This is sort of a "survival guide" for listowners.

Caution: you will get quite a bit of admin mail, and likely some Spam, at your listowner address. DON'T IGNORE IT! You need to check that mailbox daily, and deal with error messages, administrative notices, and so on. I'll be happy to help analyze anything you don't understand, but one of your jobs as listowner is to learn something about anlyzing e-mail bounces and other error messages, and how to deal with them.

Important: don't let your listowner mailbox "fill up". If that address starts bouncing mail back to me, it is very messy.

Several places in this document you will see URLs and/or e-mail addresses that contain the string YOURLIST. When you use one of these, you must remove the YOURLIST and replace it with the actual name of your mailing list. For example, if your mailing list were named wetleather, you would change: http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/admin/YOURLIST/members to: http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/admin/wetleather/members

When your list is initially created, the listowner (only) will get an e-mail saying your new list has been created and giving the admin password and URL. At that point, I'll still be working on setting the long description, welcome message, and so on - so you may want to give it 10-15 minutes after this e-mail before you go in and look at the list options via the URL given in that listowner intro e-mail.

At this point, the list is up and working on Mailman.


The preferred way to do any maintenance (changes, unsubscribe, etc.) to your subscription is through the Web. There is also an e-mail command interface for subscribers, but the Web page is easier to use and faster.

An e-mail interface is NOT available for listowner admin. The administrative changes MUST be done through the Web interface and NOT through e-mail.

New Listowner: You need to check some things:

  • Please go to your list's admin page http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/admin/YOURLIST
    Spend some time looking at the options and features and making sure things are set to your liking. In particular, some lists had restrictions which did NOT get carried over to Mailman. Of particular interest for more "private" or "regulated" lists:
  • Under "Privacy options", "Subscription Rules" the "advertised" setting controls whether the existence of your list is available to the public on e.g. the general all-lists "http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/listinfo" page
  • Under same "Privacy options", "Subscription rules", the "subscribe_policy" setting controls whether subscription requests are automatically processed, or you must approve . I think I missed carrying over this option from Listproc for SOME lists.
  • Under same "Privacy options", "Sender filters", the "default_member_moderation" setting controls whether members are added as "moderated". By default, anyone can post. Mailman handles "moderation" as a setting on EACH SUBSCRIBER, not on the list. This actually works pretty well, if you think about it, when used in conjunction with the default member setting above AND the option under "Membership Management" at the bottom of the page inder "Additional Member Tasks" that lest you mass-set everybody's Modertaion to On (or Off) at once. For "announce only" lists, you probably should look under the "Privacy Options", "Sender Filters" and set the member_moderation_action to "Reject", and then write a nice note in the "member_moderation_notice" option to be sent to memebrs who try to post something to the list.
  • Under "Archiving Options", we're archiving a few, not archiving most. If you want an archive for your list, you may turn it on here. We don't really think archives on micapeak are a great thing for every list, but we will now offer that service to any listowner who wants it. BE ADVISED that I'll be working on some significant changes to how archiving is implemented over the next few months, so don't expect the workings/presentation/URLs to remain consistent or stable yet. PLEASE NOTE as you peruse the possibilities - they're all YOUR choice. If you feel like trying an option, go ahead! Don't be hesitant; there's nothing on the listowner's option pages that you're "not supposed to do". Well, editing the public HTML pages isn't really advised unless you REALLY know what you're doing, and we'd like you to keep the Micapeak "look". But otherwise, feel free! The list configuration options are YOUR choice - and your responsibility.
  • Please let your subscribers know that they need to review their individual subscription options at their own options page: http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/options/YOURLIST/YOURADDRESS e.g. http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/options/afm/president@whitehouse.gov Digest and every OTHER option just gets initialized to as default. In particular, by default, the "Conceal" option is set to No. Subscribers should be told that "Topics" are not set up (unless you the listowner decide to use this - let me know how it works?). Please alert them to the Gmail isse with the "Receive your own posts" (metoo) option. Let them know that the digest format is different, conforms to the appropriate RFC, and is not subject to reconfiguration.
  • Please look over micapeak's "Featured Mailing Lists" page at Decide whether your list's appearance and description there (or lack thereof) is what you want. Let Carl know of any changes that you might want, including addition or removal.
  • Same for the "Mailing List Roundup" at http://www.micapeak.com/mailinglistroundup please double-check by examining YOUR list's entry and let Carl know of any changes.

You perform all administrative tasks via http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/admin/ As written, this URL gives you a list of the mailing lists and allows you to select the one you're going to administer. To go directly to your mailing list's admin page, tack your list name onto the end of that, e.g. http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/admin/YOURLIST
Your page for modifying subscriptions, checking on subscriber settings, and so forth is: http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/admin/YOURLIST/members


Mailman calls the same setting "nomail" that Listproc called POSTPONE.
The digest format is now standards-compliant.
The digest trigger size is set to 40k by default. This may be quite low for active lists. The listowner should review this and change as appropriate for the traffic on your list. Digests are also triggered automatically once per day if the trigger size is NOT reached.
E-mail addresses are and always have been case-insensitive. Listproc stored them all internally as uppercase, and so that's how they were transferred over into Mailman.
Mailman is configured to use only and exclusively the "From " ("envelope-from") of incoming mail to identify the sender. This may or may not be the same as the "From:" header, which most people think of as "their" address. There are various reasons for this. It does cause questions and the occasional difficulty, though.
  • E-mail is one of the oldest of the Internet technologies. Various parts of e-mail technology were designed in the very early days of Internet and Usenet, when not everybody was connected to everybody else all the time. Partly for this reason, it was designed to be very redundant fail-safe and automatic. This can be a positive or negative thing...
  • E-mail message format is defined by several Internet RFC standards, the most relevant of which is RFC822. This defines two or three distinct parts of an e-mail message:
    1. The header starts with the very first line of the message, is composed of lines of the form "Header-ID: header-content" (several critically-important values for "Header-ID" are defined) (Headers always start at the very beginning of a line), and the headers section ends with a blank or empty line.
    2. The body starts after the first empty line and can contain most anything. Some (older) mail servers restrict the length of lines in the body to 256 characters or less. Some (older) mailers restrict the total byte-count of the body, typically to 64K. The RFC does not restrict the size or line-length.
    3. The signature block (OPTIONAL in the standard) begins with a line that starts with two '-' characters (--) and continues through the end of the message. Mailers usually pay no attention to this, but automated mail-processing software (like Mailman) can and do ignore anything after the start of a signature block.
  • Typically, in the 21st century, a message is delivered right away. When I send mail to you, my mail server opens a direct IP connection to your mail server over the Internet and passes the mail via the SMTP protocol in a couple of seconds or less. However, things can go wrong at my end (or in the middle):
    • My server can't find an IP address for your server name
    • My server can't connect to yours
    • My server connects to yours, but loses connection during the mail transfer
      ...and things can go wrong at your end:
    • Your server doesn't agree with mine on SMTP protocol details
    • Your server restricts size, format, or content of e-mail messages
    • Your server doesn't think you're a valid user
    • Your server enforces some sort of mail quota, and you've exceeded it
    • Your server is an intermediate step and it can't connect to the next step
      ...and most of these goings-wrong will generate a "bounce".
A "bounce" is a message back to the sender of e-mail that it couldn't be delivered as addressed, for one reason or another. It usually includes at least *some* of the original message for identification/debugging purposes. Hence the term - your mail is bounced right back to you.

Mail transfer-and-delivery software, generally known as MTA or Mail Transfer Agents (as opposed to mail-PROCESSING software like Mailman, which is a MUA or Mail User Agent) varies in age and conformance to standards. Some sites are quite up-to-date, some are not. Some are configured well, some are not. Those which are old or misconfigured can cause various problems. In general mail which is sent from an MTA program appears to come from "postmaster" or "mailer-daemon" or something like that. But it's usually configurable, and people have been known to use strange names.

There are several defined headers which are supposed to tell the MTA what to do about errors/bounces. Generally, the "Errors-to:" header SHOULD cause the MTA to send errors to the address identified in that header, which for Mailman lists is the mailing-list-owner. Much of the MTA software doesn't do this properly; it often sends bounces to the "Reply-to:" address, which for Mailman lists is the mailing-list address.

Mailman does extensive bounce processing, keeps track of which addresses are bouncing, postpones delivery afetr a while, attempts to notify the bouncing subscriber that they've been postponed for a while, and ultimately removes them from the subscriber list. For a detailed description of how it works, see http://www.micapeak.com/mailman/admin/YOURLIST/bounce

Mail is a store and forward system. Sometimes a message can get delayed on an upstream site for some reason and get queued for later delivery. Newer messages can then come in and get delivered right away if the problem has gone away. The older messages will get sent out when the queue is processed. If you're not seeing error messages, there not really anything you can do about the problem.

Here's another factor: the mailing list software sends mail to the MTA process (sendmail) in batches of several addresses. E.g., for a given EURO distribution message, it sends one message to the first several subscribers in the .subscribers file, another copy of same to the next several subscribers, etc. As far as I can tell, sendmail attempts SERIALLY to deliver to each address in the list of seevral, while there are CONCURRENT sendmail process running for each batch of seevral addressees. So, if the 17th address in a batch of 25 has a weak DNS and a bad link and a flaky SMTP server, it may take 10 minutes or more for addresses 18-25 to get tried, while we time-out, retry, etc. on bad #17. As far as I can tell, 18-25 DO get tried, even if #17 ultimately fails, and then the message is queued for later retry on #17 only. Given that the order of appearance in the subscribers file is subject to some magic rearrangement I've never bothered to figure out, this can contribute to some weird sequencing as observed by the addressees.

Mail sent to a Mailman list in HTML by defsault will be "stripped" - converted to plain text - and posted to the list. The new feature is intended as a convenience for users who occasionally may forget to send plain text, not a crutch-process for those too lazy or not competent to configure their mail client properly.

DO NOT CONSIDER THIS "PERMISSION" TO SEND HTML! HTML e-mail is still "wrong", for several reasons explained a number of places around the Internet, including


Mailman can be configured to allow attachments to be posted to the list, at the discretion of the listowners. By default, this is NOT enabled. The management of micapeak.com advise AGAINST allowing attachments in mailing list traffic.

March 2017
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Copyright © 1998-2015, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.