Email filtering - rules for sanity

I use Mac mail as my primary mail interface these days.  I've tried a few other, but have settled here until something really compelling comes along.  It's not perfect, but it is capable enough.  I recently sat down and ruminated on how to handle the various mail channels that I consume and came up with a strategy that is working pretty well for me, so I thought I would share it.

The most important goals were:

  1. To limit the messages in my inbox to those that are of daily interest or critical nature
  2. To group some emails according to subscription topic
  3. To group some emails according to level of interest
  4. To make it easy to periodically enhance the rules with ease
  5. To make it easy to periodically delete less interesting, non-archive worthy content

Basically I slice and dice mails in a couple different ways:

  1. Did they originate from within my email domain (proximity based zoning)?
  2. Are they from specific groups or people of higher interest than others (interest based zoning)?

And come up with the following categories:

  • Junk aliases - mail channels that I can't get away from for one reason or another, but are just bulk and of zero interest
  • Direct addressed subscriptions - subscriptions that address directly to my email address
  • Alias addressed subscriptions - subscriptions that address to an alias
  • Interest zone 1 - top priority individuals and aliases (my peers and direct management)
  • Interest zone 2 - direct addressed to me in the To: or CC: field originating inside sun.com
  • Interest zone 3 - messages from outside sun.com that should stay in the inbox
  • Interest zone 4 - other channels of interest (people or aliases) worthy of the inbox
  • Interest zone 5 - from sun.com, but I'm not in the To: or CC: and doesn't match something above
  • Interest zone 6 - from outside sun.com, but addressed To: or CC: me, and not matching something above
  • Interest zone 7 - probably junk, catches everything that hasn't matched something above

The above categorizations result in Zones 1-4 going to the inbox, Zones 5-7 each going to their own folder named for the zone.  For Z5-7, I generally review Z5 daily, Z6 every few days, and Z7 weekly or less.  If I find something that consistently merits more attention I modify one of the earlier rules to catch it.  Eventually I can delete Zones 5-7 with little effort or worry, and be confident that my inbox (Z1-4) is worthy of archival.

The rules to implement this strategy are approximated below.  The ordering is important as one rule might assume that the previous rule has limited it's field of candidate messages.

  1. Junk aliases (one rule):
    1. delete message
    2. stop processing rules
  2. Subscriptions that are addressed directly to me and that I want to folder (one rule per folder):
    1. move them to appropriate folder
    2. stop processing rules
  3. Zone 1 - Top priority  (one rule):
    1. look for mails from key individuals (my peers and 2 levels of management are in this zone)
    2. look for mails with any recipient matching key aliases (my workgroup is the only one in this zone)
    3. color code the message
    4. stop processing rules
  4. Zone 2 - addressed to me from sun.com (one rule):
    1. look for mails that are addressed To: me and From: \*@sun.com
    2. color code the message
    3. stop processing rules
  5. Subscriptions that are addressed to an alias and that I want to folder (one rule per folder):
    1. look for mails with Any Recipient matching the alias name(s)
    2. move them to the appropriate folder
    3. stop processing rules
  6. Zone 3 - external and important (one rule):
    1. look for mails with From containing specific people or domains
    2. color code the message
    3. stop processing rules
  7. Zone 4 - high interest people and aliases (one rule):
    1. look for messages from specific people or aliases
    2. color code the message
    3. stop processing other rules
  8. Zone 5 - internal but not addressed to me (one rule):
    1. look for messages from sun.com (not addressed to me is derived from previous rules)
    2. move message to zone 5 folder
    3. stop processing rules
  9. Zone 6 - external but properly addressed (one rule):
    1. look for messages where To: or CC: is me
    2. and From: doesn't contain sun.com
    3. move message to zone 6 folder
    4. stop processing rules
  10. Zone 7 - probably junk (one rule):
    1. look for messages which aren't addressed to me
    2. and are From: outside sun.com
    3. move message to zone 7 folder
    4. stop processing rules

Comments:

John, nice to see you are using a MAC. Me too. Windows is just so .. hmm ... boring. Nice summary of your mail rules. Thanks for sharing. Also hope things are well. I am doing a bunch of work with sun these days with JCAPS at Regence here in Portland.

Posted by Shawn Smith on May 22, 2007 at 10:57 AM PDT #

Thanks for your information, i have read it, very good!

Posted by ed hardy clothing on November 01, 2009 at 08:54 AM PST #

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This is a space for me to post things I am thinking about. Most content will be related to datacenter operations and automation.

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