[conspire] A bit about list administration

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Oct 21 14:01:20 PDT 2005

Because this mailing list lives on my server, I _can_ intervene in its
operations, but (being lazy, and liking laid-back mailing lists) I make
a point of trying to keep it as automated but also light-handed and
automated as possible.  Also, please assume I'm just another guy with
opinions other than on vanishingly rare occasions when I momentarily
(and explicitly) put on the figurative admin hat.

The real challenge, here as elsewhere has been spam:  In particular,
it's keeping spam to zero without hindering legitimate traffic.  If you
ever see problems in that area, please DO mention them, and I'll fix or 
explain them (publicly, by preference).  What looks like list fascism
might be my screwing up.

Here's our list setup in a nutshell:

o  Unmoderated.  Open subscription.  No filtering of members whatsoever.
o  Posts from non-subscribed addresses get held for listadmin approval.
o  Public archive.  Posting addresses are not munged.
o  Roster is accessible by members.
o  Gated to an NNTP newsgroup that is accessible to any fixed IP address
   upon request.
o  Currently 91 members.
o  Nobody has ever been moderated or banned, to date.

Almost all antispam measures are automated MTA rulesets, e.g., mail to
linuxmafia.com is refused if sender SMTP host ignores major RFC
requirements such as 
a) sender e-mail address must be deliverable.
b) sender domain must accept mail to postmaster@, abuse@, and from the 
   DSN sender "<>".

As SMTP mail (MTA) admin, I can (and am glad to) make exceptions to the
RFC requirements from legitimate posters who use servers with defective
configurations, e.g., your company is clueless and doesn't configure its
Exchange Server to accept mail to postmaster.  If you hear that people's
attempts to join or post here didn't work, please let me know.

There is a list of posting addresses from which Mailman (our mailing
list manager) will discard all arriving mail, which we will dub the
"discard list".  To the best of my ability, I put _only_ spammers on
there:  A tiny minority of spammers actually _do_ send RFC-compliant
mail, which thus often gets past my MTA filters to Mailman.  The discard
list exists to minimise my time in Mailman's admin screens picking radio
buttons to say "Discard that one".

Here is the complete discard list, to date:

^mailer-daemon at .*
^postmaster at .*
^customerservice at .*
^service at .*
^support at .*
bmoo at stocknewsalert.net
chat_maiden at yahoo.com
cholesterol at yahoo.com
christine_v at indiatimes.com
dajequity at yahoo.com
emarket4u at verizon.net
fromwebsite at enchantedlearning.com
help at pakishop.com
jackie at jackie.cnc.net
jennifer at stopwetting.com
john_fludder at hotmail.com
kdann-help at kiddonet.com
listserv at listserv.dartmouth.edu
marketman2 at verizon.net
masingabenson at zwallet.com
mikewelles at verizon.net
mkonety at musambi.com
new-poetry-admin at wiz.cath.vt.edu
oncesweepstake at zwallet.com
pro1results at copper.net
products at allgospeletc.com
root at concentric.net
scvarsity at sc.rr.com
sns_team at sweet-n-sour.com
theclaw at theclaw.concentrichost.com
trial at mywrapper.com
trial_list at mywrapper.com
velmot at eunet.yu
warren at mywrapper.com
zambonigrill at yahoo.com

(Again, if I screw up, please let me know.)

If Mailman supported the ability, I would gladly give list-members the
ability to inspect the full list configuration, since I believe in
transparency and a very light touch -- except concerning spam.  This
post aims mainly to add some extra transparency.  If anyone ever wants
to view the list configuration directly, please come to a CABAL meeting 
and ask me.

For the last few months and until a few minutes ago, we also had one
other mailing list setting strictly as an antispam measure:  Newly
subscribed addresses got their "moderated" flag turned on by default.
I waited until each subscriber's first post, then cleared the
"moderated" flag at the same time that I approved that post.  The
subscriber might notice a brief delay before his/her post propagated, 
while the post was in the admin queue, but otherwise would see no

This measure was intended to prevent spammers going through the full
Mailman subscribe process, then spamming the mailing list's membership,
then vanishing.  (They effectively cannot spam from NON-subscribed
addresses, as those posts get held for listadmin scrutiny if they aren't
rejected first by my MTA.)  However, this measures has turned out to be
excessively paranoid:  Spammers have proven to not be anywhere near that
clever, and they cannot be bothered going through Mailman's three-way
handshake -- or fear exposure through validating their sending locations
through that process.

I've now disabled the "By default, should new list member postings be
moderated?" setting -- and double-checked the subscription roster to
make sure no existing members have the "moderated" flag set.  None do.

I hope the above wasn't too tedious:  It's my effort to be accountable
to the membership, and convey the message that we don't play
passive-aggressive administrative games, around here, and do everything
openly and with the lightest touch possible.  

Cheers,               Chip Salzenberg: "Usenet is not a right."
Rick Moen            Edward Vielmetti: "Usenet is a right, a left, a jab,
rick at linuxmafia.com                     and a sharp uppercut to the jaw.
                                        The postman hits!  You have new mail."

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