Welcome to the Mailman Admin Tutorial*!
*Updated October 23, 2006
This tutorial is designed to help you learn to use the new list administration tools that are offered by Mailman, the new RootsWeb list management system.
Mailman offers many of the same, or similar list administration features as SmartList (the old list management system). Additionally, there are several new features we will discuss in this tutorial.
To begin this tutorial, please go to your list administration page and sign in with your password. The new Mailman list administration page will automatically open on the “General Options” section.
This tutorial will discuss each Mailman setting and briefly compare them to the old SmartList settings. It is recommended that you open your own Mailman list administration page as you read through this tutorial.
We will first walk through the “Configuration Categories” links that are found on the left side of your list administration page. Then we will move on to discuss the “Other Admin Tools” links located on the right.
The “General Options” section is where you set your fundamental list characteristics. This is the default section your list administration page will open to. To return to this section, click the “General Options” link under “Configuration Categories”.
We will walk through each of the General Options settings and how they compare to the old SmartList settings. It is recommended that you review your own lists General Options page as you read through this section.
General List Personality
List Administrator Address:
This box is where you view and update your list administrator email address. To update your address, enter the new address and select the “Submit your Changes” button.
SmartList Equivalent: This is equivalent to the old way of changing your email address.
Note: You will notice a link that says “Details for owner” in the settings box. Clicking on that link will take you to a page that provides more detail on that setting. There are similar links in each of the settings we will discuss to help you choose the right setting for your list.
List Admin Assistant Email Addresses:
Before we can discuss this section, we must first go over the basics of list admin assistants:
What is a list admin assistant?
There now can be two “ownership” roles associated with each mailing list- list administrator and List admin assistant. The list administrator is the person who has ultimate control over all settings of the mailing list.
A list administrator can assign a list admin assistant to help them with their list. List admin assistants have the ability to review and take action on all messages in the pending requests review tool. The do not have access to any list configuration tools including subscribing and unsubscribing members, adding members to the accept list or put them on moderation and etc.
Assigning a list admin assistant can be helpful for particularly large or busy lists. You can also choose to assign an admin assistant to take care of your list ‘basics’ while you are on vacation or otherwise unable to do it yourself.
How do I assign a list admin assistant?
You can add a list admin assistant by entering their email address in the field provided. If you would like to assign multiple assistants, please put each assistants email address on a new line.
In order to split the list ownership duties into administrators and moderators, you must set a separate moderator password (this will be discussed more in the “Passwords” section of this tutorial). If you choose to assign multiple list admin assistants, they will share the same password.
List admin assistants can only tend to pending requests and will need to sign in at that page. Once you have assigned an assistant, click on the “Tend to Pending Requests” link and send your admin assistant that URL. The url will look something like this (replace the # with the appropriate server number and the generic “listname” with the actual list name):
When they follow that URL, they will need to use their password to gain access to the pending requests.
SmartList Equivalent: Adding a list admin assistant is a feature that is unique to Mailman.
Prefix for subject line of list postings:
This text will be prepended to subject lines of all messages posted to the list, to distinguish mailing list messages in mailbox summaries. Brevity is premium here - it's ok to shorten long mailing list names to something more concise, as long as it still identifies the mailing list.
Please make sure your chosen prefix is placed between brackets (“[ and ]”)
Note: the best thing for the subject prefix is generally the list name. If space constraints make it impractical to use the full list name, keep in mind that any abbreviation you select may already be in use on another list. That would make things confusing for anyone subscribed to both lists. Listen to your subscribers, and try to avoid namespace collisions.
SmartList Equivalent: This setting is equivalent to the “Prepend Something to the subject of each message?” setting in the old mailing list administration settings.
Where are replies to the list directed?
This option controls what happens when a user clicks “reply” to a mailing list email. Selecting “Poster” will direct any replies to list messages directly to email address of poster. Selecting “This list” will direct all replies to the mailing list email address.
It is recommended that this setting remain on the default setting of “This list”.
SmartList Equivalent: This setting is equivalent to the “replies should go back to the list by default” setting in the old mailing list administration settings.
List-specific text prepended to new-subscriber welcome message
This text will be added to the beginning of the new-subscriber welcome message just below the phrase “Welcome to the (List Name) mailing list!”. The rest of the welcome message already describes the important addresses and URLs for the mailing list, so you don't need to include any of that here.
You may wish to use this space to outline any special list rules, or other information unique to your list. If you choose to leave this space blank, the welcome message will still make sense to the user.
Note that this text will be wrapped, according to the following rules:
SmartList Equivalent: The old list administration settings allowed you to create the entire welcome message. In Mailman, the welcome message template has already been created for you to include important addresses, such as your lists main page, and all you need to do is include any list-unique information.
Should the list administrator and the list admin assistants get immediate notice of new requests, as well as daily notices about collected ones?
List administrators and list admin assistants are sent daily reminders of requests pending review, such as messages sent from non-member or a moderated member. Setting this option will cause notices to be sent immediately on the arrival of new requests in addition to the daily reminder.
SmartList Equivalent: None, sending reminders of requests pending review is a new Mailman setting.
Should the Administrator get notices of subscribes and unsubscribes?
This setting allows you to choose whether you would like to receive email notification when a user subscribes or unsubscribes from your list. These notifications will also be sent to list admin assistants.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to choose to receive notifications of subscriptions and unsubscriptions separately.
Send mail to poster when their posting is held for approval?
This setting allows you to choose whether a user who is placed on “moderation” receives notice that their post is being held for list administrator approval. Other types of message that are held for admin review include:
- Posts to the lists sent by non-members.
- Posts that are sent to the list that are larger than the set message size limit.
We recommend that this setting remains on the default setting of “Yes”. If a users message is being held for review, they should know that it is and the reason why.
SmartList Equivalent: Notifying a user their posts are being held for list administrator approval is a new Mailman feature.
Emergency Moderation of all list traffic.
This setting allows you to temporarily hold all posts made to the list for administrator review. You will then have to approve all posts before they are distributed to the list.
This can be an effective way to deal with a list in crisis. It is expected that this setting would be used sparingly and only for limited periods.
SmartList Equivalent: This is smilar to the emergency moderation in SmartList. However, there are a couple of key differences:
1- In SmartList, when a list was set to “emergency moderation”, all posts made to the list bounced to the list admin. In mailman, if you set your list to “emergency moderation” all posts will go to the “pending moderation requests” folder. You can then review and approve posts that are OK to distribute to the list.
2 - In SmartList, all users on the “Accept” list were able to post to the list when a list was under emergency moderation. If you set your list to “emergency moderation” in Mailman, NO users will be able to post.
Maximum length in kilobytes (KB) of a message body.
This setting allows you to set the largest message that can be posted to your list. You should choose the size limit that works best for your list. Selecting a larger value may be a good idea for lists where users need to create long posts.
Note: it is probably smart to make sure that the maximum message size is smaller than the maximum digest size. Occasionally someone will respond to a message from the digest and quote the entire digest. If the maximum message size is smaller than the maximum digest size, it is more likely that the quoted digest won't get reposted to the list. Selecting a smaller value can protect against that error.
SmartList Equivalent: These settings are the same as the SmartList “Largest allowable message” setting.
Saving your General Options settings
Whenever you make a change your “General Options” settings, you will need to click on the “Submit Your Changes” button found at the bottom of the page to save them. If you fail to click the button, your changes will not be made.
To change your list administrator password (i.e. the password you use to access your list admin tools) and configure a list admin assistant password, you will need to go to the Passwords section. To get to the section, click on the “Passwords” link in the “Configuration Categories” column.
Change List Ownership Passwords
Changing your List Administrator Password:
To change your list administrator password, enter the new password in the field provided. Enter the same password again in the “Confirm administrator password”. Click the “Submit your Changes” button at the bottom of the page to save your new password.
Changing your List Admin Assistant Password:
To set or change the list admin assistant password, enter it in the field provided. Enter the same password again in the “Confirm administrator password”. Click the “Submit your Changes” button at the bottom of the page to save your new password.
Please be sure to make your list admin assistant(s) aware of the password you have set so they can access their tools.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to change your list administrator password. The ability to assign list admin assistants is new to Mailman so changing that password is also new.
The “Membership Management” section has three sub-sections that help you manage the list’s members such as subscribing and unsubscribing list members. To get to the Membership Management sub-sections, click on the “Membership Management” link in the “Configuration Categories” column.
We will walk through each of the Membership Management sub-sections and their settings. It is recommended that you review your own lists General Options page as you read through this section.
The Membership List sub-section opens automatically when you click on the ‘Membership Management’ link.
The membership list is a list of all of the mailing list subscribers – both digest and regular. There is a lot you can do to manage the members of the list on this page, so we will go through and discuss each feature.
Find Member Search
The “Find Member” search box can help you quickly locate a user on the Membership List by searching on their entire email address. You can also enter portions of the email address if you don’t know the entire thing.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to search the membership list by full or partial email address.
Membership List Table
All subscribers to your list are listed by email address in a table that shows you some information about their subscription and allows you to unsubscribe them or moderate their posts. The top of the table tells you how many subscribers your list has. Please note this number includes all digest and non-digest subscribers.
We will now discuss each column of the Membership List table. For your future reference, clicking on the “Click here to include the legend for this table” link will open a legend that will help remind you what each column of the table is for.
Clicking on the “unsub” box next to a user’s email address and clicking the “Submit your Changes” button will automatically unsubscribe them from the list.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to view a list of list subscriber email addresses and check an “unsubscribe” box to unsubscribe them.
This column shows the list members email address.
Checking the “mod” box next to a user’s name will put that user on individual moderation. This means that all posts they send to the list will be held for list administrator review in the pending request tool before they are sent to the list.
This is a useful alternative to putting an entire list on “emergency moderation”. If only one or two users are getting out of hand, you can place them on individual moderation and review their posts before they are also distributed.
Note: It is recommended that individual moderation, like emergency moderation, will be a temporary setting.
SmartList Equivalent: Temporarily moderating an individual’s post is a feature unique to Mailman. This setting replaces the old “Reject” list that automatically rejected posts from subscribed users while still allowing them to receive list mail.
This column indicates whether delivery to the user has been disabled. If delivery has been disabled, an abbreviation will be given describing the reason for the disabled delivery:
Note: This column is just for your information to help you understand why a user might not be getting their emails. Admins should not put users on nomail without their consent as it means they will not receive list emails.
SmartList Equivalent: Displaying a reason that a users list mail delivery is disabled is a feature unique to Mailman.
This column indicates the member wants to avoid copies of their own postings. Your list members don’t currently have a place to change this setting, so it should always be unchecked. Please do not change this setting for any member.
This column indicates with a check whether a user is subscribed to the digest version of the list. If the box is checked, that means the subscriber receives the list in digest form. If the box is unchecked, it means they receive each list email individually.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList displayed the digest members and the non-digest members on separate lists.
This column indicates whether or not the member receives their digest in plain text or MIME format. Plain digests are sent to users with all posts listed in one long email. For most subscribers, MIME digests will appear with all posts as individual attachments. The default digest delivery is Plain.
If the box is checked, the subscriber will receive their digest in plain text format. If the box is unchecked, it means they are receiving their digest in MIME format. Please do not change this setting for any member without their consent.
Note: If a list subscriber requests that their digest be delivered with all posts appearing as individual attachments, they most likely want to be switched from “Plain” digest delivery (the default) to MIME digest delivery.
This column shows the members preferred language. All users’ setting should remain on “English (USA)” since the lists aren’t configured to accept a different language as the default. Please do not change this setting for any user.
Saving your Membership List Changes:
Whenever you make a change to the Membership List settings, you will need to click on the “Submit Your Changes” button found at the bottom of the page to save them. If you fail to click the button, your changes (including moderation or unsubscribes) will not be made.
“User Subscription” is the next sub-section under “Membership Management”. To view this page, click on the “User Subscriptions” link that appears after you click the “Membership Management” link.
The User Subscriptions sub-section is where you can subscribe new users to the list:
To subscribe a new user, enter their email address in the field provided and click the “Submit Your Changes” button.
A subscription notification will be automatically sent to the user when you subscribe them. The “subscription notice” uses the same basic template as the welcome email. However, when you subscribe a user from this tool, the text you enter will override your “regular” admin welcome message.
To add your text, simply enter it into the field provided and include at least one blank line at the end and click the “Submit your Changes” button:
Note: The subscription notification contains the same basic information that the welcome email template provides such as instructions and URLs.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to subscribe users but it did not offer a special subscription notification email.
User Removal is the third sub-section of Membership Management.
When you unsubscribe a user in this section, you can choose whether or not to send an unsubscription acknowledgement (email) to the user:
You can also choose whether or not the regular unsubscription notification is sent to you:
To unsubscribe a user, enter their email in the field provided and click the “Submit Your Changes” button.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to unsubscribe list members by email address.
The “Non-Digest Footer” section is where you go to change the footer for each message that is delivered to the non-digest (or mail) list:
To change or add a footer, enter it in the field provided and click the “Submit your Changes” button. Be sure to include a space or some sort of separation so the footer doesn’t get confused with the body of the post. A line of asterisks (*) or “equal signs” can work well for this.
Note: A footer giving information on how to unsubscribe to the mailing list is automatically added to each post in addition to the footer you configure.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to configure 10 rotating “taglines” that were added to all list posts.
Click on the “Digest Options” link in the “Confirmation Categories” section of the page to configure the Digest (“-D”) list settings:
When receiving digest, which format is default?
This setting allows you to choose the format your digest will be delivered in- plain text or MIME for new subscribers to the list.
The Plain digest format delivers the digest with a Table of Contents at the top and a listing of full-text emails below. This is the default and the format that most users are used to getting under Smartlist. However, if a user requests that their digest comes as email “attachments”, then you can individually subscribe them to the MIME digest by going to the Membership Management section and un-checking the “Plain” box by their email address:
Note: If you change your digest from Plain text delivery (default) to MIME delivery on the Digest options page, you must also go into Membership Management and uncheck the “plain” check boxes for all digest subscribers for them to receive the digests in MIME format.
SmartList Equivalent: This is a setting unique to Mailman.
How big in Kb should a digest be before it gets sent out?
Whenever a message is posted to your list, Mailman evaluates whether it should release a new digest. By default, digests are sent daily. However, if the new digest would be larger than the size specified here, the digest is released.
You should select a size threshold that is based on the needs of your list. Busy list may need a higher threshold for less frequent digests, or a lower threshold for smaller, more frequent digests. Typically, this number should be set between 20 and 30 KB.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to select the size of a digest. You also could select how frequently digests should be delivered. Mailman has only a daily delivery option.
Should a digest be dispatched daily when the size threshold isn't reached?
This setting allows you to decide whether or not the list digest should be sent daily if the size threshold hasn’t been met.
SmartList Equivalent: This is a setting unique to Mailman.
Header added to every digest
Mailman allows you to add a header to every digest email that is sent to the “-D” list. The header is added to the top of the digest message before the table of contents.
To configure the heading, enter it in the field provided and click the “Submit your Changes” button.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList did not allow you to add a header to the digest list messages. This is a new setting unique to Mailman.
The “Privacy Options” section has two sub-sections: “Ban List” and “Accept List”. The “Ban List” is the default sub-section that will be opened when you click on the “Privacy Options” link under the “Configuration Categories”.
What steps are required for subscription?
This setting allows and admin to set the steps required for a person to subscribe to the list. The setting options are “None”, “Confirm” and “Require approval”.
“None” is the default setting. It requires no action by the admin or the user to subscribe to the list. That means the user sends their “subscribe” email to the proper address and they will be automatically subscribed.
Note: This is the recommended setting for most lists.
The “Confirm” setting requires that a prospective list subscriber must click on a link to confirm that they would like to be subscribed to the list before their subscription is processed. This means that after the user sends their “subscribe” email to the proper address, they receive a “confirmation” email that contains a link they must click on to confirm the subscription. If they fail to click on the link, they will not be subscribed to the list
The “Require Approval” setting requires that all subscription requests will be sent to the Pending Requests area for list admin review and approval before they can subscribe to the list:
The list admin (or admin assistant) must then review all subscription request and take one of the following actions:
- Defer- this will take no action on the request and it will remain the in pending review area.
- Approve- this will approve the subscription request and automatically subscribe the user.
- Reject- this rejects the subscription request and sends a rejection message to the user. If you choose to enter a “Reason for refusal” (recommended) that reason will be included in the reject message.
- Discard- this will discard or delete the request without subscribing the user to the list. This option does not generate an email to the user.
Note: The “Require Approval” setting should only be used on lists where there is a good reason to restrict/review the list subscribers. Abuse of this, and any other list setting or admin tool, will result in disciplinary action.
The Ban list
Addresses in the Ban List are banned outright from subscribing to the mailing list, with no further moderation required. Add addresses one per line. A ^ character may appear next to some addresses that were migrated to your list, but it is NOT required for an address to be successfully banned. Once you have added the banned email address(es), click the “Submit Your Changes” button to save your changes.
Note: If you put a current list subscriber on the ban list, it will not prevent them from posting messages to the list- it will simply prevent them from re-subscribing if they unsubscribe from the list.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList offered a “Reject” list that automatically rejected subscribed users posts but still allowed them to receive list mail. This feature has been replaced by the Mailman “individual” moderation. If a non-subscribed email address was placed on the “Reject” list, it would be banned from subscribing.
Since there is no direct Mailman equivalent to the “Reject” list, the addresses on the Reject list were copied to the “Ban” list when your list was migrated. Admins were invited to clear their reject lists of any users that they didn’t want to ban prior to the update.
If you were unable to “clean up” the reject list before your list was migrated, there is no need to worry. Simply review the Ban list and re-subscribe any addresses who aren’t supposed to be banned. If you would like to still monitor a member’s posts for some reason, once they are subscribed you can check the “mod” box next to their email address and all of their posts will come to the pending requests area for review.
The “Accept List” is a list of non-member addresses that are allowed to post to the list. Add member addresses one per line and start each line with a “^”character. Once you have added the banned email address(es), click the “Submit Your Changes” button to save your changes.
SmartList Equivalent: This is equivalent to the SmartList Accept List. When your list was moved to Mailman, your accept list was migrated with it.
The “Bounce Processing” is found under the “Configuration Categories”. This is where you configure how bounces should be processed for your list:
The maximum member bounce score before the member's subscription is disabled.
Each subscriber is assigned a bounce score. Whenever Mailman receives a bounce from a list member, that member's score is increased. Hard bounces (fatal errors) increase the score by 1, while soft bounces (temporary errors) increase the score by 0.5.
For instance, a “hard” bounce can occur when Mailman receives error indicating the email address it tried to send to no longer exists. A “soft” bounce can occur when Mailman receives an error message indicating the inbox of the email address it tried to mail to is full.
The number you enter describes the upper limit for a member's bounce score, above which they are automatically removed from the mailing list.
Note: Only one bounce per day counts against a member's score, so even if 10 hard bounces are received for a member on the same day, their score will increase by just 1.
SmartList Equivalent: SmartList allowed you to set the number of bounces a user could have before being removed from the list. It did not differentiate “hard” and “soft” bounces.
Should Mailman notify you, the list owner, when bounces cause a member to be unsubscribed?
This allows you to choose whether or not you would like to receive notification when a user is unsubscribed from the list because of excessive bounces. By choosing “No” you will not receive the notification. However, an attempt to notify the member will always be made.
SmartList Equivalent: This is a new setting unique to Mailman.
Pending Requests Review Tool
To view any messages that are pending review, click on the “Tend to pending requests” link located on the right side of the page in the “Other Administration Tools” section:
All messages sent to the list by non-members and members who are temporarily being moderated will be held in the review pending request tool for list admin review.
The pending request review tool is the only administration tool that the list admin assistant can access.
When you click on the “Review pending requests” link, the first page you are taken to is called the “summary view”. This page shows you a summary of all requests that are being held for Admin review. It also contains summary information of each post that is pending review including the reason it is being held.
Tour of a message summary:
Each post displayed in the summary view contains information about the post in the column on the right side. A description of each
1- The senders email address.
2- Link to the detail page of all messages from this author.
3- Message number that links to the detail page of that message.
4- Message subject
5- Message size
6- Reason the message is being held.
7- Date and time the message was sent.
Pending requests are listed by post author email address. If there are multiple posts from the same person, they will appear in the same box:
Summary Page Actions:
You can choose to take the same action on all of the posts by the user by using the tools located in the column on the right:
1- Defer: Clicking on the “defer” radio button will defer your decision on the message until later. No action will be taken for this pending administrative request.
2- Accept: Accept the message. It will be automatically sent to the list.
3- Discard: Throw away the original message, without sending a rejection notice. This is usually the action you want to take for known spam.
4- “Forward messages”: This feature will forward a copy of the email to the address you specifiy in the field before you take your action on the post.
5- “Clear this member’s moderate flag:” If the sender is a list member who is currently being moderated, you can also optionally clear their "moderation flag" on the summary page. This means their post will be automatically be sent to the list again without prior list admin review.
6- “Ban (User email) from ever subscribing:” If a sender is not a member of the list, you will see the option to add them to the ban list directly from this page. This will be used primarily for known spam.
Once you have selected the action(s) you would like to take on the messages pending review, click on the “Submit all data” button at the bottom of the page to complete the action(s).
Tour of a message details page:
The details page shows a detailed view of each message that is being held for review including the message headers and an excerpt of the message body:
1- Email address of the sender.
2- Subject line of the message.
3- Reason the message is being held for review
4- Date and time the message was received.
5- Message Action options
6- Option to forward the message to a specified email address
7- Reason for rejection (if applicable).
8- Message headers.
9- Excerpt of the held message.
10- Submit button.
You can get to this page by clicking on the link to “view all messages from (the users email)” or by clicking on the linked number by each message summary.
Details Page Actions:
You can take the following actions on a message individually on the details page:
Rejecting a message:
You can only perform the Reject action from the message details page:
To reject a message, select the “Reject” action and enter the reason for rejection in the appropriate field. Then click the “Submit All Data” button at the bottom or top of the page to discard the message and send a rejection email to the sender.
It is strongly recommended that you always reject with a reason whenever you decide not to send a moderated members post on to the list.
Depending on your settings, moderated list members may be automatically notified that their post is being held for review. A rejection notice with a reason helps them to understand why their posts are not being distributed to the list. If you reject a post and do not enter a reason for rejection, the email will go out with the reason “No reason given.”
Additional “Other Admin Tools”
In addition to the “pending requests” tool link, there are other useful links in the “Other Admin Tools” column in the right column:
1- The “Go to the general list information page” link will take you to your lists main RootsWeb.com list page.
2- The “Go to list Archives” will take you to your list archives.
3- The “RootsWeb List Administration Resources” link will take you to the list admin help pages.
4- The “RootsWeb Listowners mailing list” link will take you to the main page for the ListOwners mailing list.
5 & 6- These links will take you to the ListOwners Archives.
7- The “Logout” link will log you out of the list administration tool.