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Mailman — SCS Mailing-list Facility

Mailman is an open-source software package that enables users to manage mailing lists. Its benefits stem mostly from the fact that it separates the mailing-list mechanism from the mail-handling system (Corvid, in SCS). Thus Mailman can incorporate specialized features that address the requirements of real mailing lists, facilities such as:
  • Web-based graphical interfaces that provide:
    • User-level subscription management
    • Administrator-level list management
  • Access control for certain types of mailing-list information
  • Moderated posting
  • Message archiving and digesting
  • Posting whitelists and blacklists
  • Content filtering
Currently, the SCS Mailman service is hosted on "mailman.srv.cs.cmu.edu", where users can find more information, including public mailing lists, subscription-management interfaces, and administrator list-management interfaces.

Basic List Operations

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or change the preferences on your subscription:
  • If the list is public, that is, advertised on the SCS Mailman Public Lists page:
    1. On the Public Lists page, click the desired list-name link to reach the list's General Information page
    2. Under the "Subscribing to ..." heading, enter the requested information (your email address, password, etc.). Note: Never use your SCS account password here.
    3. Click the "Subscribe" button
    4. Mailman will send you an email message confirming your subscription and giving further instructions
  • For a private list:
    1. Contact the list owner to obtain the list's exact name
    2. From the Public Lists page, open another page, using the same URL and appending a forward slash and the list name, eg. "/HQB-friends"
    3. Proceed as for a public list

To post a message, you need only send it as email to <<list_name>@cs.cmu.edu>. If you have subscribed to the list, your post will be accepted — more often than not — and Mailman will distribute it to the other subscribers.

To create a new mailing list, remove an existing one, or change list ownership, send email to: <help+@cs.cmu.edu> with the following information:

  • The operation you request (add, remove, change owner)
  • The name of the mailing list
  • SCS usernames of two people who will serve as administrators for the list
  • For owner change, include the new owner's Kerberos principal and realm
After creating or subscribing to your first mailing list, we strongly recommended subscribing to the SCS-Mailman-Announce list to receive general Mailman announcements.

To access your list's "General Options" administrative page, go to: https://mailman.srv.cs.cmu.edu/mailman/admin/<list_name>. [Cut, paste, and append your own <list_name>] Authenticate via WebISO with the Kerberos principal ID and realm of the list's owner. If you have forgotten the owner's credentials, contact the SCS HelpDesk.

One common problem that new list administrators may encounter is authenticating with the wrong Kerberos principal (e.g. an Andrew ID instead of an SCS one). In that event, Mailman will display a screen asking for the list administrator's password. To recover, go back to the WebISO login page, http://webiso.andrew.cmu.edu and reauthenticate as the correct principal. Once authenticated, you will see the "General Options" page.

Documentation for Users & Administrators

  • The SCS Mailman FAQ summarizes common mailing-list problems and solutions
  • For Administrators, the Important Settings page reviews several potentially troublesome configuration issues
  • Our local Mailman Reference page summarizes the basic steps involved in setting up and maintaining a Mailman mailing list in the SCS environment
  • More detailed tutorials on the Web offer advice on using Mailman effectively. See, for example, the official Gnu documentation pages
  • Finally, as always, SCS HelpDesk staff may be able to offer assistance

Important Information

Note: The following instructions apply to mailing lists that will have only regular users as subscribers. For lists that will contain other sublists as subscribers, please contact the SCS HelpDesk at <help+@cs.cmu.edu> or x8-4231 for more information.
  • Mailing-list names are restricted by the following rules:
    • List names must contain only alphanumeric characters (a-z, 0-9), dashes/hyphens, and underscores
    • If the list name has fewer than nine characters, it must contain a dash/hyphen to prevent namespace collisions among userids.
  • After you receive email confirming your mailing-list creation, please wait until the following morning before populating it with subscribers. Mail aliases do not propagate until the following morning, so if users respond prematurely to subscription emails, their messages will bounce
  • If you, the current list owner, request a change of owner, you will no longer be able to access the list's administrative pages. Administrative rights will be transferred to the new owner.

Security and information exposure

As for many systems of this nature, you should consider carefully what information will become public and how to ensure appropriate security for information delivered to your subscribers.

List administrators:
  • Finding a list administrator's Kerberos principal and realm is trivially easy if the list's exact name is known. Administrators who prefer to avoid public association with a particular list should find another means of distributing the information.
  • To reduce incoming spam, all SCS mailing lists, both new and current, have greylisting enabled by default
List subscribers:
  • Currently, all email messages are passed between servers in clear text. Messages containing sensitive information should be encrypted before posting to a mailing list. SCS Facilitites makes no guarantee that any data you send out to the list will be kept secret in any way or form — it is your responsibility to keep it secure.
  • Password reminders are sent via clear-text email. Thus anyone performing the trivial task of "sniffing the wire" will be able to extract your password from a reminder. As a result, never use a password that you need to keep secure — your SCS account password, for example — as the password to your subscriber-options page.