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Re: [MathGroup]: Descriptive headings

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  • Subject: [mg51968] Re: [MathGroup]: Descriptive headings
  • From: "Steven M. Christensen" <steve at>
  • Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2004 03:21:05 -0500 (EST)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

I want to take the opportunity to reply to Paul's suggestion in
as much detail as possible.

I am sorry I was not at the event at the Wolfram Technology
Conference when this was discussed.

First, here are the steps I take each day to moderate this group.
Figuring out where in these steps to put in categorization would need
to fit into this.   

1.  I get perhaps 2500-3000 emails a day, every day.  Of these, perhaps
    500 are not spam.  Because the Mathgroup addresses are easily found
    by spammers, there is no way around getting a lot of spam.
    Further, because MathGroup users often, unfortunately, 
    send html email or other attachments, maybe 10-20 of their mails get
    filtered by my, fairly sophisticated but not perfect, spam filters into
    my spam folder.

2.  Of the 500 good emails that get past my spam filters, I then have to
    filter out those mails that are for Mathgroup.   Then, I have to
    go through the spam folder to find any MathGroup posts that might be
    there.  So,there are usually about 70 emails relevant to MathGroup.
    Some, maybe 10 do not follow the rules - flames, licensing questions,
    discussions of other systems, really trivial items, totally non-Mathematica
    related.  In the end, there are 30-60 emails to read in more detail.

3.  Once I decide that the posts are OK, I run them through a number of
    UNIX scripts and do some more editing to take out unneeded mail headers

4.  Then the mails are run through scripts that send them to the
    newsgroup and the mailing list.  One of the scripts adds the
    [mg ... ] numbers to the Subject line of the mail that goes to
    the mailing list.  Note that the [  ] are really needed.  Suppose
    you just put Statistics in the Subject line, mail filters might
    not always know how to do the filtering, whereas [Statistics]
    is easier to filter.

This process takes from 1-3 hours typically, depending on the 
number of emails, their complexity, etc.

So, the questions are, when during this process would categorisation
take place?  What would it look like?  Who would do it?  How would
it effect mail and newsgroup readers?

I think it would be a bad idea to put things like [Statistics] in
the Subject line.  Would newsgroup and mail readers be able to
thread such Subject lines?  It might be better to put it in something
like an X-Category mail header, but I am not sure that all readers
could handle this.  Personally, I think they would just make the
Subject lines longer and harder to read.

Who is going to do the categorisation?  I know a lot about 
Mathematica and mathematics, but certainly not enough to figure
out what every message best fits into.  If I make a poor selection
and a message has gone out it is virtually impossible to re-do
the categorization in the newsgroups, mailing list, google group
listings, archives, etc.  Search therefore becomes inaccurate
very quickly.   What if someone disagrees with my selections?
How much time will this add to moderation?

If others select the categories to help me out, that will just
delay moderation.  Maybe, we can urge the person who originally
writes the message to select a category, but how does a new user
know what category to pick?  What if a users forgets to include
a categorisation?

Is someone going to go back and categorise the 51,000 messages that
are already in the archive?

The simplest thing to do would be to have some group that is willing
categorise the posts once they get into the Wolfram Research
archive only.  Then search could be done fairly easily.

This sort of categorisation may be done in other newsgroups, but
I have not seen it.

I am open to suggestions and comments, but I frankly this this
is going to be a very difficult process to do.

Steve Christensen

Hi all, and especially Steve Christensen:

At the recent Wolfram Technology Conference in Champaign, Luc Barthelet 
<lucb at>, a regular user of MathGroup suggested that it would be 
good if all postings to MathGroup included a categorisation in their
header, e.g.

  Newbies, Graphics, Functions, Programming, Statistics, Teaching,
  Integration, Numerics, Symbolic Algebra, Special Functions, ...

so a Subject line might take the form

  [Statistics]: How to fit to an elliptical function?

(not sure if the [ ] are required or useful). In this way, sorting by 
Subject would be easier. Of course, it's not always easy to do such a 
categorisation, and they may change with time (as a problem stated as a 
Numerics might end up being solved using Symbolic Algebra). 
Nevertheless, I think such a change would be very useful. It should also 
help when doing searches on MathGroup archives.


Paul Abbott                                   Phone: +61 8 6488 2734
School of Physics, M013                         Fax: +61 8 6488 1014
The University of Western Australia      (CRICOS Provider No 00126G)         
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley WA 6009                      mailto:paul at 

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