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Mailing lists/Administration

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This page is a help guide for admins on the Wikimedia mailing lists. For more information about the lists and links to other help pages, see Mailing lists.

If you have any other (specific) questions about the list configuration, just ask on the talk page.

Duties of list administrators


A public mailing list was made to assist administrators who need to read instructions on how to create a mailing list, deal with spam, moderate troubled users and assist users who make a decision to communicate with people on other networks. In addition, extensive public and private lists recommend readers to stay with a topic, use nice language and remain professional. Unlike public lists, private lists also help administrators to approve and manage subscriptions.

Mundane chores include deciding whether to pass on posts from people who are not subscribed to the list, or inviting them to join the list instead. Occasionally people will ask for information or wish to send complaints (such as for copyright infringement) who do not want to subscribe.

Note that these must be distinguished from SPAM, which should be deleted. DO NOT send spammers any messages, such as asking them to subscribe in order to post, because their software will interpret that as "please put me on your sucker list" and make your job ten times harder!

List admins (also known as list owners) have the possibility to change specific options on their mailing lists and to edit the moderation queue. The admin interface is reachable by using the link http://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/admin/, followed by the name of the list (wikipedia-l, for example).

Configuration options


General options


Generally, there are no special tasks needed. If the list is new, you should change the following options:

  • real_name (public list name) – change the case if you want to, e.g., wiktionary-en → Wiktionary-EN
  • owner (list admin addresses) – you can add more admins to help you manage the list, remember that you still need to give them the password yourself
  • description – this is a short phrase explaining what the list is; this phrase shows up on the list directory and at the top of the listinfo page
  • info (introductory description) – a longer description of what the mailing list is about; you can include links to other pages, but you need to use HTML

You can change other options on there, but most of them are probably best left at the default.



Use this interface to change the list owner(s), list moderator(s) or list poster(s) password.

Note: There is no way to retrieve a mailing list password from the mailman interface (there is no "send a password reminder button"), so you need to share new passwords with the other list administrators and not forget the password.

Language options


Use this page to change the default language to adjust it to the wiki the mailing list was created for. It will change all the interfaces (public, subscribers, owners) to the language you have chosen.

You can also add as many other "available languages" as you would like. However, most lists just pick a few of the ones closest to their language or that most of their subscribers would understand (e.g., wikide-l gets German and English; wikimk-l gets English, Ukrainian, and Russian because there's no Macedonian interface).

If your language is not listed, and you would like to translate the mailman interface, please see translation instructions.

Membership management


Use this page to have an overview of the members and their options. You can unsubscribe a user, set them as moderated (their message will be held in the moderation queue), set them as a user who wants to be registered without receiving mails, etc. Use the link above the member overview to get a legend of the possible options. You usually don't need to edit the page.

You can also add or remove a bunch of users using the "Mass Subscription" and "Mass Removal" options.

Non-digest & Digest options


You can change digest options here, but you usually won't need to and probably should not mess with options on these two pages.

Privacy options


These set of configuration pages are for general subscription and filtering options.

Subscription rules


You can use regular expressions ("regex") to allow only certain email addresses to subscribe or forbid certain addresses from subscribing. It allows you to set individual e-mail addresses of non-members to be auto-accepted, deleted, held, or rejected. Also, you can set what approval is needed if someone wants to subscribe to the list.

For most lists, you want the subscription rules set, so they make things as public as possible (advertised = yes; subscribe_policy = confirm; unsubscribe_policy = no; private_roster = members; obscure_addresses = yes). However, for private lists you might not want to advertise it, and you probably want to require that new members "confirm and approve".

Be careful when setting the filters, because sometimes spammers like to fake the To: fields. (For example, it's usually not a good idea to just whitelist any people who send from @wikimedia.org because spammers could easily get past that.)

Spam filters


Lists hosted on the Wikimedia mailman server ("lists.wikimedia.org") are automatically reviewed by spam detection software and given a score (0-10) representing the likelihood any message is spam. If the message scores above 6.0, it will be automatically discarded (this is a global rule across all lists). If it scores above 4.0, various X-Spam- headers will be added to the message. To use those spam scores and have your list automatically reject or discard messages that are found to be spam, you can add a regular expression to the "Header filters" settings for your list.

For example, the following settings would match any message with a score of 4 or higher:

  • Header: X-Spam-Score
  • Pattern: .* \(\+{4,}\)

Archiving options


You can set here whether the archive of your list is private (so only members can see it) or public. For most public lists, you'll want to keep the archives public as well, and for most private lists, you'll want to keep the archives private as well. However, sometimes you'll want to mismatch. (For example, a committee whose discussions are public, but only certain people can contribute, or an open group who doesn't care who reads what they're doing but does want to know who those people are.)

Bounce processing


The defaults are usually fine, you only should adjust these if you have issues with legitimate subscribers being removed for bouncing too much (in which case, they might actually be bouncing too much!). Bounces usually indicate the mail server isn't able to receive the message, which could happen for legitimate reasons like an outage or downtime.

"Bounce score threshold" is how many bounces to receive before disabling them. Do not set this lower than 5. "Bounce info stale after" is how long the bounce score should be kept, until it's reset. If your mailing list doesn't get a lot of traffic, you can increase the time limit to 30 or 90 days. Conversely, if your mailing list gets a lot of traffic, you can raise the threshold and lower the stale after time limit.

Auto-discarding spam


Email addresses can be added to the auto-discard list in two ways.

In the "Held messages" queue, click on an individual email to show a dropdown menu for "-- set member moderation --". Change this to "Discard", to prevent future spam from that specific address.

The "Ban List" page can be used to write custom regex rules for spammers who use variables. For example:

  • ^.+@domain\.com - to block all email from an entire domain
  • ^.+\.foo\.bar$ - to block all email from addresses that end in a specific string, e.g. ...@...foo.bar
  • ^foobar@.+ - to block all email with a specific local-part but a varying domain

If you're not familiar with regex, there's a slightly less technical HOWTO available. Alternatively, someone on #wikimedia-techconnect will likely be able to help.

Other configuration options


(Mail<->News Gateway, Auto-responder, Content filtering, Topics)

You usually don't want to touch these things.

Other Administrative Activities


Tend to pending moderator requests


This is a very important page you should check regularly. This is the list of messages which have been held because they were stopped by a filter, or because they were posted by a non-member. If a message is spam, you should select "discard" as "Action to take on all these held messages" and select "discard" as "Add lloyd21roy@hotmail.com to one of these sender filters:". If a mail is not spam, you should select "accept" as the action. Don't forget to use the Submit button when you're finished.

Bulk processing


If a moderation queue is too long for you, you can use the following:

  • Select 'accept' for all messages you wish to approve.
  • Select the checkbox 'Discard all messages marked Defer' (all messages left to defaults will be discarded).
  • Then submit.

Greasemonkey script


There is a useful greasemonkey script that: "Automatically selects "Discard" and ticks the "Add" and "Discards" checkboxes on Mailman admin requests for pending messages". - This greatly speeds up the process, but you must be more careful that you're not discarding legitimate emails. (n.b. w:en:Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension.)

Edit the public HTML pages and text files


The default HTML page is a Wikimedia's own design, which is applied by default to all lists. Usually you would not need to change this beside adding extra links to projects (like wikidata links to wikidata.org and the -bugs/-tech lists) or to remove elements like the subscription box.

Other than that, it's probably best to not touch this unless you know what you're doing and have a specific thing you'd like to accomplish. Also remember to back up all previous versions before you change them, because there is no "history" or "undo" button!

Communication with list administrators


Requests to list admins as such should be directed to their -owner address, also linked from the list description. If the communication involves multiple lists, consider some points.

  • If it suffices, email the list admins only (few hundreds in total) rather than the lists themselves (several thousands subscribers).
  • It's nice to notify people of proposals and events which affect "their" lists. However, leave proposals/opinions in a link where people can comment, like a talk page or Phabricator report; keep the notification neutral. It's possible that URLs make your message look like spam to filters; but an incomprehensible message may end up being spam.
  • Usually, long To/CC fields are considered ugly. Keep addresses in BCC and explain in the body why they're receiving your message.
  • Before hitting send, check your message and this list again.
Subject: Event/Proposal X
To: me
Bcc: pony-owner@lists.wikimedia.org, ...
Hi, I write you to let you know of something that affects a list you are administrator of, "Event/Proposal X".
Please find it at $URL and comment there.
Regards, random person

Other technical details


See wikitech:Mailman for information about various topics, including How To:

  • Create a mailing list
  • Disable or re-enable a mailing list
  • Remove a mailing list
  • Remove a message from the mailing list archives
  • Export a listing of all subscribers to a mailing list
  • Check if an email address is subscribed to any lists
  • Remove an individual from all mailing lists
  • Reset a user's password
  • Rename a mailing list
  • Add a list to Gmane

and more.

Mailing list probe message


You may occasionally receive emails that say "This is a probe message. You can ignore this message."

This is normal, and you should ignore them. It just means that your email provider (e.g. gmail) rejected (bounced) a number of blatant spam or phishing or virus-attached messages, and Mailman's automated systems are just confirming that your address is still active.

Lost list administrator passwords


As of 2021, after the upgrade to Mailman version 3:

  • You no longer need to log in with a special admin user. Just sign up for an account using the email address that was subscribed to the list you administer. The system will automatically give you administrator rights.