How to filter a usenet group with MS Outlook Express using the connecter-maven technique using sci.astro.amateur as an example Orig. 7/26/2006 Rev. 9/12/2006

My sci.astro.amateur technical post connector-maven list Rev. 9/12/2006 Step-by-Step setup Use notes


The overrunning of usenet news groups by net trolls, right-wing facist bloggers and persons with mental health problems has reached the point where most unmoderated usenet newsgroups have become unuseable. Such trollers have become more skilled at defeating negative software filters. Negative software filters work by identifying some unique characteristic of the poster (mail name, source domain, unique string in posts) and the blocking that message. To defeat negative filters, computer skilled trolls use morphing identities and anonymous remailers. The widely distributed Microsoft Outlook Express news reader is not very robust against these negative filter defeating techniques. For example, in Outlook Express 6.0, it is not possible to filter based on a text string within the body of a message; it is not possible to filter to exclude based on cross-posting between multiple newsgroups.

This note discusses an alternative filtering solution and provides a step-by-step guide for setting up Outlook Express to filter based on a positive filtering, coined here, as the connector-maven filtering technique.

Positive filters are based on the assumption that a small number of knowledgeable contributors can be used to identify on-point threads in a newsgroup. In Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell identified socially influential gorup participants as connectors and mavens. Connectors are persons with wide social circles that are the "hubs" of human social networks. Mavens are knowledgeable person with expertise in a particular area. Positive filtering by the connector-maven technique involves identifying the connectors and mavens in group and first only reviewing their posts to identify relevant threads for further reading in depth.

In theory, the only way that trollers can defeat positive filtering is by falsing assuming the identity of a connector or maven. Since such an action would probably be amenable for referral for criminal prosecution under either federal or local state identity theft laws, in theory, positive filtering by the connector-maven method is relatively secure from breach by trollers.

Any single newsgroup can have more than one connector-maven list, depending on areas of sub-interest. This corresponds to "channels" under the old Microsoft Active Desktop initiative or feeds under the current RSS website feeder system. Some lists of connector-mavens within a newsgroup may be more social-discussion oriented; others more technically oriented.

Connector-maven filtering is a form of pull, as opposed to push, information transfer. It is similar to the "internet buddy" system used in popular internet messaging systems.

Outlook Express 6.0 Setup


Setup for connector-maven filtering involves two parts. First, the original newsgroup is subscribed once and only message headers are downloaded. This first account is used to review flagged headers by connector-mavens. In Outlook, it is possible to subscribe to the same newsgroup more than once. Subscribe to the target newsgroup a second time. This will create a second account for the news service labelled " {1}". In this second account, the unfiltered text of all messages are downloaded for offline reading.

Step-by-Step Setup

  • Add custom buttons to the button toolbar
  • Right-click on the main toolbar and then select "Customize". Use the Add button to add additional buttons to the standard toolbar. Add these custom buttons:

    General settings - applies to all newsgroups

    Individual newsgroup settings

    Associate the views with the first and second newsgroup

    Click on the first newsgroup. Apply the view "Show flagged unread messages"

    Click on the second newsgroup copy. Set the view to "Show all messages"

    Create positive connector-maven filtering rules for the first account

    Begin by opening the Messages Rules dialogue. On the menubar choose Tools | Message Rules | News. Create the following rules. The newsgroup sci.astro.amateur is used as the working example: