Help Me Read My Mailing Lists!

by William Grosso

I subscribe to quite a few mailing lists. Most are low-traffic mailing lists that announce events of interest. Here's a typical subject header from one of those: CSLI Calendar, Wednesday, 2 October 2002, vol. 18:4.

That's a great subject header. I can read the subject and immediately know what the letter contains and when I should read it by (and, more importantly, when reading it would become pointless).

Then there are the technical mailing lists. Where, to be honest, the subject lines are often vague in ways that surpass my comprehension. Why is it that people on distributed computing mailing lists often think "Client Problem" is a good enough subject line?

We all get way too many e-mails a day. And we all need to filter somehow. My new resolution is: if it's a friend, I'll read it. If I know it's important I'll read it. If it's a total stranger discussing "Client Problem", I probably won't.

Forget spam killers. The real killer app is something that will summarize an e-mail (and replace a bad subject line with something meaningful).