Mailing Lists: Overview

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Please read this page first!

We have a large number of mailing lists. In order for them to be used well, and to minimize the amount of assistance required of their moderators, it is important that you understand them.



This page is the toplevel description of how our lists work and is a good resource for list moderators. It presents the basic concepts for how our lists are organized, explains how you can subscribe and unsubscribe, mentions a few of the lists we have, and answers some common questions.

After you've read this page, please read what each of our lists is for.

Types of lists

We've got several basic classes of lists.

Announcement lists

An announcement list is designed to be low-volume but high importance. Such lists have restricted posting---only certain Asylum staff can send mail to them. This keeps them uncluttered.

Such lists often, but not always, have "announce" as part of their name.

You can't receive an announcement list as a digest. Both our announce@ and member-announce@ lists are managed by MailChimp, not Mailman. Please don't unsubscribe from the member-announce list unless you absolutely can't stand even a small number of messages, or you're leaving the Asylum. We try to keep traffic on such lists to a low volume so they're not irritating, but we depend on being able to reach everyone if we have to.

Discussion lists

These lists are available for general discussion. Some of them are open to anyone in the whole world, and some of them are open only to particular sets of people (for example, only Asylum members. or only people who have been trained on a particular tool, or only instructors).

Internal lists

We have a large number of special-purpose lists that aren't open for general subscription. These are typically used for internal administration of the Asylum, or for reports from automated systems. In general, they are not discussed here because most people can't subscribe to them, but you may occasionally see one CC'ed in mail to a more-general list.

Automatically adding people to lists

Some of our lists automatically subscribe people. Others automatically invite them to join, at their option. Here's how and why we do that.

Automatic subscriptions

We automatically subscribe members to member-announce@.

Automatic invitations

Some of our lists automatically invite new members when they join. We do this so they can be reliably informed about discussion groups they may want to participate in. Users will typically receive an invitation and one or two reminders, if and only if they have not already subscribed, and then we will stop reminding them forever, whether or not the user subscribes, and whether or not the user unsubscribes sometime in the future.

Creating new mailing lists

Creating mailing lists---especially simple discussion lists that work like most of the rest of our lists---is a very easy operation. If you have some need for a particular special-purpose list, ask and it can probably be created.

If you're teaching a class that can benefit from having its members be able to talk to each other, please feel free to request a mailing list for your class---we've done this many times before.

You'll want to know the answers to these questions;

  • What is the list for? What name should it have?
  • Is this list expected to be around for only a short time, or permanently?
  • Who can can subscribe? The whole world? Who approves subscriptions?
  • Who can post? (In other words, is this an announce list or a discuss list?)
  • Is there anything unusual about this list compared to others?

Once you've thought about those questions, send mail to


It's generally a bad idea to crosspost to lists; it means lost of people get lots of duplicates. For more details, please see this discussion.


All of our lists are archived by default. Any subscriber can ask Mailman for the list archives. Archives are private---they are not available to nonsubscribers. Subscribers can see messages from before they joined the list. In very rare circumstances, it is possible to delete a message from the list archives, but this has not yet been necessary. To ask for archives, you need to use a web form, which may involve asking Mailman to send you your password first.

Many of our smaller lists allow you to view the list of other subscribers (the list roster). You may tell Mailman to hide you from that listing if you so desire, again via the Mailman options page. Your email address is still viewable by list moderators.

Our larger lists, and any list that automatically signs up members, do not allow list subscribers to via the list roster. We do this to protect the privacy of our members.

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