The Transition to Mailman from Listserv

Last revised 25 April 2006 by Shahrukh Merchant

The Tango-L and Tango-A mailing lists have been hosted by MIT for over 10 years, using the Listserv software on the mitvma.mit.edu host. A couple of years ago, Information Services at MIT began a transition to the Mailman list management software, and now it is the turn of the Tango-L and Tango-A lists to make the transition.

If you were a member of the Tango-L or Tango-A list hosted on mitvma.mit.edu before about 26 April 2006, your subscription will be moved automatically to the new software, and the change will be mostly transparent to you. However, there are several things different about the new software and the user interface, which this page addresses.

Changes Under Mailman

  1. Unsubscribing or Changing Options. You no longer need to send e-mail to listserv@mitvma.mit.edu (that address is obsolete). New instructions for subscribing and unsubscribing, changing your subscription options, etc., are provided on the Tango-L home page. Everything can be done from a web-based interface if you prefer, and there is a lot more customization that you can do. For most people, that should make the process a lot easier.
  2. Receiving Mail from the List. Your subscription will have been ported automatically to the new software, so you should automatically start receiving mail. If you had spam filters in place that was set to allow mail from the list based on headers that existed in received mail based on the Listserv software, you will probably need to change them. The easiest way to do this is to note that all legitimate mail from the list will have the list address in the To: field of the message (whether you are getting individual e-mails or digests).
        To: tango-L@mit.edu   or
        To: tango-A@mit.edu
    (Note that mitvma is no longer in the list address.)
  3. Sending Mail to the List (Posting to the List). Use the address Tango-L@mit.edu or Tango-A@mit.edu respectively (if you forget and use mitvma.mit.edu out of habit, it will still reach for a short while since the addresses will get forwarded, but this forwarding will disappear after a while so you might as well get into the habit of changing to the new address, updating your address book, etc.).
  4. Reaching a Real Person. The address to reach the administrator(s) is now Tango-L-owner@mit.edu (Tango-A-owner@mit.edu will also work but will reach the same person).
  5. List Password. You will be assigned a password for your subscription, which will be e-mailed to you automatically periodically, or you can have it e-mailed to you on request. You may use it to edit your subscription settings on the web. There will be just one password for both Tango-L and Tango-A (since they are hosted on the same server) if you are subscribed to both lists under the same e-mail address.
  6. Topics for Tango-A. Topics work slightly differently under Mailman and this may need some fine-tuning. You may receive e-mail from more topics than you subcribed to until this fine-tuning is complete. Also, it may not be possible to specify more than one topic (which is consistent with Tango-A's use of topics, although it was abused by some posters who specified multiple topics).

Really, that's it. Everything else is done for you. If you had Topics set on your Tango-A subscription, those topic names and individual settings have already been moved over for you, as has your other settings such as Digest, Nomail, etc. There are some more subtle issues that may not affect your individual subscription but the list as a whole, so I have collected those issues as a FAQ (which also addresses some questions that people have asked about the transition). Read on if you are interested!

Frequently Asked Questions about the Transition to Mailman

How will the rest of the world find out about this change?

This is a very good question. Tango-L has been around for more than 10 years, when Internet mailing lists were still something of a novelty, and this very "seniority" makes it so useful (if it were being created now, on yahoogroups, for example, it would get lost in the sea of other speciality Tango lists). This means that there are innumerable links all over the Internet with instructions on how to subscribe to Tango-L and Tango-A and it is unrealistic to hope that all of these are going to be corrected in a few days (or at all). So many potential new subscribers could be lost.

This has been largely addressed in the following ways (but you can help--see below!):

bulletThis web site was created under the domain Tango-L.com (Tango-A.com also points here). All web links for information about the Tango-L/-A lists can simply point here, and this is the only site that will need to be kept uptodate for any future such changes.
bulletThe obsolete Tango-L-request@mitvma.mit.edu and Tango-A-request@mitvma.mit.edu addresses will be forwarded for some time to come to the new Tango-L-owner@mit.edu address so that at least misdirected administrative mail will reach the current administrators at the new address.
bulletAn old-format subscribe message to the obsolete listserv@mitvma.mit.edu address will, unfortunately, generate only a "This list does not exist address." I am currently negotiating with the MIT Information Services staff to set it up a little differently, so that it gives a more detailed explanatory message saying that the list has moved and giving new instructions (perhaps just a pointer to this site). This is a short-term fix since this will disappear once the Listserv software is finally uninstalled, but at least it will catch the near-term misdirections.

How can I help?

The real problem is all those web sites out there that have instructions for subscribing to Tango-L and Tango-A, and which are now obsolete. I did a Google search on +"tango-L" +"mitvma.mit.edu" (which should catch all references to the old subscription information for this list) and there are a reasonable number of 69 matches. If someone is willing to volunteer to contact all these website owners, followup methodically after a week, get them to change the information, etc., that will essentially solve the problem rapidly. Ultimately, I will do this myself, but after focussing on making the transition itself go smoothly, and with near-term travel plans, I cannot do this follow-up until much later than the optimal time (now) to do so.

If you are willing to help, please contact me first, just to make sure that these webmasters don't get mail-bombed with many people all trying to be helpful at the same time! Here is sample text to suggest they may use:

Tango-L and Tango-A are two worldwide Internet mailing lists for the Argentine Tango that anyone may subscribe to. Tango-L is for discussion about any aspect of Tango, and Tango-A is for announcements of major Tango events by region. Please go to www.Tango-L.com for details about these lists, how to subscribe, list policies, etc.

Thanks in advance!

What about archiving? Will that change?

Well, there is some good news here! The Tango-L and Tango-A lists are currently being archived by Lucy Lynch at http://pythia.uoregon.edu/~llynch/Tango-L/index.html and http://pythia.uoregon.edu/~llynch/Tango-A/index.html respectively. I expect that this will not change, since the archive feeds will continue automatically (though she may need to make some minor changes in the scripts).

In addition, however, the Mailman software also provides for automatic archiving of lists hosted by Mailman (although of course these Mailman archives will only start from May 2006 or so). It is always good to have redundancy of archives! See the Tango-L home page for information on accessing these archives.