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IT Help and Support

University Information Services
 

Introduction

List owners are the people responsible for the list. They 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 owners 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 owner must make sure that the moderator is aware of the responsibilities listed above, and agree to take responsibility for the actions of the moderator.

Sympa 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.

Applying for a mailing list

Mailing lists are available to institutions, research groups and University Societies. To apply for a mailing list, complete the form on UIS's self-service portal.

 

Configuration of your mailing list(s)

  • To access your lists go to https://lists.cam.ac.uk/sympa/ and log in.
  • Once you have authenticated you will see the names of the lists of which you are a subscriber; lists where you are also an Owner or Moderator will be marked.
  • Click on the name of a list to navigate to the List Home landing page for the list.
  • The List Home landing page has a Admin link in the left hand column, and a List Configuration link in the main text. Both links lead you to the main admin page for the list. The next few sections cover the most important options. All of the available options are described on Sympa List Management Options.
  • Make the desired changes by making selections on the appropriate pages.
  • If you make a change on a page use the Apply Modifications 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

Review and if necessary update the following settings:

Edit List Configuration -> List definition

  • Subject of the list (initial value provided when requesting a list). A single line summary describing the purpose of the list. This appears when people display their current lists, or search for lists. See also description, which provides more detailed information if required.

Edit List Configuration -> Sending/receiving setup

Edit List Configuration -> Privileges 

  • Who can view list information (initial value provided when requesting a list)
  • Who can subscribe to the list (defaults to owner approval required)
  • Who can unsubscribe (defaults to owner approval required)

Edit List Configuration -> List description/Home page

  • List description (Initial value provided when requesting a list). A paragraph of text provided on the List Home landing page, and also as part of the Welcome message. The subject is a single line summary for the list.

Edit List Configuration -> Edit list templates

The following all default to empty text, but may be useful:

  • Welcome message (additional text sent when people join a list)
  • Unsubscribe message (additional text sent when people join a list)
  • Message footer (text added to the bottom of each message sent to the list).

Subscribing and unsubscribing members

The actions are performed from the Users -> Subscribers screen.

You can either add a single person (To add an individual user) or a list of people (To add multiple users). In both cases a "quiet" option exists to add people without sending out the welcome message. Click Add or Add subscribers to add the new members to the list.

To unsubscribe people, tick checkbox on the left under Subscriber Table, and then Delete selected email addresses (which becomes available as soon as at least one subscriber is selected on the page). The checkbox at the top of the list of list members can be used to select all subscribers on the page. Again a "quiet" option exists to remove people without sending out the unsubscription message.

Viewing the subscribers list 

Users -> Subscribers

Sympa normally breaks the subscriber table into separate pages of 25 subscribers, so that you can navigate back and forth. This number can be increased using Page Size under the current page of list members (changes will take effect immediately). it is also possible to search on email address or name (Search for a User), in order to focus in on specific list members that you wish to remove from the list.

Moderating list subscription and unsubscription requests

If people attempt to subscribe to or unsubscribe from your list the default behaviour is that list owners must approve or deny each request. Subscription and Unsubscription requests normally generate emails to the list owners with instructions. There are also links on the List Home page:

 Moderate

  • Subscriptions (count)
  • Unsubscriptions (count)

 which link to a page with a list of outstanding requests in each case.

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 by navigating to:

Edit List Configuration -> Sending/receiving setup -> Who can send messages 

and selecting: Force moderation of all messages.

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 owners
  • sympa@lists.cam.ac.uk - for sending commands (e.g. HELP) to Sympa
  • 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. Sympa's bounce processor.

When a bounce is received, Sympa 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 the member address can be extracted, the instance is logged by Sympa 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  Edit List Configuration -> Bounces configuration settings page.

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