ListProc Mailing Lists at KU
Note: This guide is intended for use by students, faculty and staff of The University of Kansas. The examples and explanations given may not apply to others using lists housed elsewhere. ListProc lists are not the only type of lists at KU. Exchange distrubtion lists are also available. To help you decide which is best for you, go to KU Group Lists to get a comparison of the two types of lists.
A Brief Explanation of Discussion Lists
Email discussion lists, also known as listservs, or discussion groups, refer to a collection of email addresses that are used in a manner similar to that of postal addresses for a postal mailing list. An email discussion list has a name and an email address. For example, BEETALK might be the name of discussion list for those interested in bees and its address would be firstname.lastname@example.org. To send a message to everyone on the list, only a single message need be sent to the list's address. The message is received by the list processor which then distributes it to all list members (hundreds of people in some cases). In turn, as a member of a list, you receive copies of messages sent to the list by others.
People whose email addresses are on the list are referred to as subscribers. A discussion list can range in size from just a few people to several thousand. Similarly, the number of email messages exchanged among participants can range from a little as one per month (or even per year) to hundreds per day.
How Lists Work
Every email discussion list has one or more owners, who are responsible for the smooth functioning of the list. See Manage an email discussion list at KU for more information about owning lists.
List email addresses
Email discussion lists have three important email addresses:
- Administrative address: communicates with the list processor (a computer program)
- Discussion list address: communicates with the list participants
- List owner(s) address: communicates with the list's owner(s)
It is very important that all list participants and list owners understand the nature of these addresses and when to use them. See further explanations below.
The address of the list processor is known as the administrative address and is used for sending commands to ListProc. At KU the administrative address is email@example.com. Commands are used by subscribers for altering some aspect of their method of participation on the list/group, and by list owners to alter some aspect of the list's configuration. For example, a list participant uses the administrative address to send commands to subscribe and unsubscribe, as well as set subscriptions to digest mode or to postpone, or check current subscription settings. Additional information about subscriber commands and subscription options is available on the list participation info page. Examples of commands used by list owners are on the list management info page.
The second important email address is that of the discussion list itself. Messages sent to the list's address are distributed to all list subscribers. In the example above firstname.lastname@example.org is the email address of the discussion list. Some discussion list names end in -L (dash, letter L) to help people distinguish the email address as one belonging to a list and therefore one that could potentially distribute a message to hundreds of people. It is imperative that you understand the distinction between the administrative address and the list address, so you don't send commands to the list address (and thus to all list members).
Every discussion list has one or more owners. Their email addresses are provided in the welcome message sent to all list subscribers at the time they join. The owners are responsible for keeping the list functioning smoothly and should be contacted if there are any problems, such as inappropriate behavior by list participants, strange list behavior, such as missing messages or duplicate messages, or problems with subscribing and unsubscribing.
Lists can be set up to have many features. The features of the list depend in large part upon the purpose of the list and the time commitment the owner puts toward the list. Many list configuration features can be divided into two broad categories, those that determine the way people join (subscribe) and those that determine the options for posting (sending messages). Many of the features are not mutually exclusive. That is, a list may be both moderated and private, for example. List owners should refer to Common commands for list owners for information on adjusting their list configuration settings to create the type of list desired.
List types based on subscription method
Note: In the following examples, it is possible for the list owner to override the list configuration settings and add subscribers even if the list subscription type does not allow it.
A list that allows anyone to join is known as an open, or public, list. On an open list, anyone who sends a subscribe message for a list is automatically added to the list. This has the advantage that it doesn't require any work for the list owner. The disadvantage is that the list owner loses control over who can participate the list's discussions and leaves the list open to potential spammers.
A private list is one in which the owner controls who may subscribe. Subscribe command sent to ListProc are forwarded to the list owner for approval. Such lists usually have a very specific focus and are not open to the general public. For example, a committee at the university may establish a list specifically to facilitate communication among its members. Another reason for creating a private list may be to limit participants to those who really belong on the list. Potential subscribers may be asked to provide information about themselves and their experience with the topic before being allowed to subscribe.
A closed list does not accept any subscription requests. Attempts to subscribe to closed lists are returned to the sender with a message indicating that the list is not accepting subscribers. Lists that are created for a very specific purpose and that have a finite set of participants are often configured as closed lists.
List Types Based on Posting Method
Closed vs. open list
Most lists allow anyone to post to the list. Anyone who knows the email address of a list can (attempt to) send a message to the list. That is, it is not always necessary to be subscribed to a list in order to send a message. Such lists are called open lists. If you post to a list without subscribing, your message should make clear that you are not a subscriber and all replies should be emailed to you privately (otherwise, since you are not a subscriber, you will not receive the replies). A closed list is one in which only those who are subscribed can submit messages to the list. A closed list reduces spamming because potential spammers must first go to the trouble of joining a list.
Moderated vs. unmoderated lists
A moderated list is one in which all posts to the list are sent first to the list's moderator (usually the owner). The moderator approves or discards the messages. The moderator also has the option of editing a message before approving it. Approved messages are then forwarded on to the list. This helps to assure that the posts are germane to the list's purpose and reduces the chance that heated discussions may get personal or out of control. This can, of course, represent quite a burden for list owners and also results in a delay before submitted messages are received by other list members. Moderation is usually done only for lists where the subject matter is of a personal/private nature or is such that heated discussions are likely. Most lists are not moderated.
In this instance, messages are sent only by the owner to subscribers. There is no opportunity for subscribers to respond to posts or to post new messages of their own. Examples of lists of this type include word-of-the-day services, announcements and newsletters. Messages are distributed to subscribers from a central source (usually the owner) rather than from the group of subscribers.