[TUHS] email filtering (was Re: off-topic list)

Perry E. Metzger perry at piermont.com
Fri Jun 29 00:25:16 AEST 2018

On Mon, Jun 25, 2018 at 12:15:42AM -0600, arnold at skeeve.com wrote:
> So what is the alternative?

I subscribe to a truly ridiculous number of email lists, and I run my
own mail server, so I thought I'd mention my Rube Goldberg style setup
given that it's being discussed. For those that don't like how long
this is, the main keys are "IMAP + sieve for filing all mailing lists
into their own IMAP folder". The rest is pretty boring.

Boring part:

0) My MTA is Postfix, which allows even a relatively small site to get
pretty damn good anti-spam capabilities. It's also really well written
(it's a flock of small tools each of which does only one thing well)
and quite secure, which is important. I have most of the interesting
bells and whistles (like opportunistic TLS) turned on.

1) Email for me goes through procmail to run it through a logging
system, then spam assassin to tag whatever spam got past Postfix, and
finally it's passed to Dovecot's "sieve" system for final filing in
the IMAP server.

2) Sieve breaks up my incoming email into many, many
mailboxes. There's a box for every mailing list I'm on, so I can read
them more or less like newsgroups. I don't put any email for a list
into my main inbox, which gets only mail addressed to me personally so
I can reply to such messages very fast.

Sieve is a nice, standardized language for mailbox filtering, and the
Dovecot implementation works quite well. It's flexible enough that I
can deal with the fact that many mailing lists are hard to pick out
from the mail stream thanks to their operators not following standards.

Spam that made it past Postfix into Spam Assassin might or might not
really be spam, so I have Spam Assassin tag it rather than deleting
it, and Sieve is instructed to file that into its own box just in
case. A cron job expires spam after a couple of weeks so that mailbox
doesn't get too large.

3) As I hinted, my email is stored in an IMAP server, specifically
Dovecot. This allows me to read my mail with a dozen different tools,
including my phone, a couple different MUAs on the desktop, etc. I
dislike (see below) that this limits my choice in tools to process the
mail, but I really need the multi-MUA setup, and I can't afford to
move the mail onto any of my diverse end systems because I need to be
able to read it on all of them.

4) I used MH for many years, and I really wish MH/NMH worked with IMAP
properly, because like others here, I really loved its scriptability,
but the need to use multiple MUAs trumps it at this point. It's also
necessary to communicate with muggles/mundanes/ordinary folk too often
and most of them use HTML email and so I need to be able to read it
even if I don't generate it, which means some use of GUI emailers.

5) As for the future, I'm hoping at some point to have something that
works sort of like MH did but which can speak native IMAP, and I'm
hoping to start using Emacs as an MUA most of the time if I can find a
client that will handle HTML email + IMAP a bit better than most of
them do. (Stop looking at me that way for saying Emacs — I've been
using it as my editor since 1983 and my fingers just don't know any
better any more.)

Perry E. Metzger		perry at piermont.com

More information about the TUHS mailing list