Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(November 2005)

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Subject: Re: Posting style filters?
From: Jim Osborn <jimo @ eskimo . com>
Date: Thu, 24 Nov 2005 16:35:08 -0800
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
In-reply-to: <20051124000638 . GA23161 @ firedrake . org>
References: <20051124000638 . GA23161 @ firedrake . org>
User-agent: Mutt/1.4i

On Thu, Nov 24, 2005 at 12:06:38AM +0000, Roger Burton West wrote:
> I have heard rumours of filters for mailing lists that can bounce
> postings based on excessive quoting and/or top-posting. Can anyone
> point me to freeware implementations of these? 

I thought I'd wait and see what sort of recommendations came forth,
not having heard those rumors myself; all the "filters" I know of
are manual, on fully-moderated lists, where the listmoms do the bouncing.

I'm too lazy to monitor my lists that closely, and some of my more
valued members are those who just can not be trained to use good 
etiquette.  Maybe they're in too much of a hurry to edit all the
crap their Microsoft mailer puts at the bottom of their reply, but
we're grateful nonetheless for the info in that reply.

Given that state of affairs, I chose to roll my own procmail-based
filters, not to bounce submissions but to clean up the distributions,
and I apply those filters just to my digest.  Without the filtering,
many of my digests would consist of a single article, saying
"I agree!!!!" on top of a quoted^10 thread.

Writing the filters wasn't particularly difficult, once I decided on
the requirements (typical software, huh).  I watch for ratios of
quoted to unquoted text and the "nesting level" of the quotation, and
try to keep the immediately-prior article if the poster has added
enough new material. 

It turned out to be much easier to filter top-posted articles, which
was good, given that those are much more likely to contain
thoughtless quotation.  Of course, there are some pathological cases
where the filters decide it's just too hard, and they send the thing
to the maintainer (that's me) for help, but that only seems to happen
to one out of a thousand articles, so I can live with it.

> (I can probably write my own, but other people have access to more
> badly-written email than I do...)

If you decide to roll your own, you'll probably want to tailer them
to the quoting personality of your lists; I'm sure mine reflect the
styles of my list's members.  I'll admit there was a "training"
period during which some follow-on development took place, adding
a new class of pathological quotation, etc.

If your lists are procmail based, I could share my meager efforts,
for what they're worth.



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