MIT Mailman User Guide:

MIT Mailman

DRAFT, May 5, 2003.

MIT Information Systems is pleased to announce the availability of Mailman to the MIT Community with limited support. Mailman is a modern web-based list management system that has been adopted by a number of our peer institutions.

Mailman has a lot of good internal documentation to guide a list subscriber (list member) and list administrator. This quickstart will cover some of the basic Mailman functions.

Request a Mailman List

New Mailman lists may be created at When requesting a list, you will still need to know the name of the list you want, and who will "own" the list. The owner will be able to administer the list, adding and removing members and setting up all other mailman options.

When your list is created, the random password will be automatically generated. You will be able to log in using your certificates via
and you can set the password on the Passwords screen, once you have logged in. Please note that this password should not be set to a password you are using elsewhere. It should definitely not be set to your Kerberos password (the password you use to access your email).

Populate List with Members

You may already have a list of initial members in mind for your Mailman list, and will want to add them immediately. To do so, go to the list administrative interface referenced in the email accounts sent you. You may also find your list's administrative interface from You will be asked to enter the List Administrator Password to enter the administrative screens. Once you are in, you will see a screen of general options. To add members to your list, navigate to "Membership Management", then select "Mass Subscription".

On the Mass Subscription page, you will be able to type in a list of email addresses, or upload a text list of member email addresses. You may enter the person's real name for Mailman to track as well by entering the subscribers one per line with appropriate delimiters:
"Jagruti S. Patel" <>
(Karen Fortoul)
You will also be able to either subscribe or invite people to the list. If you only invite a new member, the potential member will receive email asking them to confirm their subscription.

You may also choose to send new subscribers a list-specific welcome message. The text for the welcome message can be set on the General Options screen. If you have text entered and would like it sent with the welcome message, be sure to select Yes for "Send welcome message to newly subscribed members?".

Once you have entered your members and selected the mass subscirption optoins, you will submit your changes. Your changes have immediate effect; if you have subscribed a list of members, they will now receive email sent to the list.

Control List Subscriptions

Once your list has been set up and populated, you may want to control who can subscribe to the list itself. These options are available under "Privacy options" on the "Subscription rules" page.

You can set up your list to require subscriber confirmation for membership. When someone requests a subscription, Mailman sends them a notice with a unique subscription request number that they must reply to in order to subscribe. This prevents mischievous (or malicious) people from creating subscriptions for others without their consent.

Last, from this section you may also control who can see the list members.

Set up List Moderation / Prevent Unwanted Posts

List owners may choose to restrict who can post to the list. By default, lists are set up to be completely open - all posts to the list will go through to the list. To change these options, navigate to "Privacy options" and "Sender filters".

You can also flag members who should and shouldn't be moderated on the Membership Management > Membership List screen.

To allow any email address from OR to post to your Mailman list, enter the following regular expressions (one on each line) in the "List of non-member addresses whose postings should be automatically accepted (accept_these_nonmembers)" field:


CAUTION: List Owners may want to consider the value of using regular expressions to allow or deny user action. In this case, email addresses can be forged, and so spam traffic using an address may still get through to your list. If you want to ensure no unwanted email is delivered to your subscribers, moderate all traffic to your list.

Spam Filtering

Mailman allows list owners to prevent certain emails from being delivered to list subscribers. This is a different tool from spam screening which scores each message delivered to individual mailboxes. With spam screening, all email is delivered to the recipient. With Mailman's spam filtering option, the list owner can choose to hold posts that match a certain pattern. The spam filtering screen is available under Privacy options.

Mailman does not have many rules built in. The filter requires the list owner to enter rules, such as "hold anything from", expressed as

from: .*

If list owners want to hold all email that is not from an email address, they could enter

from: .+@(?!mit\.edu)$

in the anti-spam filter. Be aware that the email will be held with status "Message has a suspicious header". If you allow Mailman to send posters an automatic acknowledgement of their post, they will receive email saying their mail has been held because it has a suspicious header.

For a list of rules being used by SpamAssassin to score spam, see

Archive List Traffic

Mailman comes with an archiving program built in. By default, archiving list messages is off. To turn archiving on, change the options on the "Archiving Options" screen. The archive can be set up to be public or private (for current members/subscribers only).

Transitioning from Athena Lists

Mailman has many more features than Athena (Moira) lists. A list of Athena list features and comparable Mailman options is available to assist Moira owners and subscribers with the transition to Mailman. One important feature Athena lists have that Mailman lists do not have is the ability to have a list also be an AFS group. AFS groups are used to control access to AFS directories and restrict access to web pages using MIT certificates (using files).

MIT Updated April 2, 2007. Copyright © 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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