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Mailing List Survival

Survival on the Mail Lists
From: Derek Drew

A happy relationship to the list is one in which the list can take up no
more than 10 or 15 mins of your time *per month* if do not want it to take
up more. It is also one in which you read almost *no* stupid posts. The
Vanagon and Syncro lists do *not* have to be a burden not matter *how* much
mail it produces.

Here are some general principals:

1. DO NOT USE DIGEST MODE. People think that digest mode saves them work
because it sticks messages in one big file that they can read. But digest
mode actually creates additional work because the messages are not bunched
by topic properly, and it is harder to scan them quickly all together.

2. MAKE A VANAGON AND OR SYNCRO MAILBOX. This means to use an email program
such as Eudora or Outlook that can recognize that a message is coming from the
vanagon list or syncro list and the program moves all your mail into this
mailbox you create specifically for Vanagon mail. The beauty of a Vanagon mailbox is that you never know what is in it until you are in the mood to read Vanagon
mail. The Vanagon list creates zero burden on your normal life until you
choose for it to come into your life. You identify the mail that should go
into the Vanagon mailbox as mail that has a TO: line or a CC: line
instruct the mail program to transfer all incoming mail with one of those
attributes into your Vanagon mailbox.

3. READ YOUR MAIL INFREQUENTLY. Try not reading *any* vanagon mail for a
week or two. You can even go a month! I think two weeks is the right
number. This allows the messages to bunch up, and you can then click at the
top of the subject column and so arrange them
by subject and delete all subjects that do not interest you. If you really
don't care or are starting a new venture-backed company and have no time,
then let em pile of for six months or a year without reading them!

important. In the commercial version of Eudora or in outlook you set it up
to look at all mail in the mailbox and you can click on the subject
heading. This makes all the messages arrange themselves by subject. You can
then select all 50 messages with the subject line, "List Vendors Suck" all
at once, very fast. Hit the delete key. Then find all messages with the
subject line "Horray For List Vendors" and hit the delete key. Then find
all messages that say, "Here is where *I* live!" or "My age is...." and hit
the delete key. This process can take only seconds until you are left with only those messages in which you have a current interest. If you already have your
tires and are happy with them for now, then for God's sake DO NOT READ any
tire posts until you are ready to buy tires again. It is the discipline to
delete messages unread (into your own personal archive, not permanently)
that is your salvation. You will know that you will be keeping those
message around -- they are not going anywhere -- and you can read them
later when you really need to.

4. CREATE BOZO FILTERS. This means that if one particular list member
annoys you with silly stuff, set your mail filters to send his email
directly to the trash bin rather than to the Vanagon list email. You will
never even know they existed. If one objected to list vendors, for example,
one could send all their messages immediately to the trash. I do not do
this myself, as I consider their participation helpful and appropriate. But
the point is that it is easy to do.

5. DO *NOT* READ MESSAGES TO SCAN THEIR CONTENT. Many email programs like
Eudora and Outlook allow you to view the content of each message as an aide
to screening. I view this as a serious mistake. It is inefficient and
intolerable for people with time pressures. It will take you a lot
of time and you will begin to hate the list. Consider instead screening all
your mail by subject heading only. This is the most efficient way to filter
it. One other way to filter it is to decide what you are interested in, and
then have the filters robot in your email program do the work for you. For
example, if you own a diesel, for example, you could even set up a robot to
pick up all messages with the word "diesel" in them and then put these
messages into a special Vanagon List Diesel mailbox. That would become your
preferred mailbox.

from the Vanagon and Syncro lists since their first day on my laptop. After
messages go in the trash, my mail filter sweeps them away and puts them in a big
mailbox named Vanagon Archive. If I wish, I can search this archive with
the search functionality in Eudora. You can do the same thing in Outlook.

By the means I have discussed, I never even see messages saying "You people
are losers" because I never select out their subject headings. I am only
dimly aware of some of our more silly threads and silly threads do NOT
annoy me. And this is from a guy who gets REALLY annoyed by silly threads.

I would quit the list too if I were on digest, as this is a prehistoric and
very onerous method of trying to be on this list. Digest requires that you
open each digest message to see what messages are in it. That is
intolerable. I'd rather jump off a bridge than open every digest message.
You should be deleting 80% or more of the list messages unread. Digest
makes it difficult to do that because you have to open a digest message to
get the full index.

IF YOU USE AOL: In the past, AOL did not have good mail filtering
capabilities and accordingly, I viewed the Vanagon list as pretty much
intolerable for anyone with an AOL account. The only solution, I felt, was
to either unsubscribe from the list or switch from AOL to a regular ISP. I
still feel this way, but it seems that recent versions of the AOL
software allow you to filter messages and sort by subject. If so, then it
is OK to stay with AOL so long as you use these features. If not, then I
urge you to get off AOL as soon as possible. More recently, AOL announced
plans to allow people to use Outlook and other popular email readers to
access their AOL mail. This is the best of both worlds.


I feel slightly less strongly about this one, but my general feeling is
that the vanagon or syncro owner needs all the help he can get, and it is
helpful to keep all the old emails on your hard drive. That way, you can
search all old emails for part numbers and other obscure things. It
generally takes so much longer to do these search tasks using the publicly
available Web-accessible archives that one can access through a Web
interface that many times you simply won't bother and you will miss that
1996 post that tells you exactly what you need to know.

Online mail readers such as one would use with Internet Explorer going to a
Yahoo mail account or Hotmail account add extra seconds or extra half
seconds to every action. With a chore as onerous as reading all this list
mail, these seconds become simply intolerable and will reduce your
willingness to mange the emails.

My general message is: don't be afraid of lots of mail -- in fact, go ahead
and increase it -- subscribe to all 10 lists if you like. Just filter the
mails that are there more aggressively to only the topics that interest
you, and use subject headers as a first cut to do that. This creates a much
more intelligent filter -- you -- than limiting your incoming mails to
lists with very low traffic. That is a dumb filter and you will miss a lot
of really great stuff.


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