Electronic mailing lists allow groups of people with common interests to exchange mail quickly and easily. It is usually possible to achieve the same result with Usenet newsgroups, but a major drawback of newsgroups is that it can be difficult to set them up to allow private communications.
Mailing lists require specific software to manage the subscriptions, handle the mail, archive messages and so on. Unfortunately there are several different mailing list management programs, which are all slightly different. The ones commonly encountered are Majordomo, Ezmlm, Mailbase, Mailman and Listserv. Oxford uses the Ezmlm program.
There are a number of different ways in which one may communicate with mailing list software. Commands for subscribing, unsubscribing, requesting help and information on a given list and configuring a list can be sent in the To or Subject line of the email header or may be sent in the message body.
The method will reflect the particular sort of mailing list service being run, and the name of the site. If you are using the Oxford Ezmlm service then you will send all commands in the To line of the header.
@site: The address for the actual list. Any mail sent to this address will be forwarded to every member subscribed to the list.
request@site: The address for Ezmlm administrative requests for the list - items such as subscribing and unsubscribing, checking who else is a member and so on.
- The third address is
owner@site which is routed to the person who maintains and manages the list - this is the address you should use if you have problems unsubscribing from a list using any of the automatic methods.
- email@example.com - short form
- firstname.lastname@example.org - long form. Not valid after 2008)
In order to mail to a list, the address in your mail header must match that registered on the list. If you are added by the list administrator, the registered address may not match the address your mail header contains and your posts to the list will fail even though you receive other postings.
Where manual subscriptions are made to lists, the administrator can add the other address form to the 'Allow' list. Please see the Mailing List Owners Guide to see how to do this.
To view all your Oxford-based Ezmlm maillist subscriptions and to see the email
form used to subscribe to lists, visit the
maillist web site and select the
Show my subscriptions link.
You send administrative commands to a mailing list server in the form of email messages. The messages should be sent to the general administration address (not to the address of the list itself). For Ezmlm the command is always part of the To address. Any results of your commands will be returned to you via email; you may also be sent a log file.
Whenever you subscribe to a mailing list you will normally be sent a "welcome" message from the list owner. This message will contain instructions on how to send messages to the list and, more importantly, how to unsubscribe. It is advisable to keep these messages so that you can refer back to them at a later date.
The different mailing list systems have different sets of commands which may be used to find out what lists are available and to manage your subscriptions. There is, unfortunately, no consistent set of commands used by all mailing list software - an exception being the command help which will get you a list of other commands available.
The JISCmail facility is a nationally funded service to provide mailing lists for the UK academic community. It holds a large number of lists covering a wide range of academic disciplines. JISCmail uses its own set of commands, sent to the address email@example.com, including:
Many mailing lists, in particular many of the local lists maintained by the IT-related special interest groups (SIGs), are mirrored to equivalent newsgroups. This allows you to read and take part in the ongoing discussions using either email or network news clients.
If you have a signature file that is appended automatically to all your email messages this might cause problems when you are sending administrative requests to Majordomo based mailing list services (the lines in your signature will be treated as commands). Many mailing list services have a stop or end command to be put after your last proper command. If such a command is not available, make sure that your signature file is not included in any messages you send to the mailing list service address. The Oxford Ezmlm system is not affected by anything you put in the body of administrative requests.