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Stunsub – tool to quickly get rid of mailing list subscriptions

Here’s the deal. Read on – this is a draft of ‘stunsub’, a tool that could prove very useful if you have a lot of mailing list subscriptions and want to manage¬† them in an effective way.

If you find that this tool might be useful, please leave a comment in this blog. I’d be also willing to know if there already exists a plugin or external
tool to easily manage mailing list subscriptions, on the client side. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Background

stunsub caught fire in my mind at a time when I noticed that

a) I’d gathered quite a lot of crappy mailing lists, notifications and so on, that kept bombing my poor Gmail inbox every day.
b) a positive change in technology has been that many of these lists nowadays
contain a “unsubscribe” link, due to the standard proposed in RFC 2369 “The Use of URLs as Meta-Syntax for Core Mail List Commands and their Transport through Message Header Fields”

Because of b), one might think that it’s easy to get rid of the unwanted lists.

Kind of, yes. But I still wanted to make the decision “at once”, perhaps seeing a complete list of any and all subscriptions that were actively making their way into my inbox.

Since I use Gmail, the programmatic use is not so self-evident. Gmail by default is being used via mouse through a Web interface, which would mean a lot of sifting through mails to find the unsubscription links. And what about the thing that happens after clicking a RFC2369 -compliant link? Is this standardized somehow? Am I to expect a confirmation page every time, or is it possible that something else happens?

These are some of the things to find out, as well as thinking of elegant solutions. I wouldn’t want to end up keeping track of thousands of different kind of ways that unsubscription links work, and building a robotized (Selenium-like) script that would eventually execute the unsubscription.

Another thing that also caught my mind in the brainstorming phase is: how to make sure the baby doesn’t go with the bathwater? If for example there’s a really important mailing list subscription that regards power outages in my neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to accidentally unsubscribe from that! Some utilities companies (and naturally other companies as well) have useful notifications delivered via mail. But could we actually rely on one thing; is it so that these important notifications are never actually mailing lists, but instead they are customized emails which are single-shot into subscribers? A lot of questions. So far, fewer answers. This is a good place to start!

Ideas? Knowledge? Drop me a comment!

Jukka