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ITS Majordomo Mailing List Documentation

Majordomo address: Majordomo@ats.rochester.edu
Majordomo-Owner address: Majordomo-Owner@ats.rochester.edu
List Name: ListName
Is resend used: yes
Is the list archived: no
List posting address: ListName@ats.rochester.edu
List request address: ListName-Request@ats.rochester.edu
List password: whatever
Digest list name: ListName-digest
Digest list password: whatever

Your mailing list has been established. It is being served by an automated mailing list manager that responds to commands emailed to the "Majordomo address" listed above. This message has all the details of how to manage your list remotely using Majordomo. If you have any questions, refer them to the Majordomo-Owner address listed above.

****** There's a lot of info here, so please read this completely and carefully, and save it for future reference. If you have any questions, you should send them to the Majordomo-Owner address above. ******

Your list-owner password is shown above. Keep track of this; you'll need it later. Instructions for changing your password are below.

As soon as possible, please issue a "newinfo" command for your list (see below) to create the file that someone will receive when they join or ask about your list.

You can issue a "who" command for your list to see who's already on your list. You may or may not already be subscribed to your own list.

================ The Gory Details ================

Your mailing list is managed by an automated mailing list management program called Majordomo. Majordomo should free you from dealing with most of the administrivia usually associated with running mailing lists (adding users, dropping users, etc.).

To submit something to your list, you (or anybody else) should simply mail it to the list posting address shown at the top of this file.

To be added to your list, a user simply sends a message to majordomo. There are two ways to do it:

address-- To: ListName-request@ats.rochester.edu message-- subscribe

OR

address-- To: majordomo@ats.rochester.edu message-- subscribe ListName

Majordomo understands several commands, and is not limited to a single command per message (it will process commands until reaching end-of-message or the command "end"). The command "help" will tell you about all the other commands.

Actually, it won't tell you about _all_ the other commands that Majordomo understands. There are several commands there for use by list owners such as yourself, which are not advertised to the public. All of these commands are password-protected on a list-by-list basis, but anyone with a valid list/password combination can invoke these commands. This is not exactly high-tech security, but it's more intended to keep annoyance to a minimum than to be foolproof.

The "documented" commands which Majordomo understands and which are for everyone to use are:

You can get detailed explanations of all of these by asking for "help" from Majordomo (send a message containing just the word "help" as the message text to majordomo@ats.rochester.edu).

The "undocumented" commands for use by list owners are:

approve <passwd>{subscribe|unsubscribe} <list> [<address>]

approve <passwd> who <list>

passwd <list> <old_passwd> <new_passwd>

newintro <list> <password>

newinfo <list> <password>

config <list> <password>

newconfig <list> <password>

writeconfig <list> <password>

mkdigest <digest list name> <password>
mkdigest <digest list name> <digest outgoing alias> <password>

Configuring Your List
=====================

You should retrieve the configuration file for your list. To do this, send an email message to the majordomo address listed at the top of this form. The contents of this message should be:

Where <list> <List password> are given at the top of the form. You will receive a config file that can be used to change the operation of your list. If the information at the top of this form shows that resend is being used, you want to configure the majordomo and resend subsystems. Otherwise you only have to configure those items that are associated with the majordomo system.

The configuration file is meant to be self documenting. Once you have completed all of the changes to the config file, You should use the newconfig command (described above) to put a new configuration file in place.

If you have a digest version of your list, you should retrieve the config file for the digest as well using:

and configure the parameters for the digest and majordomo subsystems.

Regular Expressions
===================

For some of the configuration options, a rudimentary knowledge of perl style regular expressions will help you run Majordomo through its tricks. A regular expression is a concise way of expressing a pattern in a series of characters. The full power of regular expressions can make some difficult tasks quite easy, but we will only brush the surface here.

The character / is used to mark the beginning and end of a regular expression. Letters and numbers stand for themselves. Many of the other characters are symbolic. Some commonly used ones are:

Example 1. /cs\.umb\.edu/

Notice the periods are preceded by a backslash to make them be literally periods. This matches any string containing cs.umb.edu such as:

Example 2. /rouilj\@.*cs\.umb\.edu/

The `@' has special meaning to later versions of perl and must be prefixed with a backslash to avoid errors. The string ".*" means "any character, zero or more times". So this matches:

but it doesn't match

Example 3. /^rouilj\@.*cs\.umb\.edu$/

This is similar to Example 2, and matches the same first two strings:

but it doesn't match

because the regular expression says the string has to begin with letter "r" and end with letter "u", by using the ^ and $ symbols, and neither of those is true for arouilj@terminus.cs.umb.edu@greatcircle.com.

Example 4. /.*/

This is the regular expression that matches anything.

Example 5. /.\*rouilj/

Here the * is preceded by a \, so it refers literally to an asterisk character and not the symbolic meaning "zero or more times". The . still has its symbolic meaning of "any one character", so it would match for example

It would not match this because the . by itself implies one character:

Normally all matches are case sensitive; you can make any match case insensitive by appending an `i' to the end of the expression.

Ecample 6. /aol\.com/i

This would match aol.com, AOL.com, AoL.cOm, etc. Removing the `i':

would match aol.com but not AOL.com or any other capitalization.

To be on the safe side put a \ in front of any characters in the regular expressions that are not numbers or letters. In order to put a / into the regular expression, the same rule holds: precede it with a \. Thus, with \ in front of the / and = characters, this /\/CO\=US/

matches /CO=US and may be a useful regular expression to those of you who need to deal with X.400 addresses that contain / characters.

Approval
========

When Majordomo requests your approval for something, it sends you a message that includes a template of the approval message; if you concur, you simply need to replace "PASSWORD" in the template with your list password, and send the template line back to Majordomo.

The requests for approval that Majordomo generates all start with "APPROVE" in the "Subject:" line.

You aren't limited to approving only things to Majordomo requests approval for. You can approve any "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" request, regardless of whether Majordomo has requested this approval, with an "approve" command. Thus, you can subscribe or unsubscribe people from your list without them having to send anything to Majordomo; just send an appropriate "approve PASSWORD subscribe LIST ADDRESS" or "approve PASSWORD unsubscribe LIST ADDRESS" command off to Majordomo.

If you use a mailer which is capable of sending a message to an external program, can run perl and can run sendmail or a program capable of behaving like it for the purposes of sending mail, then all you have to do is send the entire approval message (including all of the headers, which are very important and which are automatically removed by some mailers unless configured to do otherwise) to the approve script. Approve looks for a file called ".majordomo" in your home directory to find the approval password for your list. The format of this file is given in the following excerpt from the approve manual page:

If you have the necessary environment for running the approve script, contact the Majordomo owner at the site that serves your list and request it.

Bounced Messages
================

Majordomo may bounce certain messages that people attempt to post to your mailing list. These messages may be bounced because they appear to be administrative requests (i.e., someone mailed a request to subscribe or unsubscribe to the posting address rather than to Majordomo or to the -request address), because they are too long, because they match strings that you or the list server owner has defined as being "taboo", or for any of a number of other reasons, many of which may seem annoying but have been decided upon as being useful in stopping unwanted messages from making it onto your list. (These are often configurable, so if you find a check to be too restrictive you can generally turn it off.) Note also that the bounces mentioned here are not the same as the errors that will be returned by various mail servers when addresses or hosts are unreachable. Those are generally referred to as bounces, also; sorry for the confusion.

Majordomo will forward these messages to you in another message whose subject line begins with the word "BOUNCE"; the subject line will also indicate the name of the list the message was bounced from (in case you manage more than one list) and the reason the message was bounced.

If you decide that the message is OK and should not have been bounced, then you can cause Majordomo to post it anyway by sending the message back to the posting address (NOT to the Majordomo address) with a special "Approved: password" header. There are two ways to do this; the method you use depends on your having access to and the ability to run the approve script mentioned in the previous section. If you can run approve it is recommended that you do so, as this method is much less prone to errors and will reduce the time you spend moderating your list.

If you cannot run the approve script, you can manually approve the message. To do so, follow the following directions _exactly_:

From: majordomo@list.server          \
To: your-list-approval@list.server       | Don't want these headers
Subject: BOUNCE: taboo_header found  /

- Blank line

>From list-member@her.site date   \
Received: some long routing info    | Headers of original message;
From: list-member@her.site        | You want these. It's OK if you
To: your-list@list.server    | don't have the first line.
Subject: Just a message     /
- Blank line, you _must_ have this!
Hello. I'm just writing to       \
consume some bandwidth and   | Message body; include all of
take up space in your mail       | this.
spool!

Basically you want everything after (and not including) the first blank line.

Approved: sekrit
>From list-member@her.site date
Received: some long routing info
From: list-member@her.site
To: your-list@list.server
Subject: Just a message

Hello. I'm just writing to consume some bandwidth and take up space in your mail spool!

This time around, Majordomo will notice the "Approved:" line and check it against your list password. If it matches, Majordomo will strip off the header of your message and the "Approved:" line (leaving just the original message), and send the original message on through.

Even your own messages bay be bounced to you for approval. To send out your own message without server checks (perhaps you know it contains something the list server will complain about) you can pre-approve the message one of the two following ways:

If you're using a mailer that can add additional headers, add one like the following:

It's precise location within the headers is not important.

If your mailer does not allow you to add additional headers, you can add the line:

as the first line of the message, followed by a blank line (which is required for your message to be sent properly) followed by the text of your message. The Approved: line and one following blank line will be deleted and the message will be passed without being checked. The blank line is important because it is used to differentiate between a pre-approval and the approval of a bounced message, outlined above.

Moderation
==========

If your list is moderated, (the moderate parameter in the config file is yes) then messages without an "Approved:" line are bounced, just as described above. To cause them to be posted to the list, you add a valid "Approved:" line and send them back, just as described above.

Again, the "approve" program automates all this if you wish to use it. You can also use the above pre-approval method to send your own messages without them being bounced back to you.

If you have any questions about all of this, send them to the Majordomo-Owner address shown at the top of this file.

Restricting Posting
===================

An easier alternative to moderation is to restrict who can post to the list, which can be done with the restrict_post configuration variable. The variable requires a file listing the people who can post.

The most common case is to limit posting to people who are subscribed to the list. This keeps out advertisements and other junk mail sent by non-subscribers. Since majordomo already has a file of subscribers, you don't need to create and maintain a file, so it's easy to set.

Change the restrict_post line to this, where <listname> is the name of your list:

restrict_post = <listname>

If you want to restrict posting to any other set of people, you'll need to ask majordomo-owner for help. Unfortunately there's no way to tell majordomo about keeping another file of people who are allowed to post, so a file would have to be set in place "by hand". Some future release of majordomo may provide a way to do this automatically.

Archive
=======

Archiving has to be set or unset by the system administrators reached at majordomo-owner@ats.rochester.edu. It is not the default but must be requested. Here is what can be done.

Archive files can be split by years, months, or days. This means all mail to the list for one of those periods of time will be collected into one archive file. People who want to get archived mail will need to get one such file as a unit.

We are running an indexer program nightly. It produces two index files that subscribers can get: CONTENTS lists what subject lines are in each archive file; TOPICS lists what archive files contain each subject.

Subscribers use the "get" command to see files in the archives. Examples:

Access to archives is controlled by the private_get variable in the config file. The default "yes" means they must be subscribers to get archived files.

Subscribers can also get a list of filenames and dates in the archive by sending an "index" command. Example: index ListName

This is controlled by the config file variable private_index similarly.

Notes on archiving.

- It's possible for the archive to contain files besides the indexes and the archive files of messages. However, majordomo offers no method for you to put them there. In an unusual case you can ask majordomo-owner to put a file there for you.

- Archiving could be accomplished by directing a copy of messages to some other place besides the majordomo archive. Ask, if you have something in mind.

Digest
=======

A digest version of a list is a way to reduce the number of messages sent from Majordomo to subscribers. Normally, each message to the list is remailed to all the subscribers, but with a digest, several messages are collected into a batch and then sent together as one message. This does not reduce the total size too much, although there are fewer mail header lines-- the main purpose is to reduce the number of separate messages. This actually helps the mail systems at both ends, and may help subscribers reduce clutter in their mailboxes.

A Majordomo digest is actually a separate mailing list. The digest of ListName would normally be called ListName-digest.

People subscribe independently to ListName and ListName-digest. Very likely no one would want to be on both lists. To change between ListName and ListName-digest, a subscriber needs to unsubscribe from one list and subscribe to the other. This can be done with one message to majordomo@ats.rochester.edu with two command lines in it, e.g.:

Remember that ListName-digest will have its own information file and configuration file. Change them, if you want to, when you change the same files for ListName.

Majordomo will send a digest automatically when the size of the digest exceeds the size given as max_length in the configuration file of the digest list. The default max_length is 40 K. Thus the interval between digests can vary, but they will be of a predictable size.

The listowner can also tell Majordomo to make a digest (meaning, compile and send out a digest) by sending the command mkdigest at any time: mkdigest ListName-digest password

A daily digest (or for some other time period) could be achieved by setting the max_length high enough so as not to be reached normally in a day, and then setting up a job to run daily that sends mail to Majordomo with the mkdigest command. On a unix system, give the commands "man crontab" and "man 5 crontab" at the shell for an explanation of such jobs, or ask majordomo-owner for help.

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