[Mailman-Users] Some notes on mailman...
Chuq Von Rospach
chuqui at plaidworks.com
Wed May 17 08:32:24 CEST 2000
Hope folks find this useful. I've been evaluating list systems for
the last, oh, god knows how long, looking to see how to bring my list
systems up to date and replacing my existing (and heavily, heavily
hacked) majordomo systems.
This is the evaluation I've just written to send to my list admins
and other people I need to convince/educate about this upgrade,
outlining what I see as the improvements from MJ, as well as the
strengths and weaknesses of Mailman (based on 2.0b2).
If any of this is wrong, please feel free to let me know. and if any
of this is unclear, I'll be happy to try to explain further.
Key functionality change list for Majordomo -> Mailman 2.0b2
Here is a list of key functionality changes and new features that we
will acquire migrating to MailMan, as well the weaknesses or missing
features I've identified.
1) MIME support -- allows posting of mime-based messages, including
attachments, multipart/alternative and HTML/styled text.
2) Integrated web-based subscription interface -- allows a user to
subscribe and modify subscriptions via the web with a system
integrated into the list server (my current system is a bag grafted
onto the side of the computer...).
3) Nomail (vacation) mode (turn off mail w/o unsubscribing), allowing
users to turn off deliveries without unsubscribing and losing all of
their subscription option settings.
4) MIME-digests as well as plain digests.
5) consolidated subscriber interface for a user, allowing them to
look at all of their subscriptions and manage them from a single web
6) integrated web-based archives, and automated downloadable text
versions of archives.
7) support for virtual domains (fred at hockeyfanz.com, babble at chuqui.com...)
8) moderator and admin messages go to the list owners for processing
(and approvals via the admin web site).
9) better moderator/posting/spam protection for lists.
10) owner/moderators have more control over their lists via admin web site.
11) ability to define trolls who require moderation, without making
the list moderated.
12) owner/moderator gets emailed any time a message requiring
approval is received.
13) integrated bounce processing system.
14) significantly simplified list creation and management (especially
since pretty much everything is now integrated...)
15) supports List-ID proposed standard
16) much better mail loop detection and nuking.
1) No way to limit MIME content other than file size: opens us to
some potential problems such as viruses or "active" attachments.
Priority: high. Resolution: can be handled with a scripted front end
(as I do with majordomo today), or by patching the code to add a trap
into moderator approval using the existing mechanism. Workaround:
leaving the message size limit ~20K limits the ability to pass around
anything meaningfully nasty. I would really like to be able to limit
the types of data passed via MIME, however, to known/safe data types.
2) No way to force plain-text only. This is a MIME-capable server.
Priority: low (basically, text-only is dead. This will upset a small
minority of users, but it's true. The question is how to best manage
MIME content, not to reject it. If we have a case that requires
plain-text, there are de-mime scripts that can front-end the server
address and strip a MIME message to the text part.
3) no centralized "majordomo@" type subscription account. Each list
has its own subscription/admin address. Priority: low. and this
enables easy virtual hosting. Frankly, just not a big issue any more,
since ther's a mass migration to web interfaces anyway, and this is
simply a documentation issue....
3) no -subscribe or -unsubscribe address. Priority: low. Majordomo
didn't do that, either, it was all my custom scripting. I can add
that in again.
4) Does not support list-XXX headers (RFC 2369). Priority: medium.
Workaround: can probably be added to system.
5) web archives have no search engine (on the project TODO list).
Priority: medium. Workaround: continue the existing system storing
digests on a public site, indexed with htDig.
6) plain digests don't hande MIME stuff too cleanly. Priority:
medium. Workaround: none (the answer is probably to add the ability
to de-MIME to the MLM, and then allow yet another option to all of
this, a no-MIME option. So users can choose message/digest,
MIME/plain in either mode, and plain implies messages get de-mimed
7) archives don't cleanly integrate MIME stuff. Priority: medium.
workaround: none (the answer is probably to have the web archives
recognize enhanced content, store copies of attachments so they're
available by HTTP, integrate HTML into the archive, and -- and, well,
easier said than done. But the "right" thing is to present data as it
was sent out, which means decoding and processing all of this in
appropriate ways... )
8) documentation and code issues: it's beta. It has features that
aren't there yet, and documentation is incomplete and needs cleanup.
Priority: low. workaround: Not a big deal, except for (1) above.
Everything else I care about is either already far ahead of what we
have or not that significant.
9) web site customization: needs web-based templatization. Priority:
low. (optimally, every bloody thing can be changed via a web
interface, so once it's installed, yo never need to visit the code
base or MLM directory in a shell ever again. Easier said than done...)
10) doesn't VERP, or encode subscribed address into the message
(ought to be available for header/footer, encoded into envelope,
and/or X-sent-to: address, and if reply-to is not set to list, used
as the "To:" address instead of the list...)
11) the user "conceal address" stuff is confusing. By default, list
addresses are not publically available (as selected in the privacy
options page in the admin web site) -- but the default for the user
is to make it public. For users who understand what this means, this
is going to create concern and confusion. The user-visible "conceal"
value should track the list value. Or better yet, use two values:
non-visible (which overrides the list default if the list is open)
and list-default (trust the list admin), with the default being
list-default. That way, at least, it's clear what's happening. And
for any user set to "list-default", if that default changes to open,
they should be sent an email telling them, and explaining how to
change it if they wish.
12) there is no way for the installation admin to "lock" values so
the list admins and moderators can't change them. For instance,
things like reply-to, headers or footers, etc, may need to be
standardized in some installations. The system doesn't allow for
site-wide standards to be created and enforced by the site admin --
you need to enable a list admin's ability to manage their list, but
the site-admin needs to be the ultimate authority on what the list
admin can and can't tweak. In some installations, list admins aren't
going to be allowed access to the admin pages for this reason...
The only weaknesses I see to the system are:
1) no configurable way to manage MIME content: given the recent
ILOVEYOU virus, this ought to be a key, top priority. Allowing
MIME/plain delivery as well as installation- and list-based
restrictions on MIME content are crucial to protect users and the
list. By default (IMHO), only "safe", non-active content should be
allowed through a MLM, and anything else rejected or held for
approval. Opening to MIME is good. Opening to MIME without
restriction (other than file size) isn't. Also, an option to hold for
approval or auto-reject this stuff (with explanation) would be nice.
2) It's in Python: but I guess it's time to learn a new programming language...
3) lack of RFC2369 support, and lack of -subscribe and -unsubscribe
addresses. I'm surprised that List-ID is in the code, but 2369 isn't.
It needs to be.
A huge step forward from the current system. Beta code seems very
stable -- and the glitches can be lived with. Easily integrates about
95% of the custom hacking I've written around majordomo over the
years, and allows me to give a lot more power and capability to the
list owners without me having to manually go in and tweak stuff for
them. Adds MIME-digests and MIME/HTML capabilities, which will honk
off some users, but MIME and HTML are rapidly mainstreaming into
discussion systems, and more and more users have huge problems trying
to send non-MIME messages (at the least, some way to de-MIME stuff is
necessary, and I think full MIME support is leading edge in mailing
lists, but far from bleeding edge.)
Having worked with it for about a week and run it through it's paces,
I feel that the system is capable of going production with 2.0b2,
giving us the upgrade we desperately need -- and as the development
continues to 2.0 release, it'll continue to improve and refine. I'm
therefore committing to standardizing on mailman as the server to
replace my majordomo systems.
Chuq Von Rospach - Plaidworks Consulting (mailto:chuqui at plaidworks.com)
Apple Mail List Gnome (mailto:chuq at apple.com)
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
and say 'Man, what are you doing here?'"
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