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Mailman: Maintaining a Mailman List

As an owner of a Mailman List you are responsible for managing your list settings and activity.

Accessing Your List Administration Screen

When your list is created and you are designated the "owner" (or "administrator"), you receive a welcome message that:

  • Informs you that your list is active
  • Gives you the URL to use to handle list administration

If you do not keep this email message or can't remember the URL, just follow the steps below.

To access your list administration features

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Log in with list password. If you have forgotten your list password, please read the tutorial Resetting your Mailman List Owner Password.

Changing Maximum Message Size 

Mailman can place a limit on the size of a message that it accepts for list postings. The owner can change the limit to try to restrict or allow attachments to be sent to the list. To change the maximum message size limit:

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Go to General Options.
  • Near the bottom, locate the "Maximum length in Kb of a message body" field.
  • Change the limit to something suitable, or enter "0" for the maximum limit of 3 MB.
  • When finished, click the "Submit your changes" button. Your changes are now in effect.

Managing Private and Moderated Lists

You can configure your list to require approval by the list owner or moderator before someone can subscribe, unsubscribe, or post a message to the list. 

To specify a list moderator who is not the list owner do the following:

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Go to the General Options category and specify a moderator address.
  • Assign a separate moderator password in the Passwords category.
  • When finished, click the "Submit Your Changes" button.

To require approval by the list owner or moderator before someone can subscribe or unsubscribe:

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Go to the Privacy Options category.
  • To require approval to subscribe, set the subscribe_policy setting to "Require approval" or "Confirm and approve" (the latter requires that subscribers confirm their subscription once you have approved it).
  • To require approval to unsubscribe, set the unsubscribe_policy setting to "Yes".
  • When finished, click on the "Submit Your Changes" button.

To have a moderated list that requires approval for postings:

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Go to the Sender Filters category under Privacy options.
  • Set the default_member_moderation setting to "Yes".
  • Go to your Membership Management page.
  • Under Additional Member Tasks, find the option to "Set everyone's moderation bit, including those members not currently visible."
  • Set this option to "On" and click the "Set" button. (All of the addresses in your Membership list should then have a check mark in the "mod" [moderate] column.)
  • When finished, click the "Submit Your Changes" button.

Note: If your list has been set up as a moderated list, only those messages you approve are forwarded to people subscribed to the list. Whenever a new message arrives for a moderated list, a notice is sent to the list owner and the list moderator (if there is one).

To view the requests requiring approval by the list owner or moderator:

  • Go to the list moderation page via
  • Follow the link to Log in as an owner with your list password or enter your moderator password and click on the "Let me in..." button.
  • View the summary list of subscription requests; unsubscribe requests, and postings being held for approval.
  • Follow the link provided for more detailed instructions as to what your options are.
  • After you have acted on all of the pending requests, click on the "Submit All Data" button.

Handling Bounce Error Messages

When email to a subscriber is bouncing, Mailman tries to interpret the bounced message and act accordingly. When a bounced message is received, Mailman attempts to extract two pieces of information from the message:

  • The email address of the subscriber whose email is bouncing.
  • The severity of the problem causing the bounce.

If no email address for the subscriber can be extracted from the bounce, then the bounce is usually discarded. The severity of the problem can be labeled as either hard (meaning a fatal error) or soft (meaning a temporary error occurred). When in doubt, a hard severity is assigned. Each subscriber is assigned a bounce score and every time Mailman encounters a bounce from this member, the score goes up. Hard bounces increase the score by 1, while soft bounces increase the score by 0.5. However, bounce scores are only increased once per day so even if ten hard bounces are received for the same subscriber in one day, that subscriber's score will increase by only 1 for that day.

To adjust settings regarding bounced messages:

Score threshold- For each list, the list owner can set a bounce score threshold. When a member's bounce score exceeds the list's bounce score threshold, the subscriber's subscription is automatically disabled. Once disabled, the subscriber will not receive any postings from the list until their membership is explicitly re-enabled (either by them or the list owner). However, they will receive occasional reminders that their membership has been disabled, with information about how to re-enable it.

Reminders- The list owner can control both the number of reminders the subscribers will receive and the frequency with which the reminders are sent.

Info stale- After a certain period of time during which no bounces from the subscriber's address are received, the bounce information is considered stale and discarded.

Note: By adjusting the "bounce_score_threshold" and "bounce_info_stale_after" setting, you can control how quickly members with bouncing email are disabled. You should set both of these to the frequency and traffic volume of your list.

When finished, click the "Submit Your Changes" button.

If Mailman cannot interpret a particular bounced message error, it will be forwarded on to the list owner. The hardest thing to do upon receiving the error message is to interpret it - especially if Mailman was unable to! Error messages consist, for the most part, of email techno-garbage that you'd need to be some sort of email expert to understand completely. You can ignore much of the message as long as you know what's important to focus on. Look for a line that says something like:


Mail could not be delivered to: followed by an email address.


If you find such a line, you're in luck. Now you know whose email is bouncing and you may even know why (it will sometimes say the reason right after the email address).

What you'll need to do is decide whether the reason is temporary or permanent. Sometimes the best way to make that decision is to wait a few days or a week and see if you are still receiving error messages from the same subscriber. If so, you'll probably want to remove that subscriber from your list. (See Adding and Deleting Subscribers (below) for more information.)

Getting a List of Your Subscribers

To see who is subscribed to your list:

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Go to Membership Management.
  • View a list of your current subscribers as well as their mail options.

Adding and Deleting Subscribers

Adding subscribers

To add subscribers to your list:

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Go to the Membership Management section.
  • Go to Mass Subscriptions.
  • Select the option of subscribing addresses or inviting them to subscribe.
  • Choose whether or not to send notifications of new subscriptions to the list owner.
  • After choosing your preferred options, enter the email addresses (one per line) in the box provided. If you want to include a name with each address, make sure each line is in the following format: name <email_address>


Note: Don't forget to include the brackets around the email addresses. For example: Joe User <>


You can also choose to upload a file that contains your subscribers. The file must be plain text. The names and email addresses should be in the same format specified above.

  • If you want to include additional text to be added to the top of your invitation or the subscription notification (welcome message), include it in the box provided. The text will be added above any custom text specified in the welcome_msg setting under General Options.
  • When finished, click the "Submit Your Changes" button.

Deleting subscribers

To remove one or more addresses from your list:

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Go to the Membership Management section.
  • Click in the box in the first column (the "unsub" column) next to the address of each subscriber you want to delete.
  • When finished, click the "Submit Your Changes" button.


  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Go to the Membership Management section and then to the sub-category Mass Removal.
  • Choose whether or not to send acknowledgement of the removal to the user being removed.
  • Choose whether or not to send a notification of the removal to the list owner.
  • Enter the email addresses you want to remove (one per line) in the box.
  • When finished, click the "Submit Your Changes" button.

Dealing with Problem Subscribers

It is possible that someday a person will use your list inappropriately by sending irrelevant messages, large numbers of messages, or demeaning messages. Often the problem will solve itself if you can wait long enough. However, if the problem is serious enough or continues long enough, you might have to take action. You have several options:

  • Post a statement of appropriate use and conduct to the list.
  • Unsubscribe the offending user (see the Deleting subscribers section above). If your list is set up so that only people who are subscribed to the list can post messages to it, this method will effectively exclude them from the list. [Note: If your list is set up to allow open subscriptions, the person could simply re-subscribe.]
  • If the offending user is a WSU student, faculty, or staff, report the inappropriate use by sending an email message to describing the situation and including samples of the offending messages. Unethical use of University computing resources can be grounds for disciplinary action, including loss of computer accounts.
  • Add the person's email address to the list of addresses which are banned from membership on your list.

For more information, you may also wish to review the Mailman Owner and Usage Policy.

Banning someone from your list

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • From the list of configuration categories, select Privacy Options.
  • Add the offending user's email address to the ban_list setting.
  • When finished, click the "Submit Your Changes" button.

Adding or Deleting List Owners

  • Go to the list administration page via
  • Under General Options, you will see an owner setting where all of the current owners are listed.
  • Edit this list to add or remove owners. All owners must have a valid WSU email address. [Note: It is a good idea to double-check the spelling of the owner addresses.]
  • When finished, click on the "Submit Your Changes" button.

Deleting Your List

If you decide that you no longer need your Mailman list, fill out the Mailman List Deletion Request Form

Keywords:listproc listserv mailing mailman list   Doc ID:78615
Owner:Lindsay H.Group:Washington State University
Created:2017-12-07 13:47 PSTUpdated:2017-12-11 14:49 PST
Sites:Washington State University, Washington State University - Spokane, Washington State University - Tri-Cities, Washington State University - Vancouver
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