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Re: st:Re: [replying to digest messages]

From   Phil Schumm <>
Subject   Re: st:Re: [replying to digest messages]
Date   Thu, 26 Jan 2006 17:48:00 -0600

On Jan 26, 2006, at 9:21 AM, Matissa Hollister wrote:
On a completely different note, I'm wondering about replying to posts when I get the statalist in digest form. I frequently use the archives to look up information and therefore appreciate the posts being ordered into threads. Since I get the messages in digest form, though, I can't just hit reply to a post and as far as I can tell there is no option in the archives or other websites to post replies to past messages. I'm not sure of the mechanics of how the archives keep track of threads. I'm testing here one approach which I hope will work, which is copying the subject line of the original post with an "re:" in front of it. Other suggestions would be welcome.
On Jan 26, 2006, at 10:00 AM, n j cox wrote:
My guess is that threading software goes on internal information in the email message, namely what you are replying to, not the title, so replying to a digest message doesn't help in maintaining threads. You can see this by the fact that many people reply to an existing message, but change the title because they are starting a new thread, but that does not impress threading software. This is irritating because the solution is available to those people and what they are doing is just a bit lazy.

Message threading -- whether by your mail user agent (e.g., mutt, pine, mulberry, outlook) or by an HTML archiver (like the one used to generate the online Statalist archives) -- is usually performed using parts of the message headers, such as the Message-Id (set automatically by the originating MTA) and the In-Reply-To and References fields (often set by your MUA when you reply to a message). Some threading algorithms do take the Subject header into account, but in general, merely using the same or a similar subject (as Matissa describes doing) is not going to be sufficient to "insert" your message into an existing thread. BTW, I certainly concur with Nick: for those of us who rely heavily on threading to manage hundreds of emails a day, the behavior of hitting "Reply" and then starting a new thread is supremely annoying.

My suggestion to Matissa would be to stop using digest mode. Most people initially switch to digest mode either (1) because they don't want to be interrupted constantly throughout the day, and/or (2) because they don't want their inbox filling up with messages. However, modern MUAs offer excellent solutions to both of these problems. Mail from a particular source (e.g., Statalist) can be automatically filtered into its own mailbox, and MUAs that automatically notify the user of incoming mail can often be set to ignore mail arriving in certain mailboxes. Thus, for example, although I don't use digest mode for Statalist, I typically consume the postings "in digest form" (i.e., once or twice a day I go through all new messages, but otherwise am not bothered by them).

Note that in addition to making it easy to respond appropriately to a specific thread, this strategy makes Statalist easier to consume by permitting you to make use of the threading capability of your MUA and by making searching through your mail archives much more efficient (i.e., you can quickly pull up the specific message/thread you're looking for instead of what can be a large digest mailing filled with extraneous stuff.

-- Phil

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