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Re: MathGroup /: Descriptive headings

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg51970] Re: MathGroup /: Descriptive headings
  • From: Paul Abbott <paul at>
  • Date: Sat, 6 Nov 2004 02:07:31 -0500 (EST)
  • Organization: The University of Western Australia
  • References: <cmfd5u$7ta$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

In article <cmfd5u$7ta$1 at>,
 "Steven M. Christensen" <steve at> wrote:

> 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.

Do you mean that the spammers are forging email addresses of MathGroup 
participants and using these to post messages to MathGroup 
(mathgroup at I can see how that would make things more difficult
to filter. 

If I understand you correctly, requiring individuals to "register" with 
you, possibly listing multiple email addresses, and bouncing email that 
is not from registered participants, with a message telling them how to 
register, would not work.

Because I usually post from a news reader, my messages have the 
following field:

 Newsgroups: comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica

Could this be used as a filter (or do spammers forge this as well)?

[As an aside, a solution to SPAM needs to be found. To me, it should 
cost money, only of the order of a couple of cents, to send any email 
message. You would need to purchase a valid one-off "e-stamp", using 
some form of encryption technology, from some site (I'm suprised that 
the automatic billing sites have not already done this). Then only valid 
e-stamps would be routed though the network. There are, of course, many 
issues with this proposal ...]

>     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.

To me, one of the major limitations of MathGroup is that we cannot 
attach Notebooks (without including them in the body of the message).
> 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.

Actually, if the Subject line included question categories as is being 
proposed, couldn't you use this as the primary filter (or again, do 
spammers forge this as well)? 
> 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
>     etc.
> 4.  Then the mails are run through scripts that send them to the
>     newsgroup and the mailing list.  One of the scripts adds the
>      numbers to the Subject line of the mail that goes to
>     the mailing list.  Note that the [  ] are really needed.  

As I read MathGroup in a newsreader or sometimes via Google at

I do not see the numbers or the []. Google seems to handle threading 
better than my newsreader.

The numbers do not appear at

until you click on a particular message so I'm not sure exactly how they 
are useful (but then again, I avoid mailing lists and prefer to use 
newsgroups or the web). (And I wonder why the Mathgroup archive is not 

>     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.

I did not realise exactly how big a task you face. 

> So, the questions are, when during this process would categorisation
> take place? Who would do it?  

It would be best if contributors did such a categorisation for you, i.e. 
at the time of posting. 

> What would it look like?  

Instead of [], another suggestion would be (mock Mathematica syntax 
using /:), e.g.,

   Statistics /: Chi-square test

This would also be harder to forge and should still be easy to filter.

> How would it effect mail and newsgroup readers?

I imagine that it would have little effect, except the desired one of 
allowing better filtering.

> 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?  

Surely that is exactly what they are designed to do.

And I could filter the messages into subfolders of my MathGroup folder 

> 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.  

This idea has merit and, again, it might be harder to forge, but I don't 
know enough about these headers.

> Personally, I think they would just make the Subject lines longer
> and harder to read.

Nested Re: Re: Re: ... already does this, though Google handles this 
very well, in its threading, dropping all Re at the top level, listing 
only the subject, and then listing the contributor for each item in the 

> Who is going to do the categorisation?  

The contributor.

> 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.  

Sometimes categorizations have to change. You could have

  Numerics -> Graphics /: Accurate plotting

when there is such a change.

> Search therefore becomes inaccurate very quickly. 

I don't think that this is true.
> What if someone disagrees with my selections?

Not a big issue, I think. I think the group will come to consensus on a 
categorization, or move on to a different categorization as required.

> How much time will this add to moderation?

I would hope that it would greatly _reduce_ your moderation time.

> If others select the categories to help me out, that will just
> delay moderation.  

I do not see why.

> 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?  

There should be a list in the rules section at

> What if a users forgets to include a categorisation?

You can add one.

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

Unlikely, I think. However, I expect that the archive has grown 
exponentially and will continue to do so.

> 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 expect that it is used on other newsgroups, but I have not seen it, or 
there are subgroups.


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

It was intended as a suggestion to reduce your workload, to speed up the 
rate of posting to MathGroup, and to improve the automatic filtering 
(and threading) of messages.


> 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.
> Cheers,
> Paul

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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