[dvlug] Smaug Case Study

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Apr 14 09:50:04 PDT 2009

Quoting Grant Bowman (grantbow at gmail.com):

> We won't be making these same mistakes during our dvlug transition
> whenever we get to it.  However since there's no web content yet there
> is no urgency.

There's also barely any mailing list back-postings, so far (which might
be what you were referring to).

I should hasten to say that DVLUG, too, should cultivate the habit of
mailing list backups early on.  The cumulative mbox for this mailing
list can be fetched directly as
http://linuxmafia.com/pipermail/dvlug.mbox/dvlug.mbox .  It would be an
extremely good idea for one or more member to run a cronjob to wget that
file.  Daily wouldn't be too frequently.  (You, the guy reading this
posting:  Why not _you_?)

And then there's the membership roster:  If people want to let me know
they're interested, I'll cobble up a cronjob to e-mail them the
membership roster of this mailing list at whatever desired interval
(weekly, daily, whatever you want), so that (again) the data exist in
multiple places.

I hope nobody minds if I demonstrate how one dumps that data from the
command line:

# /var/lib/mailman/bin/list_members -f dvlug
bwallce99 at yahoo.com
Bill Walsh <bwalsh3 at astound.net>
Chris Young <caychris at comcast.net>
Grant Bowman <grantbow at gmail.com>
Michael Will <mrmichaelwill at yahoo.com>
"M. Zanfardino" <mzanfardino at gmail.com>
Phillip Tribble <phillip.tribble at gmail.com>
Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
Robert Wall <robertlikesturtles at gmail.com>

Now, of course, that is not absolutely all mailing list data, and isn't
even all subscriber-specific data:  Individual subscribers have per-user
settings like duplicates or not, delivery enabled or not, and so on --
and the mailing list as a whole has various settings.  However, the
cumulative mbox and the subscriber roster are 99% of what matters, and 
are available in standard format.

Mailman itself stores all data in Python's "frozen" hashed binary
format.  So far, I've always had good luck when migrating the
list-definition files from one machine to another, to move a mailing
list, but I don't count on that always working.  (E.g., what if the two
machines have different versions of Mailman, and the binary format
changed between the two?  Worse, what if the migration target runs an
_earlier_ Mailman version with a different storage format?)  So, I
always run the list_members command to dump rosters to ASCII, before
doing the migration -- just in case.

(The "-f" option means "full", i.e., human-readable names in addition to
e-mail addresses.)

> Perhaps we can use lists.dvlug.org to point to linuxmafia.com and use
> Phillip's new machine for dvlug.org and www.dvlug.org and whatever
> else we dream up.

That would certainly work, and that _sort_ of DNS technique is always a
good idea, regardless of where you keep the mailing list(s) at any given
time.  When/if you ever move the mailing list(s) to a different host,
you then can do so without breaking URLs or any other functionality, by
simply repointing DNS.

SVLUG initially made the error of having its mailing lists be
[foo]@svlug.org -- but quickly realised the error and made a one-time
adjustment to [foo]@lists.svlug.org.  This early correction has more
recently been a godsend, because it allowed SVLUG to move its main Web
content to a completely different machine (a Linode virtual host)
without disturbing the mailing list setup on the legacy host.

As long as you're reading cautionary tales about what to avoid, I call
to your attention recent BALUG administrative discussion:
(and subsequent thread; also, preceding thread if anyone cares:  see 
http://lists.balug.org/pipermail/balug-admin-balug.org/ for
chronological archive)

(Please note also, in the first of those URLs, my explanation of why I'm
personally going to be out of commission for some number of days
starting Thursday, April 30th.  That has relevance to DVLUG.)

For those who were not aware:  Smaug is a small Linux / BSD / etc. user
group in Santa Cruz, founded in September(?) 2000 by Jacob Hunter with a
bunch of assistance from me and several other people who were then
working at VA Linux Systems, Inc.  After Jacob had unhappy experiences
using a couple of "free" mailing list hosts (which had a lot of
technical limitations and were choked with advertising), in November
2000 I got Marc Merlin of SVLUG to create a mailing list for them on
lists.svlug.org, which has been (I think) good for them as it's stable
and has no problems with commercial entanglements.  Jacob didn't bother
importing the prior mailing list archives or rosters, so that history is
lost, but I've tried to persuade them to not repeat the same tactical
error, if they ever decide to move their presence.

Along those lines, a lesson that can be learned from BALUG's example:
That group has a history almost as long as SVLUG's, but you'd never know
that from looking at their Web site.  Why?  Because, long ago, they got
into the bad habit of erasing all data about their meetings immediately
after each meeting occurs.  By contrast, look at
http://www.svlug.org/prevmeet.php, which has details of every general
meeting SVLUG's held back to 1998.  (The group existed for ten years
before that, too -- but that history is lost except for what's written
on http://www.svlug.org/about.php .)

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