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2010 June 4 [Friday]

searching mailing lists

If you are a Mailman user please take a minute to help improve the Archives by answering this short survey. The survey asks you to name which list you searched and I had asked Terri why this should matter at all as I am subscribed as a user to hundreds of Linux-related mailing lists which are a mix of public archives, private archives and no archives or those that are archived via gmane, etc.... This makes it harder to answer for each list as the search mechanism is different for each. She replied that answering this survey question was not compulsary, type "I don't know.", but its kept there because it tells them if people are using a standard, default mailman setup or something different like gmane.

Yaniv has blogged about searching mailing list archives offline mode. If you are using a mobile connection in India, it would involve downloading chunks of data and then searching your directory offline using keywords. As I mentioned earlier the search mechanism varies for online mailing lists using mailman. If you use google you can specify the "site" + the keywords. But what if you dont know whether the list has that information of which month and year its archived under. What if your list has private archives? --This search is a wee bit harder than open mailing lists as you need to be subscribed to the list to be able to access the archives. If its a secure 'https' server, you cannot open multiple tab instances to search, and so on...

Searching mailing list archives is not impossible. Every one of us uses google and we all know how easy and/or hard it is to find what we are looking for -- finding relevant information which is also correct and fulfills your needs is a lot harder than we think. If I am looking for a particular "device driver" that does not allow wi-fi to work on my laptop, google might bring out a relevant page (including mailing list discussions) which may be too old, in that, they may ask me to manually doanload and install the "device driver" but the latest distro version I use may have solved the problem with a downloadable installer.

Probably the engine might search and list the pages by the Date and UTC timings but my point was that small things like these can make a big difference in the amount of time we spend looking for information. Machines or should I say the algorithms powering them can only do what we tell them to do. They are intelligent but not there yet.

2010 May 6 [Thursday]

Unsubscribing from threads in Mailman

If you have ever subscribed to a mailing list that uses MM you would know about the concept of threads-- keeps ensuing replies woven in a threaded fashion making it easy to keep track of communication in a single flow. G has implemented the same concept as "conversations" for gmail users.

However, on most lists there comes a point in time when not every mail that is sent to the list is of interest. On some lists the threads run into hundreds of replies (err...flames if you must) and sometimes after the first email the ensuing "+1" and "yeah, I agree" top-posts will have you clicking the delete key.

Another alternative that many people use right now is the "digest mode", which just lumps all threads and mails it out to you each day. This is not without problems: It creates a different subject line that mucks up a reply in the archives, if you didnt take care to insert the "Re: " before the existing subject line with proper spacing. Even then it can sometimes break the thread in the archives and if you want to search the archives its yet another nightmare. Another problem is with archives which are stored in a monthly archive format but your conversation that started in January may continue into March. If its public mailing list then gmane or google comes to your rescue, else tough luck.

You dont have much choice when a default MM installation will not let you unsubscribe from a thread. Even gmail does not let you do this on google groups (that is another can of worms for another day) but currently in MM  you only have the option of deleting the uninteresting emails, digest or unsubscribing from the list alltogether if there is too much OT chatter.

But what if you had the option to mute by unsubscribing to an individual thread without leaving the mailing list alltogether? Dlist has a feature whereby the user can choose a particular thread or conversation that is interesting to participate, To continue an existing conversation you would continue with your reply by using the email "listname+SampleSubject@domain.tld" and to unsubscribe from a single thread use, "listname+SampleSubject+unsubscribe@domain.tld". To start a new conversation, you would type 'listname+new@domain.tld' as opposed to the old method of emailing the list 'listname@domain.tld'.

2010 April 24 [Saturday]

mailman installation - language selection

While installing Mailman, in Ubuntu/Debian based systems, $ sudo aptitude install mailman,  will throw a prompt asking you to choose one language out of a long list.

Choosing English and hitting "enter" only displays the GUI box. Moving the cursor down, pressing shift (Ctrl/alt) with a combination of every alphabet and character key on the keyboard, would not let me select any language. The 'Esc' key and 'ctl-c' didnt allow me to close the window or proceed with my installation so the obvious choice was to terminate the terminal window. Installation incomplete. Frustrating.

Google and irc didnt offer me any solutions to what was, in my mind, a tiny tiny "something" that was missing somewhere, but what?

To select a language, use 'space bar' on your keyboard and press the 'tab' key to enter and select the language of your choice. This will complete the installation process. Its that simple but not very intutive, huh?!  I wrote a tiny note on the MM wiki as others had reported the same problem and left it at that, except for $AP nagging me to blog as it would benefit folks while I felt its too simple and that probably makes me a lazy and irregular blogger :) which means I should have been able to convince him to start using the blog I have created for him! Not?!

On an unrelated note, I found a wonderful course on sendmail basics.