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One Way to Reduce Email Stress: Re-Invent the Mailing List


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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a prototype system called Murmur that they hope will improve the experience of using email mailing lists by incorporating popular social media features such as upvoting, following, and blocking. CSAIL Ph.D. student Amy Zhang presented a paper on Murmur at the ACM CHI 2o15 conference in Seoul, Korea.

Zhang says it is surprising that email mailing lists have retained their popularity and have changed so little since their inception decades ago. The basic thrust of Murmur is to enable users to customize the ways they interact with mailing lists. One of the new system's features is the ability to post messages to specific mailing list members and not others, which Zhang says could help encourage people who want to contribute but worry about "spamming" people.

Recipients will be able to give these messages the equivalent of a Facebook "Like," such that it automatically spreads to more list recipients. Users also will be able to customize how much content they receive, for example by "following" certain users or specifying how many emails with certain tags they wish to receive in a given day or week.

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