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Information for mailing list managers

List managers are the people responsible for the list (the online Mailman help/information also refers to list managers as list owners or administrators). List managers are responsible for:

  • setting up and maintaining the options that affect the operation of the list
  • depending on the list configuration, possibly subscribing and unsubscribing list members and moderating messages posted to the list
  • ensuring that the use of the mailing list does not contravene any law, any University regulation or policy relating to the use of computing facilities, or the JANET acceptable use policy.

Each list should have at least two different managers to cover absence and to ensure smooth transitions when people leave the University. List managers may also nominate one or more moderators to help with the running of the list. If a moderator is nominated then the list manager must make sure that the moderator is aware of the responsibilities listed above, and agree to take responsibility for the actions of the moderator.

Note that list managers must use their CRSid (e.g. abc12) and @cam email address (e.g. abc12@cam.ac.uk>) as access to list management tasks is through Raven authentication.

Mailman has a lot of online help and information. What follows is a brief outline of how to do some common tasks, and where to find some other options.

Accessing your list(s)

  • Mailing lists are available to institutions, research groups and University Societies. To apply for a mailing list, complete an application for group computing resources form.
  • To access your lists go to https://lists.cam.ac.uk/mailman/ and select the link Cambridge Users: Log in using Raven
  • Once you have authenticated you will see the names of the lists of which you are a member; lists of which you are also a manager will have Admin and Moderator links. Select the Admin link of the list you need to work with. You will then see the initial administration page for that list, with various configuration categories listed. These are referred to below, and there is a separate summary of the facilities of each category.
  • Make the desired changes by making selections on the appropriate pages
  • If you make a change on a page use the Submit Your Changes button at the bottom of the page before you move to another page, otherwise your changes will not be stored
  • After selecting and saving all changes, select Logout and then close your browser (if you forget to do this other people with access to your machine could gain access to your list and change its configuration/membership).

Initial tasks

Managers of a new list should first check and, when necessary, configure the subscription and privacy and posting policies for the list.

List managers are also advised to create an introductory description, a welcome message and a goodbye message for their list. The options for doing this can be found by selecting Show Advanced Settings then General Options.

  • The introductory description needs to be short. It will be included at the top of the list's information page (https://lists.cam.ac.uk/mailman/listinfo/list-name). See the info setting.
  • The welcome message will be added to the generic welcome message from Mailman and will be sent to all new subscribers if you choose that option. See the welcome_msg and send_welcome_msg settings.
  • The goodbye message is similar to the welcome message except that, as its name implies, it is sent to subscribers who are leaving the list. See the goodbye_msg and send_goodbye_msg settings.

You may also want to set a message footer. See msg_footer from the Common Options category.

Setting subscription and privacy policies

Setting subscription and membership exposure policy, and controlling whether the list is public or not (i.e. will be listed in the results if someone uses the Search button on the https://lists.cam.ac.uk/mailman/ page) are all done from the Privacy options category (if you can't see this, select Show Advanced Settings first).

Setting posting policy

A posting policy (or posting status) determines who can send a message to the list. The settings for these are found as a pull-down list (Posting status:) at the bottom of the Common Options category. Each option has a brief description; a fuller discussion of the options is also available.

Subscribing and unsubscribing members

These are done from the Membership Management category. Note that when a new list is created managers are automatically subscribed.

  • To subscribe a user or users, select the Mass Subscription subcategory and type the email address of the user or that you wish to subscribe into the text box. To add more than one user enter each address on a separate line or, if you have a pre-prepared list, use the ...or specify a file to upload option. You can choose whether to subscribe people or send them an invitation to subscribe; the default is to subscribe them. To send new members of your list a welcome message make sure that the Yes button is checked. Finally select the Submit your changes button at the bottom of the screen.
  • To unsubscribe someone you can take one of two ways
    1. From the Membership Management category select the box in the first column (the "unsub" column) next to the address of each subscriber you want to delete then select the Submit your changes button at the bottom of the screen.
    2. From the Mass Removal subcategory choose whether or not to send acknowledgement of the removal to the user and whether or not to send a notification of the removal to the list owner. Enter the email addresses you want to remove (one per line) in the box. Finally select the Submit your changes button at the bottom of the screen.

Viewing the subscribers list

View a list of your current subscribers, as well as their mail options, from the Membership Management category. If your list has a lot of members this page will have subdivisions shown as links to different groups.

Dealing with abuse of a list

In an ideal world people would only send messages to a mailing list in order to communicate useful information to people on that mailing list. Unfortunately, in the real world problems happen and inappropriate postings, or attempts to post forging the email address of a list member, can lead to major disruption.

List managers can set emergency moderation of all messages either by selecting Secure from the Posting status: pull-down list at the bottom of the Common Options configuration section (see also the discussion of this setting on the posting policy page) or by changing Emergency moderation of all list traffic to Yes.

Special list addresses

There are various addresses associated with a list:

  • listname@lists.cam.ac.uk - for sending a message to the list members
  • listname-managers@lists.cam.ac.uk or listname-owner@lists.cam.ac.uk - for sending a message to the list managers
  • listname-request@lists.cam.ac.uk - for sending commands (e.g. subscribe) to Mailman
  • listname-bounces@lists.cam.ac.uk - delivers messages to the bounce processor (see below)
  • listname-subscribe@lists.cam.ac.uk - specifically for subscribing to that list
  • listname-unsubscribe@lists.cam.ac.uk - specifically for unsubscribing from that list

 

A note on bounce handling

When a message is distributed to the list members, the sender address in the message headers (this is not the From: address seen in the message) is replaced with listname-bounces@lists.cam.ac.uk . If there are any delivery failures for that message, the delivery failure notices (aka bounce messages) go to the message sender, i.e. Mailman's bounce processor.

When a bounce is received, Mailman tries to extract two pieces of information from the message: the address of the member the message was intended for, and the severity of the problem causing the bounce. If a member address cannot be extracted, the bounce is forwarded to the list managers. If the member address can be extracted, the instance is logged by Mailman for that member, and after a certain threshold of bounces is reached for a particular member, the member is automatically unsubscribed from the list.

Most mail software keeps the message sender fairly hidden, since it is usually (effectively) the same as the message's From: line. However certain email clients, for example Outlook, have a habit of displaying it prominently which can lead to users accidentally sending a normal message (not a delivery failure notice) to the bounce processor. This can lead to an 'unrecognised bounce' message going to the list managers.

Unless list managers have specific reasons for wanting to handle bounce processing with different settings, we strongly recommend leaving the defaults for bounce processing as they are set upon initial list creation. For those interested, a more detailed description of how bounce processing occurs, together with the options for changing aspects of the processing, can be found on the Bounce processing configuration settings page.