Mailing Lists

ECE Computing Facilities supports mailing lists using the GNU Mailman Mailing List Manager. Mailman has a wide variety of options that allow list owners to control the behavior of their mailing lists, some of which will be discussed below.

Requesting a List

Lists can be requested sending email to Please include the following in the message:

  • list name: The email address you would like to have associated with the list.
  • list owner: The person responsible for the list. Later on you can add owners and moderators
  • If you need assistance with populating the list members then you should also include a list of email addresses for those subscribers.

Managing a List

When a list is created the list owner will receive an email that contains the initial list owner password and the URL for the list management and configuration. Computing Facilities has configured some basic defaults for ECE based lists, but owners should review and adjust these settings as necessary.

List owners can find a complete manual for list management at

Basic List management

For the action associated with many list options there are 4 choices:

  • Accept – Accept and distribute the message to list members
  • Hold – Accept the message and notify the list owner/administrator(s) that a message is pending and requires attention
  • Reject – Delete the message without sending it to the list members and notify the sender that you are doing so. There is often a customizable message associated with this option.
  • Discard – Delete the message without notifying the sender that you are doing so.

General Options

  • Description – A short description of the list that will be seen on the “list of lists” page, provided that the list is configured to be advertised.
  • Info – Several lines describing the list in more detail that can be sent if someone requests additional information.

Privacy Options

Privacy options control subscription rules, who can view various list attributes, and filters for messages being sent and received. This is probably where most of the settings dealing with SPAM and will be changed.

  • Advertised – If you visit a you will see some of the mailing lists available on our server. Whether a list appears on this list is controlled by whether or not it is advertised. Also, the description field is the description found under general options. You may want to change this to “No” to cut down on the harvesting of addresses by spammers.
  • Subscribe Policy – Controls what happens when someone tries to subscribe to a list. The default is require approval which means that the list owner must approve any subscriptions.
  • private_roster – Controls who can the members subscribed to the list. The default is that only the list owner can see this list. For lists that have a more open subscription policy this is a very appropriate setting because it will prevent Spammers from harvesting your list membership.
  • obscure_addresses – If set to yes it will display e-mail address on pages as “user at” rather than “”. This is another SPAM fighting tool.

Sender Filters

  • default_member_moderation – – If a members “moderate” flag is set then any posts they make must be approved. This controls whether that flag is on or off when a person first subscribes.
  • generic_non_member_action – This is the default action if the sending address does not match any nonmember rules.
  • accept_these_nonmembers – This is a very powerful variable. If you have a moderated or subscriber only list that has a need for non-members to post you can put their address here. When a message is sent by someone defined here the message is automatically sent without moderator review.An extension of this is allowing anyone who is a member of another list to post to your list. An example of this would be administrative staff being permitted to post to the faculty list. Allowing control via a different list saves the time and trouble required to update individual addresses avery time a staff member leaves or a new member is hired. In order to turn this on make an entry for @ in this field, where is the list whose members have permission to post to the current list.
  • hold_these_nonmembers – If a message is received from one of these addresses it will be held for moderation, unless the message is from a list member, then the member settings will take over. A regular expression can be used here.
  • reject_these_nonmembers – Messages from these addresses are automatically rejected. A regular expression can be used here.
  • discard_these_nonmembers
  • – Messages from these addresses are automatically discarded without notice. A regular expression can be used here.

Spam Filters

You can define header_filter_rules for messages and if a line in the Mail header matches then the action defined will be taken. This can be used in ECE to take advantage of the headers that SpamAssassin puts on messages. To do this use the following entry:

subject: \[SPAM

and select “Discard” as the option.

Archiving Option

This section controls if messages to your list are archived to a web page, and if they are, who has access to them. The default is for the list to be archived and that archive is restricted to members of the list. An additional feature that is available is to restrict access to the archives via the CMU PubCookie server. This requires some help from ECE Computing Facilities to set up, but the way it works is fairly straight forward.

  1. Facilities modifies the mailman webserver to require PubCookie access to that archive for your list
  2. Facilities gives you access to a directory where you can put the files that contain the definitions for the restrictions you want, this is equivalent to a .htaccess file.
  3. You make the list archive Public (the athentication is handled earlier so you don’t need it here).

For additional information please contact

Using Regular Expressions

In some of the configuration boxes you can use regular expressions to controlling messages. In our environment there are two very common cases. The first would be anyone from an address. In that case the regular expression would be ‘^.* The second would be anyone with a addres. This is actually a two part match so you need to enter ‘^.*@cmu\.edu’ and ‘^.*@*\.cmu\.edu’.

Many lists also accept messages from gmail accounts, so you can add the following rule to cover those addresses, ^.*gmail\.com$

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