[FoRK] my dream mailing list software

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Sat Jul 21 11:39:06 PDT 2007

On the topic of "should exist" -wrt- mail-related software, here's  
something I've been toying with for a while...

For years it's been clear to me that many users --- particularly  
business users --- "live in their mailbox."  This is enormously  
frustrating to me as a file system advocate, but it's the simple  
truth:  many users primarily use their mail application as their  
filing system of choice.  Doing so gives many of the benefits of e.g.  
Lifestreams:  you get a chronologically-ordered and indexed /  
searchable history of interaction.  With the advent of smart  
folders / views, this becomes a much more useful filing tool /  
metaphor than the typical filesystem, at the expense of CLI  
interaction and stream processing.

Over the last few years I've dabbled with this myself, moving my  
planning workflow into a (GTD-like, tagged) set of smart mailboxes,  
Subject: tagging conventions, etc.  It's far from perfect;  real  
support for tagging, more complex queries and smart folders in e.g.  
Mail.app, and more flexible automation would be a huge win.  Also, in  
keeping with "live on the laptop" --- I've moved all my mail storage  
onto the laptop, and simply use POP rather than IMAP, with all the  
pros and cons implied by that.

Here's what I'd like to see:  An IMAP + fetchmail "proxy" server that  
has the following features:

   * a web-based interface for defining "smart" mailboxes as complex  
queries over stored mail
   * gateways for fetching mail (and mail-like stuff) from other  
places via POP, IMAP, RSS*, etc.
   * support for tagging / tag-persistent header lines
   * a decent Webmail UI
   * deep automation hooks (including Bayesian auto-tagging, etc.)
   * local SMTP outbound support w/ gatewaying for posting to blogs,  
etc.
   * the ability to sync the user's store with other instances of  
this server running elsewhere

I'd run this locally on the laptop, and perhaps on a public server as  
well --- basically a federation of personal messaging hubs, sync'd  
appropriately.

Abe Fettig's Hep "multiprotocol message server" is sort of a first- 
order approximation of the core idea, but needs support for tagging,  
automation, and better smart folder / view support.  Cf. http:// 
www.fettig.net/projects/hep/ for more info.

Exporting everything as e.g. a 9P filesystem would be a huge bonus,  
as it would allow deep scripting and CLI interaction.

Just some thoughts...

jb



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