missprint.org - list owners reference




[these are still a mess - miss print is busy making them readable]



[text versions of the list owners reference, the quickstart, the enhancements and appendix for printing when available]
[new: list owner's web interface]

missprint.org - list owners reference


        0.      Preamble from Miss Print
        I.      Getting Started
        II.     The configuration file
        III.    Digest and archives
        IV.     Important information about bounces
        V.      Solutions to commonly asked question
        VI.     Contact Miss Print
        VII.    See also

0. Preamble from Miss Print

This guide is big and overly long, amassed from many sources. Running a majordomo lists for most managers is a simple affair. I'm writing a quick start guide, so please don't let this guide put you off.

You can get an up-to-date version of this guide from the missprint.org site at:


More information is available at:


Please note that there is now a web-interface to administering your list, which will simplify a lot of the steps described in this document. It's still experimental at time of writing, but feel free to try it out. Go to:


Please tell Miss Print if you find this useful, so she can make it better.

I. Getting Started

Your mailing list is managed by an automated mailing list management program called Majordomo. Majordomo should free you from dealing with most of the administrivia usually associated with running mailing lists (adding users, dropping users, etc.).

To submit something to your list, you (or anybody else) should simply mail it to the list address <listname>@missprint.org where <listname> is the name you chose for your list.

To be added to your list, a user simply sends a message to majordomo@missprint.org with the following in the body (not the subject) of their email:

subscribe <listname>

majordomo@missprint.org is a special address with a computer at the end of it, not a human being. It expects to receive standard "commands" like "subscribe" via email, and responds to them by subscribing people, changing the way the list works etc. Majordomo is not limited to a single command per message (it will process commands until reaching end-of-message or the command "end"). The command "help" will tell you about all the other commands.

Actually, it won't tell you about all the other commands that Majordomo understands. There are several commands there for use by list owners such as yourself, which are not advertised to the public. All of these commands are password-protected on a list-by-list basis, but anyone with a valid list/password combination can invoke these commands. This is not exactly high-tech security, but it's more intended to keep annoyance to a minimum than to be foolproof.

The "documented" commands which Majordomo understands and which are for everyone to use are:

subscribe <listname> [<address>]
unsubscribe <listname> [<address>]
which [<address>]
who <listname>
info <listname>
index <listname>
get <listname>

In these cases <listname> is the name of the list you own. Don't include the angled brackets <>!

You can get detailed explanations of all of these by asking for "help" from Majordomo (send a message containing just the word "help" as the message text to majordomo@missprint.org).

The "undocumented" commands for use by list owners are as follows, where you substitute <listname> for the name of your list, and <listpassword> for your list admin password you've been given. Don't include the angled brackets <>!

approve <listpassword> subscribe <listname> [<address>] This is so that you can approve subscription actions that need approval by the list owner. Note that this is just a standard "subscribe" command prefixed with "approve <listpassword>" (where you substitute the password for your list, which is listed above, for "<listpassword>", and the email address of the person you're subscribing for <address>).

approve <listpassword> unsubscribe <listname> [<address>] As above but for unsubscribing a list member.

approve <listpassword> who <listname> This allows you to get the list of addresses for your anonymous list. Without the password, even the list owner can not see who is on the list.

passwd <listname> <old_passwd> <new_passwd> This is so you can change the password for your list, if you desire.

newintro <listname> <listpassword>
This is so that you can replace the information file that people get when they do "intro <listname>" or "subscribe <listname>". It reads everything after the "newintro" command to end-of-message or the word "EOF" on a line by itself as the new intro for the list.

newinfo <listname> <listpassword>
This replaces the information file that people get when they do "info <listname>". (This file is also sent by "subscribe <listname>" if the intro file doesn't exist.) This reads everything after the "newinfo" command to end-of-message or the word "EOF" on a line by itself as the new info for the list.

config <listname> <listpassword>
Retrieves a self-documenting configuration file for the list <listname>. The <listpassword> can be the password contained in the file <listname>.passwd or the admin_password in the configuration file. See the next section for information on config files.

newconfig <listname> <listpassword>
Validates and installs a new configuration file. It reads everything after the "newconfig" command to end-of-message or the word "EOF" on a line by itself as the new info for the list. The config file is expected to be a complete config file as returned by "config". Incremental changing of the config file is not yet supported. As soon as the config file is validated and installed its settings are available for use. This is useful to remember if you have multiple commands in your mail message since they will be subject to the settings of the new config file. If there is an error in the config file (incorrect value...), the config file will not be accepted and the error message identifying the problem line(s) will be returned to the sender. Note that only the error messages are returned to the sender not the entire config file, so it would be a good idea to keep a copy of your outgoing email message.

writeconfig <listname> <listpassword> Write a new config file in standard form. Writeconfig forces a rewrite of the config file with all default values in place (or current values if the config file already exists). It is useful to use after an upgrade of majordomo since it will add the new keywords for people to change. It also updates the documentation in the file if that has changed.

As soon as possible, please issue a "newinfo" command for your list (see below) to create the file that someone will receive when they join or ask about your list.

You can issue a "who" command for your list to see who's already on your list. You may or may not already be subscribed to your own list.

In addition to these comands there are a number of enhancements to make managing your list easier: see below.

II. The configuration file

What is "configuration" file?

Each mailing list has its own config (short for configuration) file. Each config file tells Majordomo what to do with each particular mailing-list.

Example: Mrs. Belle has a mailing-list and so does Mr. Sebastian. Mrs. Belle wants all new subscribers to her list to go through a "confirmation" process prior to subscribing. Mr. Sebastian wants to allow new subscribers to join the list without having to confirm.

This is made possible because the config file for each mailing-list is different. Mrs. Belle wrote in her config file what she wanted, and Mr. Sebastian did the same in his file. Based on the information in each mailing-lists' config file, Majordomo knows what to do with each list.

Note: If you update the config file, please set your email program

that it should not wrap the text automatically. Otherwise Majordomo will receive a config file which he can't read.

You can get a copy of the config file:

Email to:               majordomo@missprint.org
Body:                   config listname listpassword

Please read the first lines of the config. It will describe, how you can update the file, what you need to fill in, if you want to change something Missprint says: the stuff at the top of the file is actually pretty geeky, so don't let it put you off: skip down passed the top comments and see what each of the lines actually does. Most of the settings should be fine for your list, but ask Miss Print if any confuss you.

Where you can see "#" at a beginning of line, it means that this is a comment and proberly it describes something - it doesn't actually do anything to the configuration of your list, but is trying to be helpful by telling you what stuff means.

If you have successfully updated your config file, please change the first line of the config file where it says:

>>>config listname listpassword

newconfig listname listpassword

Send the updated config file to majordomo@missprint.org.

You should receive a results email, where it says:

new config for listname accepted.

If not, then you have made a mistake somewhere.

Note: The list and list-digest have different configuration files!!!

You should retrieve the configuration file for your list. To do this, send an email message to the majordomo address listed at the top of this form. The contents of this message should be:

config <listname> <listpassword>

Where <listname> <listpassword> are given at the top of the form. You will receive a config file that can be used to change the operation of your list. If the information at the top of this form shows that resend is being used, you want to configure the majordomo and resend subsystems. Otherwise you only have to configure those items that are associated with the majordomo system.

The configuration file is meant to be self documenting. Once you have completed all of the changes to the config file, You should use the newconfig command (described above) to put a new configuration file in place.

If you have a digest version of your list (see the next section), you should retrieve the config file for the digest as well using:

config <listname-digest> <listname-digest-password>

and configure the parameters for the digest and majordomo subsystems. In most cases except when you ask for it, the digest password will be the same as the main list's.

Miss Print adds:

In some cases I'll have tried to set a few things up for you you asked for and you may see them in the standard config. I've also added a few features I've found useful on my own lists such as:


this stops the very rare but atrocious type of mail storm when a list gets subscribed to itself or a mailer goes mad at a subscriber's site.
Special headers such as X-List-Help:

very useful, and emerging standard which more and more users mail programs are beginning to accept. Makes things easy for users.

I've added some standard taboos which reject HTML mails, attachments (not a good idea to allow) and some viruses sent to the list (i.e. send theses suspect mails to you for approval). You may want to remove these if you haven't time to deal with them, but I feel safer seeing such messages first. See below for details on how to approve such messages once you've checked them.

Plus I added an X-Organisation hidden header line for missprint.org. It just says where they come from. Feel free to remove any of these: I just find some of them useful.

III. Digests and Archives

A digest version of a list is a way to reduce the number of messages sent from Majordomo to subscribers. Normally, each message to the list is remailed to all the subscribers, but with a digest, several messages are collected into a batch and then sent together as one message. This does not reduce the total size too much, although there are fewer mail header lines-- the main purpose is to reduce the number of separate messages. This actually helps the mail systems at both ends, and may help subscribers reduce clutter in their mailboxes.

A Majordomo digest is actually a separate mailing list. The digest of listname would normally be called listname-digest.

People subscribe independently to listname and listname-digest. Very likely no one would want to be on both lists. To change between listname and listname-digest, a subscriber needs to unsubscribe from one list and subscribe to the other. This can be done with one message to majordomo@missprint.org with two command lines in it, e.g.:

unsubscribe listname subscribe listname-digest

Remember that listname-digest will have its own information file and configuration file. Change them, if you want to, when you change the same files for listname.

Majordomo will send a digest automatically when the size of the digest exceeds the size given as max_length in the configuration file of the digest list. The default max_length is 40 K. Thus the interval between digests can vary, but they will be of a predictable size. You can also set the maximum number of days to pass before a digest is created anyway: again see the config file.

Note that any settings for when the digest appears should be done in the digest config file. Settings of digest options in the normal (non-digest) config file don't do anything.

Archiving is now fully provided by Miss Print and the good news is: you don't need to do anything. Just go to:


where "listname" is the name you choose for your list. The first mails to your list should be archived and searchable there. If something looks wrong, or you have questions just mail Miss Print.

IV. Important Information about Bounces

As owner of your mailing list, you may occasionally receive BOUNCED mail that was originally being delivered to one (or more) of your List Members. This indicates a problem with the List Member's e-mail address and/or server.

Generally speaking, bounced messages require action on your part! Bounced messages result in lost server space and bandwith for us as well as lost bandwith for the entire Internet.

If you receive two or more bounced messages for the same e-mail address, please unsubscribe that list member until the problem is corrected. To unsubscribe one of your list members, send an e-mail to majordomo@missprint.org. In the BODY of the message write:

approve listpassword unsubscribe listname badmail@wherever.com

Naturally, replace "listpassword" with the password for your list, replace "listname" with the name of your list, and replace "badmail@wherever.com" with the actual problematic e-mail address.

If you have any problems in detecting the correct email address, forward the bounce to missprint@missprint.org and I'll do it for you.

Please unsubscribe these subscribers even if they are your friends!

For details on how to deal with Bounces and Approvals, see Appendices A and B.

V. Solutions to commonly asked question
  1. Subject prefix
  2. Messages back to the list and not to the sender * not recommended!
  3. Message footers

All these problems can be solved in your configuration file, therefore request it.

  1. Subject prefix: Subject prefix means that for example your listname will be put before the actual subject. Look for the subject_prefix keyword and use for example the following line:

subject_prefix = listname

Note: You can't use prefixes with spaces.

2. Messages back to the list and not to the sender If you want that messages will go back, if someone hits reply search for the reply_to keyword and change it to the following value:

reply_to = listname@missprint.org

Miss Print says: I don't recommend doing this even though lots do! It can cause horrible mail loops, which might be rare, but a disaster for all the lists on missprint.org. Please let me know if you're going to do this. See: <http://www.unicom.com/FAQ/reply-to-harmful.html>;

3. Message footers.
A message footer is a text which is automatically appended at the end of a list message. Search for the message_footer keyword and add your text between the two ends, blank lines must start with "-".


message_footer << END

To subscribe send a message to: majordomo@missprint.org into the body write: subscribe listname END
VI. Contact missprint

If you have any questions , write to Miss Print at:


VII. See also

You can get an up-to-date version of this guide from the missprint.org site at:


Further sources of information for list owners:

Extra enhancements to Majordomo available at missprint.org:


Appendix: complex information for really geeky list owners:


[text versions of the list owners reference, the quickstart, the enhancements and appendix for printing when available]
[new: list owner's web interface]



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