[Mailman-Users] Automatic subscription based on e-mail subject

Richard Damon Richard at Damon-Family.org
Fri Feb 1 07:22:58 EST 2019

On 2/1/19 3:14 AM, R. Diez wrote:
> > [...]
>> I will ask you how much you are willing to talk to a person who
>> basically interrupts, says they aren't really interested in the general
>> conversation, so isn't really listening, but if you go out of your way
>> to answer in a special way they will hear you. (Which is one way to
>> describe what you are doing),
> I do not understand why you are misrepresenting my actions. This is
> the second time in this list, but I have noticed this pattern elsewhere.
> I am not interrupting anything. That is a silly thing to say in this
> context. A mailing list is not a conversation that can get
> interrupted. A mailing list revolves around "topics". That is why
> people sometimes ask to start a new thread if the subject changes.
> That is how you skip the things you are not interested in. You cannot
> follow everything.

Perhaps I'm being a bit over dramatic, but it does, in my mind, describe
what you seem to be doing, You come in and say that the list software
isn't working the way you would prefer, but for this conversation,
everyone else needs to change how they use the list so you can
participate, since you don't care enough for the list to receive email
from it for a few days to discuss the issue, or for you to the archives
to see replies. You basically said, if you don't do it the way *I*
asked, I won't see what you said, (implying that you don't care).

Note, In Mail Readers, topics DO matter and they can sort and organize
based on them, but then they keep all the messages organized in a way
that makes this fairly easy to do. Perhaps you don't realize that the
Mailman core DOESN'T keep a history of all messages posted, it passes
the message off to an archive that handle that job.

> Most mailing lists labelled as "users" explicitly state that users are
> welcome to ask questions. I have participated in many such mailing
> lists, mostly for a short time, because I am using a lot of
> open-source software. I have not (really) subscribed to any of them.
> But I am listening, at least to my subjects. I am participating in
> this matter.
> It is unrealistic to expect general users to subscribe to every
> mailing list and read many messages before they ask the one important
> question for them today. It is unrealistic to hope that this will help
> grow a community.
The expectation for a mailing list, is that someone with a question will
come and hopefully first browse through the archives (perhaps with a
search) to see if the question has already been answered, then if not,
subscribe to post the question, and read the list for replies, and when
the question is answered, they perhaps will unsubscribe. It is expected
that before posting someone will look at the list and see how it is
expected that a support question will be asked (some lists have a very
detailed list of information they want about your configuration if
asking about a problem, as that is what is needed to solve it). To just
barge in and do it 'their own way' is just being impolite.
> I am not asking for people to "go out of their way to answer in a
> special way". I am saying that Mailman should do it automatically. See
> below.
As I said before in my messagel it CAN'T. Mail doesn't work that way,
and it becomes impractical to try and track that.
> If you think users like me, who do not subscribe and read everything,
> interrupt and do not really contribute with their messages, your best
> defence is to make this mailing list private. However, if this were my
> open-source project, I would rather not build such communication
> barriers. This includes dropping terms like "spam" or "a person who
> basically interrupts" around them.
> Of course there is the concept of 'Topic' in a mailing list. Mailman,
> the web interface, or whatever, does know how to group topics
> together. That is an obvious feature, because people tend to
> work/participate in threads.
As I said above, the Archive, since it keeps all the messages, has the
concept of a topic, but NOT a concept of a subscriber (except perhaps
for authorization to see parts of the web interface). There is no way
for a person to see a selected set of topics. Note also that to keep
things manageable, it breaks things up into monthly chunks, to this
message won't be tied to other related messages from the previous month.
> It is true that Mailman cannot achieve 100 % reliability, because it
> is based on e-mail. Nobody would expect that, not even in web-only
> forums (notification e-mails can also get lost). But Mailman should at
> least try its best. It has the e-mail subject and some extra headers
> to help. That would be enough in most scenarios, like it is usually
> enough for the web archives. Filtering short prefixes like "Re:" has
> never been a great problem. And threads participated by humans do not
> last forever. My guess is, it would mostly work.

Try to implement it! One thing to note, Mailman 2 does not have a
relational database in its back end (as I understand it), but the user
database is kept in a 'flat file' listing. Tracking the data that would
be needed to see if a message is part of a topic that a given person is
interested in starts to get large (especially if you figure many people
will be using this feature, after all, if many aren't, then is it worth
it). As to filtering the Re, perhaps it isn't hard if you are only
dealing with strictly conforming mail programs, but having had to deal
with things like this, there are LOTS of system that don't quite follow
the rules and it gets complicated. For an archive, the 'cost' of making
a mistake is somewhat small, the messages gets separated but are still
there. In a topic subscription system, it is more important, as people
don't get messages that they should.

'Mostly work' is often a problem. Computers need precise procedures, and
people tend to expect that they do things right.

> Maybe some huge mailing list, like the Linux Kernel, would have to
> disable such a feature because of CPU or disk load. But most mailing
> lists could cope with that. Incidentally, on huge mailing lists, where
> no-one can read everything, people are more aware that you should
> address and/or copy the original poster, or they will not get the
> message.
> It is silly to ask people to setup their own e-mail filters for each
> subject they are interested in, like others suggested here. Computers
> are there to help users, and not the other way around.
> Other communication platforms, like Google Groups and
> https://forum.freifunk.net/ , have both an e-mail and a web interface.
> I rarely use those web interfaces, and they still do a pretty good job
> at keeping you in the loop for the topics you have participated in.

Note that these are fundamentally different types of systems. Web based
systems are a 'Pull' Technology. In general, the system is based on you
need to come to them to get information. Email lists are a 'Push'
technology, the information is sent to you as it happens. Yes, the pull
technologies may add a notification piece to let you know there is
information (but those notifications won't thread in your mail reader to
recreate the conversations) and the Push technologies have archives that
you can go to.

It's a bit like asking why the city bus can't come right when I need it,
or the taxi/ride share have a schedule so I can know when it will be
there and hop on without needing to make a call. Different platforms
work differently and have different strengths (and weaknesses).

> Unfortunately, I cannot contribute code to this project. It is not
> just lack of time (I have my own open-source projects), but I don't
> know Python yet.
> Regards,
>   rdiez

Richard Damon

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