Mailing List Filter

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I have a Gmail account that I use for subscribing to and posting to mailing lists. When dealing with high-volume mailing lists, I am typically only interested in those threads that I participated in. This is a simple filter for starring and marking unread any messages belonging to such threads.

This is accomplished by looking at the set of messages that were either sent from me or explicitly addressed to me. From this “root set” of messages, we can use the Message-ID, References, and In-Reply-To headers to determine threads, and thus the other messages that we care about.

I have found this to be more accurate than my two original approaches. I used to have Gmail filters that starred/marked unread any messages containing my name anywhere in the message. This worked OK since my name is not too common, but it produced some false positives (not that bad, just unstar messages) and some false negatives (much harder to detect).

A second approach is to tag all subjects with some signature string. This usually is fine, but it doesn’t work when you did not start the thread (and thus determine the subject). You can try to change the subject line, but this is (1) poor netiquette, (2) unreliable because your reply may not register in other mail clients as being part of the same thread (and thus other participants may miss your reply), and (3) unreliable because replies might not directly referencing your post (either intentionally or unintentionally). It also fails when others change the subject. Finally, this approach is unsatisfactory because it pollutes subject lines, and it essentially replicates exactly what Message-ID was intended for.

This script is not intended to be a replacement for the Gmail filters. I still keep those active so that I can get immediate first-pass filtering. I execute this script on a daily basis to perform second-pass filtering/unfiltering to catch those false negatives that may have been missed.



Install the program using the standard program.






Mailing List Filter is released under the GNU GPL3.


Copyright 2008 Yang Zhang.
All rights reserved.

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