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Notes on Subscription Mailing Lists

Mailing lists may be created on behalf of a department or research group. At Cardiff we use the Majordomo mailing list manager program.

To ensure that the list has the support of the department, we ask that you provide the name of a sponsor, either the Local Computing Representative or head of department, as authorisation.

On a paper form we would ask for a signature but this is not (yet) possible on the web. Please ensure that anyone else whose name you give on the form is aware of what you are doing as we are likely to contact them for confirmation before setting up the list. Any resources or staff time used by the list will be charged against the department's allocation.

List names

A mailing list allows electronic mail messages to be sent to a group of people with a common interest. Each list has its own email address: any messages sent to this address will be copied to all the current subscribers to the list.

List names must be unique and are case insensitive (in other words users may refer to them using any combination of cases).

The names may contain letters, digits and hyphens.

To allow lists to be distinguished from personal mailnames, we require that all list names end with -L, for example CHEST-Novell-L, Athro-L, Windows95-L. All lists managed at Cardiff have the address <listname>@Cardiff.ac.uk

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List descriptions

Majordomo holds two descriptions for each mailing list. The short form appears in the catalogue of lists returned in response to the 'lists' command. This should be no more than about 50 characters as it and the list name need to fit on a single line.

The long description will be sent to subscribers when they join the list, and may also be requested by people interested in joining the list. It may therefore be of any length. It should contain at least sufficient information for would-be subscribers to decide whether the list is relevant to them and whether an individual message is appropriate for the mailing list.

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List owner and moderator roles

Two roles are involved in running a mailing list - the owner and the moderator. These may, of course, be performed by the same person. The list manager software will communicate with the owner and moderator by email.

The list owner is responsible for any problems with the membership of the list. Most commonly this involves subscribers whose address has changed or become temporarily unavailable. The resulting error messages will be forwarded to the list owner who may decide to unsubscribe the problem address, or leave it in the hope that the problem will be transient. Inquiries from individuals about the conduct of the list should also be directed to the list owner.

The role of the list moderator depends on how the list is set up. Moderators may be required to approve each individual message before it is distributed to the list members, and may have to approve requests from individuals to join the list.

If nominating someone else to act as list owner or moderator, please be sure you have their approval before requesting that a list be set up.

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Managing subscriptions

Most mailing lists are open to anyone to join. In this case the list owner will be informed of each new member, but need take no action. Lists can also be set up so that the list owner is required to confirm each new member of the list, before they start to receive messages from the list. These are known as closed subscription lists.

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Moderation

For some mailing lists it may be desirable for individual messages to be checked by a human before they are distributed to the list members. These are known as moderated lists. When a message is sent to such a list, it is first forwarded to the moderator for the list, who must approve the message before the system will distribute it.

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Advertising the list

Majordomo can answer requests for information with a catalogue of the mailing lists which it manages at a site.

For each list it is possible to control whether the name of the list appears in the catalogue always, never, or only when requests come from a particular geographical area. Most commonly a list might be advertised only for queries originating within the Cardiff academic network or those from other sites in the UK.

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Archiving messages

It is possible for the system to keep a record of all messages sent to a list. These are grouped together in files which may be retrieved by list members who wish to catch up on discussion which they may have missed. Archive files can contain all the messages sent in a day, a month or a year.

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Who may create lists

Mailing lists may be created on behalf of a department or research group in Cardiff University.

Any resources or staff time used by the list will be charged against the department's allocation.

To ensure that the list has the support of the department, we ask that you provide the name of a sponsor, either the Local Computing Representative or head of department, as authorisation.

On a paper form we would ask for a signature but this is not (yet) possible on the web. Please ensure that anyone else whose name you give on the form is aware of what you are doing as we are likely to contact them for confirmation before setting up the list.