configuring mailman (was: Re: [OS X TeX] New thread?)

Jonathan Kew jonathan_kew at
Wed Jul 2 12:29:29 EDT 2008

On 2 Jul 2008, at 5:10 pm, Gary L. Gray wrote:

> On Jul 2, 2008, at 11:37 AM, Chris Goedde wrote:
>> Here's a question for the people who feel strongly about this (I  
>> don't fall in that group). Is there a technical solution to this  
>> problem?


>> For example, is it possible to configure or modify Mailman so that  
>> it identifies the offending messages and sends them out as if they  
>> are new threads rather than responses to previous threads?

How could it identify them? The only reasonable way to attempt this  
would be comparing the subject lines; we can't expect mailman to  
fully understand the message content in order to deduce whether it  
belongs to the existing thread.

But mail clients munge subject lines in various ways when replying,  
and users also modify them, either to indicate a shift in topic  
within an ongoing thread (as in this rather artificial example), or  
just to fix typos, clarify, etc. If this always broke the thread,  
we'd be back to the fragile heuristics that some clients relied on  
before the References headers were common. Those headers are used  
*because* programs can't reliably tell whether a message should be  
treated as part of a given thread. Only humans can make that  
judgement, and the best chance to do it is at the time of writing the  

So we do it (implicitly) by our choice of whether to hit "Reply" or  
"New Message". I suppose you could suggest that mail clients should  
prompt the user, when "Reply" is used and the destination is a  
mailing list (yes, there are headers that indicate this), asking  
"Reply to existing thread or begin new thread?". But that could get  
pretty irritating, I think. Maybe if the client gave this prompt only  
if the user had modified the Subject field.... there, submit it as a  
feature request to all the mail client authors/vendors! :)

> If there is, I don't know how to do it. If someone who knows  
> mailman better than I knows of such a solution, please let me know  
> how to implement it.

I don't think you can do it at the list server end.


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