Mailman Upgrade
version 2.1.5

This document describes some of the significant changes and new features of the new version of Mailman, Earlham's mailing list manager software. This version was installed in spring, 2005 and replaced the prior version of Mailman.

The features described here are primarily of interest to mailing list administrators. There are new features available to list members as well; most of these should be self-explanatory within Mailman. Please contact your list administrator or the HelpDesk if you have questions not answered in this document.

Changed Features (``where is...?'')

Administrator Passwords

In the old version of Mailman, you could change the administrator password at the bottom of the General Options page (the default page when you enter the list administration area). In the new version, you have to choose the Passwords page to change the administrator password. This is the second option under Configuration Categories at the top of the administration pages.

Subscribing Members

The Membership Management page has been broken up into three new pages. In the old version of Mailman, you could subscribe new members in a text box at the bottom of the Membership Management page. This text box has been moved to the Mass Subscription sub-page which will appear as a link under the Membership Management configuration categories when you enter the Membership Management area.

In addition, you now have the option of removing members all at the same time under the new Mass Removal page.

Privacy Options

The old Privacy Options page has, like the Membership Management page, been replaced with a set of sub-pages:

Subscription rules
This section controls how people are allowed to subscribe to the list. The significant new feature in this section is the address ban list, which is a list of e-mail addresses that are prohibited from joining the list.

Sender filters
This page introduces several new sections which allow for a much more flexible and understanble way of automatically holding or approving messages from senders in exception to the default list settings.

Recipient filters
There are no new features in this section, however the settings pertaining to recipients listed on messages' To lines have been moved here.

Spam filters
This page contains two settings that make dealing with spam easier, including the old setting for holding messages whose headers have certain patterns. See below for a description of the new spam filter rule.

Member Real Names

The previous version of Mailman supported setting the real name of a list member in addition to the member's e-mail address. This support was provided through an unofficial and unmaintained patch to the software. The new version of Mailman also supports this feature, but does so with different code which is an official part of the new version. As such, when we transfer the mailing list membership, the real names stored in the previous version can not be transferred to the new version.

In the new version of Mailman, real name support is a a standard part of the software. You may add real names to list members either as the administrator of the list or as a member for your own subscription. Since this part of the software is now officially supported, you should not have any worries that this information will be lost in the future.

Significant New Features

This section describes some of the new features in the new version of Mailman. It is not an attempt to describe every new feature, merely the ones that are most significant.

General Options

List Moderators

The new version of Mailman adds the ability to delegate basic administrative functions to list moderators. Unlike list administrators, moderators only have the ability to access the pending requests. In this area they can approve or reject held postings and subscription requests. List moderators cannot access the list administration pages, nor can they change any of the configuration options for the list.

List moderator addresses can be specified under General Options just as with administrator addresses. Both moderators and administrators will be notified of any pending requests.

Both the list moderator and list administrator passwords will allow access to the pending requests area.

Emergency Moderation

Regardless of the other posting settings on the list, it is possible to set the ``emergency moderation'' setting for a list. When this is turned on, all messages sent to the list will be held for moderator approval. This is most useful if the list is experiencing a flamewar or if an otherwise allowed sender is sending large amounts of spam to the list (though the longer term solution to the latter problem is to modify the posting settings so that the offending sender address is blocked).

New Member Options

You can set any of the following options for new list members:

Conceal member's address
This hides the new member's address from the list of members shown to other list members. It is still displayed for list administrators under Membership Management. This is turned off by default.

Acknowledge the member's posting
When this is enabled, Mailman will send an acknowledgement back to the sender for each message that they send to the list. This is turned off by default.

Do not send a copy of a member's own post
When this is enabled, Mailman will send the message to everyone on the list except the member that sent the message (on the assumption that the member already has a copy of the message, having sent it). This is turned off by default.

Filter out duplicate messages to list members
With this, Mailman tries to identify duplicate messages for the member and not send the duplicate. Duplicate messages are often the result of a reply being sent both to the list and to the list member who sent the message. This is turned on by default.

Language Options

You can enable multiple languages for your list. When you select multiple languages, list members can choose which language they would like to use when interacting with the Mailman web interface. Mailman web pages will be presented in the language that the member desires. In addition, Mailman can encode the subject lines of list messages if they contain characters other than the standard English characters.

Digest Options

The new version of Mailman introduces the concept of a ``digest volume.'' Much like periodicals have volumes and issues, it is now possible to have list digest volumes and issues, numbered sequentially. In the Digest Options page there are three new settings which control the frequency at which new digest volumes are created.

Privacy Options / Spam Filters

The new version of Mailman now has the ability to take any action automatically for messages that have certain patterns in the message headers. In addition to being able to hold matching messages for administrator approval, messages can be automatically rejected (with a message sent back to the sender), silently discarded, or accepted.

This feature will become more useful as Earlham adopts a more powerful spam identification system. In the near future, it will be possible to add a spam filter rule such as the following that will automatically discard messages that have the word ``*****SPAM*****'' in the subject line:

    Subject: \*\*\*\*\*SPAM\*\*\*\*\*

The backslashes are necessary as an asterisk would normally match any character.

It is possible to add as many spam filter rules as you desire and to change the order in which they are processed.

Bounce Processing

The new version of Mailman has a much more sophisticated method for determining whether member addresses are still valid. In addition to being able to detect bouncing addresses, Mailman is now able to automatically send warnings to the member when their address is disabled. The options on the Bounce Processing page control the way in which Mailman deals with addresses that are no longer valid.

Archiving Options

Searchable List Archives

All mailing list archives are now searchable, including private archives. On the archive index page you will find a search form which will allow you to search the mailing list. Search results are restricted to the list you are viewing and they are presented with a relevance score based on the terms of your search.

Archive Page Generator

You have a choice of what program you can use for generating list archives: Mailman's internal ``pipermail'' program or the MHonArc archive generator. The default is to use MHonArc, and most people will not need to change this. If you do change it, we will need to regenerate the list archives before they are usable.

Content Filtering

Mailman is now able to automatically remove certain attachment file types from list messages. By default, this feature is turned off for a list. If you do not want certain attachment types on your list, you can enable the filter. You may also convert HTML attachments in regular messages to plain text.


Mailman can categorize messages on the list based on the contents of the Subject and Keywords message headers. List members can then choose to receive only messages that are categorized in a certain topic. For example, you could create a topic that categorized all messages with a subject line containing the word ``{news}'' into a category called ``News''. In their personal settings, members could then choose to only subscribe to the News topic category.

Administrative Requests Database

If you have to manage a number of administrative requests (held postings and the like), you will notice a new feature of the pending requests display. The default display groups requests together by sender and does not load excerpts of each message to your browser. This can significantly speed up page loads. You can apply the same action to all the pending requests for an address. You can also elect to discard all pending requests that are marked ``Defer''. In this way, you can approve or reject specific messages and then easily discard the rest as spam.

If you would like to see further details of the pending requests in the same kind of display as the previous version of Mailman, you can click the link at the top or bottom of the page that expands the request display.