I concluded a long cherished project this holiday. For a long time I’ve been dipping into and out of the Yahoo Groups archive of the Zorrophonic Prefab Sprout group, and getting progressively irritated with the changes Yahoo are making to what should be a marvellous resource.
What used to be fairly easy to navigate and search has been transformed into a list taking forever to load, for which the search function often breaks down, and which has become impossible to use. Which is a shame, because this was the primary discussion list for Prefab Sprout between 1999 and 2006, encompassing the surprise UK Tour, the Gunman, Megahertz, and the ensuing disillusion. Dave Brewis was a fairly frequent contributor and provided many interesting nuggets, and there was a slightly closer relationship with the principals at that time.
So I decided to archive the list. This in itself isn’t easy: the clueless Yahoo “neo” interface broke automatic tools for this, and I had to set a macro up to access each message individually and scrape it into a file. Then a bit of automatic and manual processing to get to a “mbox” format which can be loaded into email clients. It’s probably got a few duff entries and errors, but most of it is there.
The list was run by Juli, also famous for calling out for “Wichita Lineman” in Leeds in 2000, and having it played. I’ve encountered Juli in a later persona online: she’s intense and passionate and maybe a little challenging, and you get a sense of that in the list. Otherwise many of the usual suspects are present, and there’s a lot of detail and information. It’s enormous fun to browse, as albums and rumours of albums appear, or as users start sharing files on Napster and elsewhere, complaining about access over 33K or 56K dialup. Eventually we emerge into the present day with an announcement of Sproutnet, shortly before Juli shut the list down. Nothing besides remains, except for birthday reminders and a few lonely files in the appropriate sections of the list.
There are definite cycles of excitement and disappointment in Sprout fan circles, and the archive captures that beautifully. Fascinating to compare the lead up to the Gunman and contrast with Megahertz, and enjoy the friction and personality clashes that really do come with the territory. It’s great stuff.
So how do you use the archive? It can be read in a text editor, but I don’t recommend that. The best way is to import the mbox file into a local archive on an email client, for example Mozilla Thunderbird using the ImportExportTools add in. There is an Mbox viewer available as freeware, but I haven’t tested it. When in a client you’ll be able to read chronologically (or close to it, the dates are a bit mangled so depending on the timezone of the sender you sometimes get replies before requests), or by sorting by sender (I recommend Dave Brewis and Stewart Gregg), and by searching.
Access the archive as an MBOX zip file here. This will work with a but of fiddling via Thunderbird or on Windows.
Access as a set of EML files for Mail Live or Outlook Express here. Simply extract to a suitable directory, create a new folder under ‘Storage folders’, CTRL A in the directory view for the files, and drag them into the folder. Very quick and easy. Alternatively, there is a free EML file viewer for PC – again unzip the files into a convenient folder and browse to them using the viewer which can be found here.