Better e-mail formatting for mailinglist like subscribers

When the proposal was made to have Discourse replace ye olde Mailman, Python was cited more than once as having gone before us.

I have recently subscribed to Python’s Discourse - mailing list style. Though the volume of mail is on the high side, I find it much easier to scan through the mails and find those that may have my interest and might be worth reading.

I think a lot of that comes from the fact that the forum structure is rather flat, relying mainly on categories and using tags sparingly to further distinguish certain sub-categories. On Fedora’s Discourse it seems to be the other way around: lots of tags and only a handful of categories. Thus, I’m not sure if what I’m about to propose is feasible and/or helpful on our Discourse. Anyway, here goes nothing.

The Python folks include the category in every e-mail notification. An example:

[Py] [Ideas] Make pathlib extensible​

Here Ideas is the name of the category the messages was posted into. In that regard categories are treated as separate entities, like separate mailing lists. It’s easy to distinguish categories even if all messages end up in the same folder. It’s also very easy, without having to dig through headers and tuning filters, to get those delivered in different sub folders.

Could we have something like that in Fedora’s Discourse please[1]?

I realize that we would need to use tags in our case as things stand now. But maybe, I know I’m asking a lot, it’s also an opportunity to rethink our setup. As one person trying to follow both, ye olde mailing list as well as Discourse, from within my inbox, I find the mail I’m getting from Discourse of little help in determining what I want to spent my precious time on.

Also worth noting, Python does not add Re: e-mail style headers to the mails it sends. It’s all very clean and easy to follow, unlike Fedora relying entirely on the subject chosen by the OP, with tag information hidden in the meta data (aka headers).

  1. pretty please with sugar on top :cherries: ↩︎

1 Like

if you’re just talking about the subject line, this is configurable. We currently have it set to:

%{optional_re}%{topic_title} [Fedora] %{optional_pm}%{optional_tags}

See Changing the default subject template for outgoing email? for some previous conversation…

Yes, I’m only referring to the subject line of the notifications.

I’ve also read the initial discussion (thanks for the link). For my part I would be able to filter on the metadata of the messages. I just haven’t got around to setting this up yet. And I’m actually not quite convinced it will be very helpful/useful. The way I’m using it now is to keep up with what’s going on by regularly scanning through the messages. Quite often, though I have to actually open messages to get any (or a better) idea regarding what a message is about. This is partly due to the layout of my mail client, where there’s limited space for showing the subject line. Long lines will be truncated.

However, having read what options are available, I think it will be hard to come up with something satisfactory for most users. For one thing, we use categories differently then the Python folks. While tags can be added, those will be grouped and the group is limited to three tags[1].

My suggestion would be:

[Fedora] [%{optional_tags}%{optional_pm}] %{topic_title}

That would allow me to scan the subject lines for tags I’m interested in. I, personally, think the %{optional_re} can be dropped. It’s obvious if a message is a reply either from the way it’s displayed (threaded) or from the context. I would even consider dropping the initial (in my suggestion) [Fedora]. I have all Discourse messages filtered into a separate folder already. But I can also see why this may be useful to other people.
I’m less interested in the title when scanning, because it has proven the least helpful. It’s chosen by the user and not all users choose good, descriptive titles.

Another issue with adding tags, though, is the way we named them. We have lots of ${foo}-team and ${bar}-sig tags. For the subject line, to shorten it and show at least some of the title, I would rather like to drop the common suffixes like -team and -sig.

  1. I just skimmed through my Discussion folder looking at various subject lines. It seems more than three tags doesn’t happen very often. If it does, all tags are shown on the subject line and they are shown without surrounding []. So, it seems the information on Discourse Meta, you linked to, is outdated. ↩︎

I know it. I’m still hoping for a better solution from Discourse for the problem that attempts to work around.

Well, hope springs eternal.

I’ve given up on Discourse Meta. I don’t think they have any real interest in improving the e-mail side of things, making Discourse a viable replacement for mailing lists. Or maybe it’s lack of resources. Hence my comment: