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introduction Mailman. Thomas Krichel 2003-10-09. structure. history fundamentals list configuration overview normally the defaults are sensible but I will mention the most important features one needs to be aware off. Listserv. Listserv is a program by Eric Thomas.

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introduction mailman

introduction Mailman

Thomas Krichel


  • history
  • fundamentals
  • list configuration overview
    • normally the defaults are sensible
    • but I will mention the most important features one needs to be aware off.
  • Listserv is a program by Eric Thomas.
  • First version ran on IBM VM/XA architecture (yuk!) in 1986
  • Now commercially produced and maintained by LSoft International, see
  • They have an exclusive trademark on the term, its use to mean "mailing list" is inappropriate.
at liu
  • We used to run "listproc" a piece of software that started life as "Unix Listserv" by Anastasios Kotsikonas, later commercialized by CREN.
  • Last year, following gripes by me, Mailman was adopted.
    • covered by GNU public license
    • sophisticated
    • user-friendly
  • A mailing list is a computer managed tool
    • it collects data about members (at least their email address)
    • it allows users to send mail to a list address, which is aimed to be distributed at all member of the list.
  • Usually only members of a list are allowed to send mail to the list. This is called "posting" to the list.
list administrator
list administrator
  • A list administrator is a person who has full rights to manage the list.
    • add and remove member
    • set all list service parameters
  • A list is open if anyone may become a member of the list, without approval of the list administrator. Otherwise it is closed.
list moderator
list moderator
  • A moderator is a person who can approve posts to the list
  • a list is moderated if, by default, posts are held for approval, it is unmoderated otherwise.
digested delivery
digested delivery
  • A digest is a compilation of posts sent to a list
    • during a day or
    • when a traffic limit is reached
  • Members may be allowed to opt for digested delivery.
  • If you don't think that this is a good idea, then remove the digestability right when opening the list. If you do it later, all digested members will be unsubscribed.
open a list
open a list
  • technically, you need to have
    • name of the list
    • email of list administrator
    • initial password
      • or one will be mailed to you
  • administratively, all this has to be approved by LIU administration.
web interface
web interface
  • If your list is called list
    • its user web interface (aka listinfo page) will be at
    • and its adminstrative web interface will be at It will be protected by the password you gave or you got.

  • Site wide user web interface is at

(what a mess!)

basic configuration informative
basic configuration: informative
  • description: a terse text string that describes the list and that will appear on the site-wide web user interface
  • introduction: a html formatted string that appears on the listinfo page
  • prefix: a string that appears in the subject line with each mail sent to the list
basic configuration replies
basic configuration: replies
  • Default reply
    • to poster (recommended)
    • to the list
    • to specific address
  • If poster sets custom reply-to header
    • respect it (recommended)
    • remove it
base configuration notification
base configuration: notification
  • When users subscribe, they are being sent a password that can be used to change subscription options.
  • Users can ask to be reminded about their password from the listinfo page.
  • By default, Mailman will send a monthly reminder. You can switch it off if you think that it is over the top.
base configuration administrivia
base configuration: administrivia
  • Administrivia are the contents of short posts that request "signoff" "help" etc.
  • They are mainly a legacy from mail command based mailing list interfaces.
  • By default
    • posts will be checked for administrivia
    • will be held if they contain administrivia.
membership basics i
membership basics I
  • mod set the moderation bit. If set, posts by this member are held for moderator approval
  • hide hide member. If set, will prevent the member from appearing in member listings
  • nomail set a member to receive no mail
  • ack set whether a member receives an explicit acknowledgment that she has posted
membership basics ii
membership basics II
  • not metoo prevents a member from getting her own postings to the list
  • digest if set the member will receive the post in digested form. By default, digests will be put together using the MIME protocol.
  • plain if set, digest messages using a plain text digestion method (not recommended)
mass subscription and removal
mass subscription and removal
  • You can mass add or remove.
  • Cut and paste a list of addresses, one address per line
  • or upload a file, one address per line
privacy options i
privacy options I
  • These have become extremely important because of all the spammers out there!
  • You can choose not to advertise the list on the LIU Mailman site.
  • You can close the list by requiring administrator approval for subscription.
  • You can set a ban list of addresses that are not allowed to subscribe.
privacy options ii
privacy options II
  • You can restrict the membership list to be viewed
    • by members only
    • by list administrators only (recommended)
  • You can choose to obfuscate mail addresses e.g. "krichel at openlib dot org" in membership lists.
privacy options iii
privacy options III
  • You can set some email addresses of non-members that are approved to post.
  • All other non-member postings can either be
    • held (administrator will decide later)
    • rejected (explanation is sent to poster)
    • discarded (poster receives no reply)
  • You should be careful with the default action.
  • You can request that administrators receive a forward of all discarded mails.
privacy options iv
privacy options IV
  • Most spammers do not put the address of the destination in the TO: header. Requiring the list address to be mentioned in the to: or cc: header is a good defense against them.
  • You can also set a ceiling for the maximum number of recipients of the post. But sometimes that leads to legitimate messages being held if there are extensive cross-postings.
privacy options v
privacy options V
  • Finally, you can ban known spammers from sending mail to the list by explicitly blacklisting their addresses.
bounce processing
bounce processing
  • If delivery to a member address failed, it is said to bounce.
  • You can configure the bounce sensitivity of Mailman, but I wouldn't do it.
    • if an address bounce too much it is disabled
      • member is still subscribed
      • Mailman sends occasional messages to the member to check if the address works again and to invite the member to subscribe again.
    • if a disabled address still bounces, the member is unsubscribed.
  • Mailman can be configured to keep an archive of posts.
  • This archive can be private or public.
    • public means that they are on public access on the web
    • private means that they can only be accessed by list members using their passwords.
contents filtering
contents filtering
  • You can set up contents filtering.
  • You can disallow messages that have a certain MIME type. This can be very effective in preventing viruses. But I don't currently have a list most frequently used by viruses.
moderator requests
moderator requests
  • You will be informed every 24 hours
    • if a message has been held for approval
    • if an non-member has tried to post
    • if there is an uncaught bounce
  • etc, if you have opted to be informed.
  • If you are not informed, you will not see any problem.
  • Amount of notification requires careful planning.
bounce notification
bounce notification
  • you can choose to be notified
    • if un uncaught bounce (one that mailman did not know what to do with) is received
    • if a member is disabled
    • if a member is unsubscribed
  • on class lists, this is recommended.
thank you for your attention

Thank you for your attention