> information on the latest version of - say - Apache. For that it 
> doesn't matter much that a date might be a few hours out.

This is exactly my main problem - message currency.  For my users, if 
email is more than two weeks old, it might as well be ancient history.  
Threads of discussion (while important) are less important than "what's 
new today."  I'm a data pack-rat, so I like the archives, but my users 
will only glance at them rarely to verify claims.  Old newspapers can be 
used to line birdcages, old emails are less useful.

A new message with an old date can be important AND disregarded.  That's 
the biggest danger I face.  In general, my users:
1.  Sort their inbox by date (even if their mail client CAN sort by 
order received).
2.  Don't read all of the messages that come through, only the ones with 
subjects relevant to them.
3.  Don't keep their inboxes (or the destination folders) very clean.

So what happens?  They (and sometimes I) don't notice that the "New 
Message" counter went up by 20 today, but there are only 19 displaying 
for today.  Important messages can slip through the cracks.  I'm not 
using MailMan to write a FAQ or host a conversation thread, but to keep 
users up to date on NEWS.  If the message gets buried for a few days 
until someone cleans their inbox (if they do it that often) the message 
may as well not have been sent.

> 2. Location in a conversational thread..... [deleted]
> I think that development focus should be on displaying threads 
> properly, not on "fixing" dates that the system can't possibly know 
> are right or wrong.

Obviously, we have different priorities.  My users aren't "looking for" 
the latest info on anything, they are sending out notices of the latest 
info to the rest of the list.  This is the latest price on XYZ corp 
stock!  Act on it now.  What was it yesterday?  Who cares.  (No, we're 
not doing financials - it's just an exaggerated example I think people 
will grok.)

Terri Oda wrote:

> [snip several good reasons]
> 3. Helping users sort the email in their inboxes.  This can be 
> important to some people, since I know when we had one user posting 
> from 1980, many other list members weren't noticing her posts because 
> their mail clients put those messages where the date: header said they 
> should be.

Yep.  See?

> That said, I think this is something that is better handled by mail 
> clients and the original senders, not Mailman.   But in the past, I've 
> been asked for this feature for this reason, so I imagine other people 
> want it for similar reasons.
>  Terri

Well, thanks a lot, Terri  :)

Unfortunately for me, I'm volunteering for an organization that is 
state-wide but county-based.  Florida has 67 counties, and every one has 
their own operation.  I cannot even TRY to THINK about enforcing some 
kind of standard on all those independent (and often volunteer) groups.

Dear So and So, Please fix your clock.
"I don't know how."
What OS are you using on your computer?
"Dell, I think."

-> Implement Hack <-
That's why I chose to come to this forum, where I'm the ignorant rube 
hoping to be educated on how to fix my problem.  My problem is the 3 
item "general user" description above.  If ANYONE can tell me how to fix 
them, that would be great (but my omnipotency isn't working right now).  
Alternately, if enough people have similar problems with similar users, 
maybe a solution can be found.

Steven Kuck - scrib at afn.org

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