Here's how to subscribe to mailing lists with a combined total posts of 2000 or more per day, and live. It's all about pattern recognition.
Threaded mail readers such as
mutt sort emails into a tree based on which
emails are replies to other emails. The mail index displays this tree of
messages with the author of each indicated. Since the Subject field rarely
changes, mutt does not display it unless the thread's subject changes.
Combining these elements of author names, thread trees, and occasional
subject changes produces patterns that the brain can use to quickly
identify important and useless sets of mail messages, without actually
reading anything, and without resorting to complicated and fragile killfile
and scoring systems.
Some patterns are very simple. For example, this is the "take it to private email" pattern. This pattern can be thread-killed on sight; if you're feeling generous, read the last two messages in the thread.
bob +-> Foo fred +-> bob +-> fred +-> bob +-> fred +-> bob +-> fred +-> bob +-> fred +->
This is the "think before you post" pattern.
bob +-> Foo bob +->
This is the "blindingly obvious answer" pattern. If you're bored you can read any one message to get the gist. Sometimes many of the replies will be worth reading to get a broad overview of all possible responses to a given obvious question. Most times not.
bob +-> Foo? fred +-> alice +-> george +-> nancy +-> steven +-> nick +->
Here's a deceptively simple pattern, the "uninteresting message". It might be worth checking the post date to make sure that it's not just the beginning of one of the above patterns of course. And if you're feeling generous, you can read some small fraction of them.
bob +-> Foo?
This might be a worthwhile thread. Notably because it's short, has a reasonable mix of participants, and seems to come to some kind of conclusion.
bob +-> Foo fred +-> alice | +-> bob | +-> george | +-> bob | +-> nancy +-> fred +->
And here's a transformation of that same thread featuring "too late for the party syndrome" (or a "filibuster")
bob +-> Foo fred +-> alice | +-> bill | +-> bob | +-> george | | +-> bill | | +-> bill | +-> nancy +-> fred | +-> bill | | +-> bill | +-> bill +->
This is a perfect time to er, threadkill bill. Or if feeling generous, read the second or third of his many replies to see what's got him so worked up.
To see more sophisticated patterns, you need to categorise participants of the mailing list. A few people almost always manage to turn even a useless thread into something interesting, or have viewpoints that are good foils for your own. Learn to recognise the names of these interesting posters without thinking about it (I'll name them in uppercase below). Similarly, some people never contribute anything useful, and can be filed under the label of k00k. If there are more k00ks than interesting posters it's probably time to leave the list. Most people won't fit in either category. Some people change category depending on the subject.
Here's the same potentially worthwhile thread as before, but now the people matter.
bob +-> Foo fred +-> k00k | +-> bob | +-> george | +-> bob | +-> NANCY +-> fred +->
Suddenly, three messages of the thread become worth reading, and the larger k00k-tainted subthread's likelyhood of being valuable drops substantially.
Similarly, this thread can be ignored.
k00k +-> Foo bob | +-> fred | +-> k00k | +-> alice +-> k00k +->
And this thread has a high potential for being interesting.
bob +-> Foo fred +-> bob | +-> NORRIS | +-> george | +-> bob | +-> NANCY +-> fred +->
This thread, a variation of "take it to private email", increases bob's chances of being a k00k. Or he's really right and everyone else is wrong.
alice +-> Foo fred +-> bob +-> nancy +-> bob +-> alice +-> bob +-> fred +-> bob +-> fred +-> bob +->
This thread is a hard case to call, it depends on how good the interesting poster is in deflecting k00kitude. There could be as many as three worthwhile messages in here; I'll flag them.
k00k +-> Foo bob +-> * NANCY +-> k00k +-> * bob +-> * NANCY +->
It might be worth reading the interesting poster here, but probably only for a laugh, and it's just as likely that they've been cruelly trolled into answering, especially if an instance of the "blindingly obvious answer" pattern is grafted onto one of the subthreads.
k00k +-> Foo NORRIS +-> k00k +-> NORRIS +->
So far the Subject has been ignored, and generally it's more important to look at the thread structure than the subject, but there are useful exceptions. It might be worth checking out the differently named subthread here, on the other hand its close proximity to the k00k likely means its a useless tangent.
bob +-> Foo fred +-> k00k | +-> bob | +-> george | +-> Bar (was: Foo) bob | | +-> fred | | +-> fred | +-> tony +-> fred +->
Here is not just one thread, but a collection of threads. This pattern, typically associated with a much larger thread than shown here, is a sure sign that a thread has gone pear-shaped and unless the followup thread has a lot of interesting posters in it, there's not much hope for the lot. (k00ks also spawn disconnected threadlets; such threadlets should be ignored.)
k00k +-> Foo bob +-> NANCY +-> k00k +-> bob +-> NANCY +-> bob +-> About foo.. tony +-> k00k +-> alice +-> That foo thing
That's enough patterns to get started with, but they really come into their own when picked out of larger threads in an overloy long ongoing discussion. A few examples can be found in this segment of 23 lines of a much longer thread.
bob | | | | | | | | k00k | | | | | | | | tony | | | | | | | | k00k | | | | | | | | tony | | | | | | | | k00k | | | | | | | +- bob | | | | | | | k00k | | | | | | +-> Bar john | | | | | +-> Bar nick | | | | +-> Bar barney | | | | | +-> nick | | | | | | +-> nancy | | | | | | +-> NORRIS | | | | | | +-> nancy | | | | | | | +-> SAM | | | | | | +-> nick | | | | | | +-> NORRIS | | | | | | | +-> oliver | | | | | | +-> john | | | | | +-> frank | | | | | | +-> john | | | | | | | +-> tom | | | | | | | +-> Mumble bob | | | | | | | +->
Part of this thread is useless by two criteria; it has far too much k00k in it, and it's nested so deep that mutt doesn't bother to try to draw the thread indicators. The next bit though shows some signs of being interesting despite its fairly deep nesting. And the tangent might be worth keeping an eye on.
Those are the thread patterns that I know I know. I suspect there are many
others that I also know, since I can typically read mail with the
d key as
fast as mutt will scroll, stop at the interesting spots, and not miss much.
If you know of other patterns, send them my way.
Finally, even if you prefer to read every post, please do us all a favour, imagine your reply is already in the thread structure, and look for patterns like "take it to private email", "blindingly obvious answer", "too late for the party syndrome", and k00k influenced posts.