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Organizing Messages

As we continue to use e-mail as a tool for finding information, we eventually find ourselves with more information coming in than we can deal with. Welcome to the Information Age. Fortunately, the technology that has helped in generating this glut of data, also gives us tools for managing it.

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Mailboxes
Most e-mail programs come with three mailboxes or folders for messages. One, the Inbox is for messages that have been sent to you. The Outbox holds copies of messages that you have sent to other people. The Trashbox is where your messages go that you have deleted. Deleted messages are either permanently stored here after deleting or are dumped when you close the program. On most e-mail programs, the user can add mailboxes for various categories of messages, i.e., business, personal, announcements, etc. This enables the Internet user to organize messages for later reference.

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Filtering Messages
Being able to make extra mailboxes and folders allows busy educators and students to organize their e-mail into categories. But at some point, you may be receiving so much information via e-mail that you simply can't screen and filter all of the messages yourself.

For instance, let's say that you have just subscribed to a mailing list called Net-Happenings. This is a very old and established mailing list that is produced and edited by Gleason Sackman in Fargo, North Dakota. Through this list, Gleason forwards announcements of new services on the Internet that might be of interest to the K-12 community. This mailing list will generate between 40 and 60 messages a day…more than most educators and students have time to deal with.

An alternative is to have your e-mail program deal with it for you. Most e-mail software has what is called filtering features (Sometimes it is called, rules). When your email program filters mail, it examines every message that comes in, looking for various characteristics that identify it as being a certain type of message or from a particular person or Internet mailing list. When a message has been identified, the program automatically moves the message into the mailbox or folder that you specify. Filters can also be programmed to forward messages, reply to them, and a range of other actions based on their characteristics.

Net-Happenings is an excellent example of a type of message you might want to automatically store in its own mailbox. To set up a filter, first examine a number of the messages to find characteristics that distinguish them from others. This information will usually be found in the message header.

Approved-By: Gleason Sackman gleason@RRNET.COM
Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 12:49:10 -0500
Reply-To: Net-Happenings NET-HAPPENINGS@HYPATIA.CS.WISC.EDU
Sender: Net-Happenings NET-HAPPENINGS@HYPATIA.CS.WISC.EDU
From: Gleason Sackman gleason@rrnet.com
Subject: MISC> "Community Content in Public Libraries"
To: NET-HAPPENINGS@HYPATIA.CS.WISC.EDU

After looking at five or six of the message headers, you will find that except for the date and subject, they all look alike. This is understandable since all messages will be coming from Gleason Sackman. One line that you can be fairly sure will continue to be unique to Net-Happenings messages is the Reply-to. No other person or mailing list would send messages to us with the term Net-Happenings as the Reply-to except for Net-Happenings. Now that you have a distinguishing characteristic, you can set up a rule that will cause these messages to be moved into a unique folder or mailbox.

Section: Organizing Messages
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