IP Haven

MajorDomo Mail List Server

Part I


          Welcome to my second article for the Beacon. Last issue we discussed FTP and how Chebucto Community Net Information Providers can use it to update their sites. In this issue we will take a look at mailing lists and a really nice piece of software called "Majordomo".

          Mailing lists are a really useful means of sharing information and Majordomo is a software package designed to run a mailing list; it also happens to be the software that CCN is running to manage mail lists. There are as many different types of lists as there are ways for Homer Simpson to exclaim "D'oh!" but they are all based on SMTP mail and list server software. Some examples are discussion groups, announce lists, feedback lists, and support lists. As a CCN IP you already have one e-mail list; mine is akc-ip@chebucto.ns.ca. Requests to the mail list administrator may get you more if you feel you need them for something.

          At this point, I suspect you're asking yourself why you would want the list you already have let alone another one. There are many reasons to run a mail list. Maybe your site is managed by a number of IPs and you want to easily keep track of updates, etc. via email. You could, of course, run a discussion group for the people in your organisation. You could even run an announcement list to let people know about upcoming events being held by your organisation.

          Let's take a step back for a minute and take a look at how a list server does its job before we actually talk about running a list. I often find it helpful to know a little bit about how something works before I use it.

          So let's look at how I could use my list as an announcement style list. For instance, when I add a new copy of the AKC's newsletter, Zanshin, I want to send out a notice to people to let them know that it is available for reading.

          Once I have a number of people subscribed and we'll talk more about this later, I am ready to make an announcement. To make the announcement I send an email to akc-ip@chebucto.ns.ca with a subject line of "Issue 4 of Zanshin is now available". I would include some tidbits of information such as the wonderful article "A Year in Review" by some fellow named Glenn Euloth.

          The email arrives at CCN and since the address is akc-ip@chebucto.ns.ca, a Majordomo email list, the email is routed to Majordomo. Majordomo looks at it and sees that it is a message to be sent to all of the people who are subscribed to the list. It makes multiple copies of the email and sticks the address of each and every person who has subscribed to the list on it and sends it to him or her. Think of Majordomo as a secretary. Take a look at Figure 1 and see if it makes more sense picture-wise.

Figure 1: A mail list in motion

          One important thing to understand is that there are two addresses for each and every email list. One address is the "secretary" - majordomo@chebucto.ns.ca - and the other is the list - akc-ip@chebucto.ns.ca. Majordomo, or in some cases listserv or listmanager, is the list software and is the place list commands are sent. The other address is the list itself. If you send mail to this address it will either be rejected in the case of an announce-only style list like the sample or distributed to everyone on the list if it is a discussion group type of list.

          Majordomo is a very versatile list server as it has many different configuration options, however, this can also make it very confusing. Remember that you don't necessarily have to use all of the options to make the list work for you. There are 3 very basic commands which you should to be aware of to make good use of Majordomo and they are: 1) SUBSCRIBE, 2) UNSUBSCRIBE, and 3) HELP.

          Your initial list, like mine, is set up to allow people who visit your website to provide you and your fellow IPs with feedback. The reason your feedback address is set up as a list is to allow you to include multiple IPs in your feedback group as well as have a feedback address that is not tied to a particular information provider.

          Help is the simplest command and is also the most useful because with that command you can get all the information you need about how to use Majordomo. To request help from Majordomo send email to majordomo@chebucto.ns.ca with the word "help", without the quotes, in the body of the message. In a short while Majordomo will respond with its help file. Your email should look like this:

To: majordomo@chebucto.ns.ca
Subject: Getting Help from Majordomo
Message: help

          Note that you really don't need to include a subject line as Majordomo ignores it. However when you are digging through your outbox or sent items folder it might help to have the subject there to identify what the email message is.

          The two other most important commands are SUBSCRIBE and UNSUBSCRIBE. They format identically, other than the two characters "un". For example:

To: majordomo@chebucto.ns.ca
Subject: Subscribing to the ip-akc list
Message: subscribe ip-akc ab593@chebucto.ns.ca
To: majordomo@chebucto.ns.ca
Subject: Unsubscribing from the ip-akc list
Message: unsubscribe ip-akc ab593@chebucto.ns.ca

          Remember that the subject line is not required but may be a good idea to help you identify what the message is in your inbox. Also, the email address is not required either as Majordomo will assume that the person sending the message is the one who wants to subscribe or unsubscribe. The ip-akc is the list name for this example and a list name is required so Majordomo knows to which list you are to be added.

          A recent foray into CCN's Majordomo listings told me that there are about 214 lists currently running on the system. You can find out the names of these lists by using the help command. Read the help document that Majordomo will send you carefully and take note of other commands that may be available. Next issue we’ll delve into running a full-fledged discussion list and take a look some of the more complex features of Majordomo. Until then happy emailing...

          Other Resources:


You may direct comments or suggestions about this column to:

Glenn Euloth,  ab593@chebucto.ns.ca


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