Mailman at CS

(Redirected from Mailman)


Most user-controlled mailing lists in the CS Department are now run on our Mailman system. (Older CS mailing lists are Majordomo-based.)

NOTE: Although the CS IT Support Team can create the actual mailing list, we do not manage the content of user-requested mailing lists. That is managed by the user or their designee.

Subscribing to a CS Mailman Mailing Lists

CS Mailman mailing lists visibility are either public or private.
  • Public List: The public can see what lists are available and manage their subscriptions to those lists at:
  • Private List: List does not display on the public list of CS Mailman lists.
    • For a Mailman private list, subscribers will have to know what the list's name is. The list's name is in the list's email address, so if one sends email to and receives email from "", the list's name would be "listname".
    • Subscribers to private Mailman mailing lists can manage their subscription information for such a list at:

Getting Help With Your Mailman list Subscription

  • If a subscriber needs to contact the owner of a CS Mailman list, they can email the list owner at:

The rest of this page is mostly concerned with information for list owners; people who run a CS-hosted mailing list.

Requesting A CS-Hosted Mailing List To Be Created

  • Currently, you must be a CS faculty or staff member (or CS student that has approval from the student's instructor) to request a CS mailing list.
  • Please fill out our mailing list request form.
    • We will let you know when your new mailing list is ready.
    • We will have some default settings in place for you. You'll be able to configure/customize your list settings after you receive the list.

Administering (Configuring/Customizing) Your New CS Mailman Mailing List

General Mailman List Administration Documentation can be found online at:
However, we're also including some basic list admin information below that is geared to the CS-based Mailman mailing lists.
NOTE: If a list administrator needs additional assistance with managing their CS Mailman mailing lists, please email CS IT Support at:
For purposes of illustration, all of the examples here will use a list named "listname".
After we have created your new mailing list, you will receive an email with your list administration password and links to the webpages for managing your mailing list. In general, a list named "listname" can be managed from the webpages at:
You should go there now and make sure it's configured the way you will want it.

How Your List is Configured by Default

For the most part, the default settings for your list should be reasonable. Specific settings you might want to change are mentioned below.
Broadly speaking, new lists are configured in the following ways by default:
  • They're set up as discussion lists, which means that anyone who is subscribed to the list may post to the list and have their post sent to all of the other subscribers. Only list subscribers can send to the list; non-subscribers will have any attempted posts held until a moderator can review them.
  • Lists are largely private by default. They're not advertised publicly (on the "list of lists" page); their archives are only available to list subscribers; and the subscriber list is only available to list moderators.
  • Moderator approval is required before anyone can subscribe to the list. Most lists will want to change this setting, but it at least prevents people from using the list until the owner is ready.

Things You Should Change

On the "General Options" page, which is the first page you'll see when you go to, there are a few items you should definitely change:
  • owner - This is your email address and the email addresses of anyone else who will have complete control over the list (if you're sharing list administrative duties).
  • moderator - If you will have list moderators, put their email addresses here. A moderator has less access than a list owner. Moderators can approve postings to the list, clear out spam, and do other housekeeping tasks but cannot reconfigure the list's settings.
  • description - A short (one-line) description of what your mailing list is for.
  • info - A longer description of what your mailing list is for.

Things You Might Want to Change

Also in the General Options section are these settings, which will probably be okay if you leave them as they are, but which you might want to change to personalize your mailing list:
  • subject_prefix - The text that the mailing list will add to the beginning of the Subject: line for any email sent to the list. We highly recommend that if you have a value here you put it in [square brackets].
  • welcome_msg - This works a bit like the info field described above, but contains a bit of information that will be sent to any new subscriber to your mailing list. If you want to send welcome messages, you'll also have to set send_welcome_msg to "Yes".
On the "Privacy Options > Subscription rules" page, you can control how public your mailing list will be. The most notable settings are:
  • advertised - If you set this to "Yes", your mailing list will appear on the list of CS-based lists at
  • subscribe_policy - The default setting, "Require approval", will require you (or a designated list admin or moderator) to approve each subscription request. This maximizes list privacy, but is more work than most lists require. Setting it to "Confirm" allows anyone to subscribe if they want to.
On the "Archiving Options" page, you can control whether Mailman keeps a history of all the emails sent to your list. (Note that nothing can prevent list subscribers from keeping their own archives if they so choose.) The default setting for archive_private, "private", will only allow list subscribers to see the archives. If you change that to "public", anyone on the Internet will be able to see them.

Special Settings for Announcement Lists

Many lists we host are announcement lists; many people subscribe to these lists, but only a few people have permission to send emails to the list. This is how you set up your mailing list to work similarly:

On the "Privacy options > Sender filters" page (which you get by clicking "Privacy options" in the top menu then clicking "Sender filters"), set the following options:

  • default_member_moderation - Set to "Yes".
  • member_moderation_notice - This is the message that people who are subscribed but not allowed to post will receive if they try to post anyway. We suggest something along the lines of, "This mailing list is only for announcements; you cannot send email to it."
  • accept_these_nonmembers - This is a list of email addresses of people who are allowed to post to the list without being subscribed to it. This would be used for someone who would send messages but who would not necessarily need to receive a copy of every email sent to the list. (Note: This only works for people who are not subscribed to the list. For people who are list members, you need to follow the instructions below.)

To allow a list subscriber to send to the list, go to the "Membership Management > Membership List" page, find the entry for the person you want to allow (either by finding them in the table or by putting their email address into the search field and clicking "Search"), uncheck their box in the "mod" column, and click the "Submit Your Changes" button.

If You Receive a "1 <your list> moderator request(s) waiting" Message

Should you receive a message that indicates you have one (or more) "moderator requests waiting", that typically means you are the owner of a Mailman mailing list, and a message arrived that you have to moderate. Specifically, this message means that someone tried to send an email to the list, but the sender wasn't on the list of approved senders. When that happens, the list is configured to hold onto the message and let the list owners/moderators know about it. Then, as the list owner (or one of the list owners), you can follow the link provided and decide what to do about the message.

About Mailman Passwords

Administrative Password

By default, your list has one administrative password. Anyone who knows that password can log in and change anything about your list configuration. This means that the way you give someone access to your list is simply to tell them the password. If you need to remove administrative access for someone, you will have to go to the administrative interface at, go to the "Passwords" page, change the administrator password, and then share the new password with anyone else who still needs to have administrative access.

Moderator Password

If you want, you can set a moderator password. Anyone with the moderator password will be able to manage the process of getting emails to or keeping them from the list: they can approve or discard held messages and they can block people from posting to the list. They cannot change much else about the configuration of the list.

Administrative Interface Password Requests

When the administrative interface asks for a password, either the administrative password or the moderator password can be used. If the moderator password is used, only the moderator functions will be active.

Spam Management

It is a fact of life that eventually someone will try to send spam to your mailing list. Unfortunately, it's also likely that you will eventually have someone who should be allowed to post to the list try to send an email from an email address that the list doesn't recognize. There is no way for Mailman to discriminate between these two scenarios; all it knows is that it got email for a list from someone who isn't affiliated with that list. There are a number of list options available to help you, the list admin, deal with these sorts of situations.
By default, if the mailing list gets an email from someone who isn't subscribed to the list then it will hold on to the email until a list admin or moderator comes along and decides what to do with the email. List admins and moderators will get daily emails with lists of held messages and links to the "pending moderator requests" page:
That page makes it pretty easy to deal with spam. You can easily skim through the list of held emails, click to approve any that should be let through, and then click one button to delete the rest.
On the "General Options" page, the admin_immed_notify setting can be changed to "Yes", which will send you an email every time a message is held for review. You can reply to that email with instructions for Mailman. This setting is good for people who like using email to manage their list, want fast turnaround for held messages, and don't mind the additional emails.
On the "Privacy options > Sender filters" page, the generic_nonmember_action setting controls what to do when the list receives an email from an non-subscribed address. The default setting, "Hold", is strongly recommended so that you can help out people who should be able to send to the list but were blocked for some reason. If, however, you're getting a lot of spam and can live with the future management difficulties, you can set it to "Discard". (The other two settings are really not recommended for most lists. "Accept" will end up sending a lot of spam to the mailing list, and "Reject" will bother the people that the spammers are pretending to be.)