[FoRK] my dream mailing list software

Luis Villa <luis at tieguy.org> on Mon Jul 16 18:51:36 PDT 2007

Inspired by Yet Another FoRK thread I care not a whit about...

When are we going to get mailing list software that is smarter than
your average rock? Something that does something other than 'pass all
messages to all members.'

Take this current ongoing thread.

I know I don't care at all about completely endless debates about
consciousness. Why can't I click a link in the footer that says 'don't
send me anything more in this thread'? Why can't the other people who
still care click a '+1, we've actually solved the problem' link,
sending me back into the thread when the thread moves above my
pre-defined personal interest threshold, or when some other algorithm
determines that it has moved beyond 'two person shouting match' and
back into 'actual conversation'?

There are many details to be worked out, of course. Do you default to
sending mail until people scream, or do you default to sending only
the first mail in a thread unless someone says 'hrm, I'm interested'?
if the collective or the algorithm decides the thread has become
interesting again, do I now get the whole thread regurgitated, or just
whatever has happened since it became interesting again?

This mostly seems so obvious to me (both as a problem and as a
solution) that I'm sort of surprised no one has hacked it into mailman
or similar software. Has it already been done, and I'm just missing
it? Is the problem just not that severe? Is the solution missing
something?

[Note that I don't want the filtering smarts on the client; not only
does it make any sort of collaborative filtering practically
impossible, it means that only experts get the benefit of the
filtering. Since one of the goals of good mailing list software should
be to lower the barrier to entry to participation, putting that smarts
client-side is dumb. I also don't think web-based is an answer (though
it could be part of one), again mainly because people are used to push
through the mail client, and a dynamic mailing list conversation is
valuable. I might accept 'I already filter on the client' as an answer
to why the problem is not that severe for elites and hence there is no
interest in a solution, though.]

Luis (wond'ring aloud...)

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