[MlMt] Utterly baffled by Mailing Lists

Bill Cole mmlist-20120120 at billmail.scconsult.com
Sun Mar 28 17:15:47 EDT 2021

On 26 Mar 2021, at 5:28, Paul Atlan wrote:

> I’m trying to sort my mailing lists into something halfway 
> manageable and readable.
> If I use the “out of the box” Mailing List mailbox, with the 
> following settings:
> Sort for unique values of List-id > description
> And name mailboxes as:
> ${list-id.description:${subject.blob:?${subject.blob:/capitalize}:${list-id.identifier.final-level}}}
> I get a baffling array of names such as:
>  * 420a598457b46e0aa26a7a673mc list
>  * 15marches.substack.com
>  * 245.44880.info.alternatives-economiques.fr
>  * 245.44922.info.alternatives-economiques.fr
> It seems some people use the list-id to name their lists, others an 
> identifier, others yet a url ….
> And basically, whatever item I choose to sort by, or rename by, I’m 
> never going to get a proper list of names.
> I’ve tried to rename some of the lists, which would work except … 
> some list managers seem to change list-id’s every few mails, so I 
> have mailing lists spread over many separate mailboxes …

Yes, this is a problem. It's not so bad for discussion lists like this 
one that use mature list managers designed for discussion lists and 
generally following both standards and traditions. (e.g. GNU MailMan, 
EzMLM, majordomo, etc.) but it is a mess for the the horde of bespoke 
tools used by "email marketing" firms, a few score different WordPress 
plugins, and random bits of desktop software. You cannot count on any 
organizational strategy using solely generalized principles doing the 
whole job for the whole universe of mail from sources that are called 
"mailing lists."

You need at least some special casing...

> I’ve started building rules to identify and tag each and every 
> newsletter, but this is brittle (the ux being what it is, it’s 
> difficult to have rules with more than 4 or 5 conditions, so I’ve 
> spread out the newsletters over multiple rules), any new newsletter 
> needs to go through a process….

That's the best one can do. Blame senders.

> I can’t imagine, with the number of power users using MailMate, that 
> there aren’t some interesting solutions around …

"Interesting" is a complicated term...

I use an embarrassing mix of server-side and MailMate tactics, 

0. I run my own mail server and have been doing so for decades. This has 
allowed for a sort of genetic/organic development over years.

1. Unique email addresses for every sort of sign-up I do. The only time 
I use a simple address for anything is for friends and family.

2. My spam filtering on the server is good enough that I don't get spam 
delivered anywhere most weeks, so most of the stuff which would look 
like "mailing list" traffic that would be hard to sort out is just not 

3. I am ashamed to say that I still use procmail to deliver mail from 
various mailing lists their own IMAP mailboxes, based on a mix of target 
address (see (1) above) and other attributes, including List-ID. I also 
have a general catchall mailbox for all of my "tagged" addresses that 
lack their own unique mailboxes.

4. In some cases, without any particular pattern other than the age of 
my subscription, I have MM rules that watch that catchall of tagged 
addresses for particular list traffic and move those messages to their 
own IMAP mailboxes.

If there is any pattern to all of that which is relevant to other MM 
users, it is that I use the filing of mail into distinct IMAP mailboxes 
rather than relying entirely on MM Smart Mailboxes. Maybe I'm too much 
of a cynic, but I don't believe that email is or will ever be as 
conformant to formal specs and/or informal norms as it would need to be 
in order to rely on sweeping logical generalities to sort how email is 

Bill Cole
bill at scconsult.com or billcole at apache.org
(AKA @grumpybozo and many *@billmail.scconsult.com addresses)
Not Currently Available For Hire

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