Kavi Mailing List Manager Help

Chapter 2. Mailing Lists and Aliases

Mailing Lists and Aliases

Organizations sponsor mailing lists so their geographically distributed members can collaborate via email and web-viewable list archives. Mailing lists may be used to distribute information in the form of newsletters or announcements, or to conduct ongoing discussions. Mailing lists can be created to serve an endless variety of purposes, such as a temporary list used by a team working on a specific project or task, or an discussion forum used by thousands of members of the organization and interested public. Mailing lists are very similar to aliases, which are used to forward administrative requests.

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How Is a Mailing List Different From an Alias?

Basically, a mailing list is an alias with extra bells and whistles, so they are quite similar. Kavi Mailing List Manager provides centralized management of aliases and mailing lists used by Kavi applications throughout your organization's website.

Figure 2.1. How mailing lists and aliases work

Diagram showing how email sent to a mailing
	    list is checked and filtered according to mailing list rules, while email sent to an alias is simply forwarded.

What Is an Alias?

An alias is just an email address that automatically forwards each message it receives to a list of other email addresses, which is called the alias list. If you've ever added multiple email addresses for a single name (sometimes called a 'nickname') in your personal email address book, then you have created an alias. Like that alias, aliases used in the Kavi Mailing List Manager and other applications provide a convenient way to send an email to a single address and have it immediately forwarded to multiple email addresses. The alias doesn't function as a mailbox, so it doesn't store any mail sent to it.

What Is a Mailing List?

A mailing list is an email alias, but a mailing list can do more than just forward messages. The mailing list maintains several lists of email addresses, one for each type of subscriber (e.g., 'Regular', 'Moderator', etc.), which are called subscriber lists. Users commonly have different levels of access to the list, depending on whether they are subscribed or not, and if so, whether they are a regular subscriber or a moderator.

Kavi Mailing List Manager relies on ezmlm software for the configuration of the List Types on which its mailing lists are based. These ezmlm List Type configuration options are used to set rules that control which messages are forwarded to the mailing list (i.e., posted) based on whether the email was sent from a subscribed account or not, and whether messages are sent to moderators rather than posted directly to the mailing list. Other options can be set to enable list archives, digests and ezmlm email commands which allow users to subscribe to the list or retrieve archives via email, etc.

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How Aliases Are Used

Most aliases displayed in Kavi Mailing List Manager forward email to support personnel, administrators or list moderators. Alias names often incorporate terms such as 'support', 'admin' or 'moderator' that help indicate the purpose of the alias. When you submit a web-based support request form or send a message to a moderated list, the request or message is emailed to an alias, then forwarded to every recipient on the subscribers list.

When you send a message to mailing list, you are actually sending the message to an alias. If this is a moderated mailing list, the message is forwarded to moderators. Since this is a mailing list and not just an alias, the system stores a copy of the message in a moderation queue. If the list has three moderators, they each get a copy of the message to review. When a moderator approves the message, it is sent to an alias that forwards the message to all the email addresses on its subscribers lists. If the mailing list has a digest, the approved message is added to the set of messages that will be rolled up into the next digest. For more information, see the Concepts document Mailing List Moderation and the Digest section of the List Features document in the Appendix.

An alias can be subscribed to another alias. For example, administrators frequently monitor support requests, so the principal administrative alias might be subscribed to the support alias. For more information, see Default Email, Mailing List and System Aliases in the Appendix.

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How Mailing Lists Are Used

There are two general kinds of mailing lists: lists used for one-way distribution of information (e.g., announce-only lists, newsletters) and discussion lists.

One-Way Lists

One-way lists, such as the newsletter your organization sends to all its members, tend to limit who can post to the list in order to maintain the quality of the list. For example, you might have to be a member in order to subscribe, and messages might only be accepted from subscribers (i.e., from members). Since every message that is posted is sent to all organization members, newsletters are usually configured to send all messages submitted to the list to a moderation queue. Moderators review messages in the moderation queue and only those they approve are posted to the list. This protects the list from spam and other inappropriate content.

Lists used to distribute formal organization announcements are even more restrictive. Announce-only mailing lists accept posts from a small pool of users who are subscribed to the list as moderators. This kind of list rejects messages sent from addresses that are not on its list of moderators. You cannot subscribe yourself to the moderator list—this has to be handled by an administrator.

Discussion Lists

Most organization mailing lists are used to host discussions of some kind. Discussion lists can be configured to accept messages (i.e., posts) from subscribers only, members only or may be open to input from the general public. People posting messages may introduce new ideas, submit questions or respond to messages posted by others (thereby creating an email subject thread). In this way, mailing list participants engage in an ongoing conversation and exchange information in accordance with the list's goals and policies.

The majority of your organization's discussion lists are probably created and managed through Kavi Groups, rather than Kavi Mailing List Manager, because they are used by a specific workgroup or committee.

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When Good Email Addresses Go Bad

When a subscriber changes email accounts or their address changes, email sent to the invalid address bounces back to the sender. Because mailing lists can have many subscribers and a high volume of bounce messages to process, most mailing list bounces are monitored by automated bounce handling software. When messages sent from a mailing list to a specific email address bounce repeatedly, the bounce handler automatically unsubscribes the address (i.e., removes the address from the subscriber list). For more information, see Bounces and Automated Bounce Handling in the Troubleshooting Guide.

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Alias or Mailing List?

Aliases and mailing lists are similar but serve different needs. The guidelines below can help you decide whether you should create an alias or a mailing list.

Mailing Lists

When to use a mailing list:

  • For discussion groups, newsletters, community support forums and regular announcements

  • To capture and archive messages for future retrieval

  • To control which messages are forwarded to subscribers

  • To allow people to add their own subscriptions

Mailing lists provide many powerful options. They are perfect for distributing formal and official email to a large number of email addresses and for facilitating open discussions. With all this power comes an abundance of choices. For each mailing list you create, you have to decide who can post messages to the list, how subscribers are added, whether email archives are maintained and how visible they are, who the moderators will be, and a host of other options. Because mailing lists can operate in so many different ways, they can be more work for administrators to manage.

If you want to create a mailing list, see How to Set Up a Mailing List.


When to use an alias:

  • For support email, simple inquiries and staff contacts

  • When email should be forwarded to only a handful of people

  • When email needs to arrive freely; if email should not be automatically moderated or screened

  • For temporary email addresses

Aliases are a simple and quick way to have email sent from an official email address on your website to a small group of other email addresses. Email sent to aliases can be scanned for viruses before it reaches the alias mailbox, but is otherwise forwarded without undergoing any kind of rule-checking. This makes aliases great for administrative or event contact email addresses, because even though more spam will get through to an alias, the absence of rules also means that important email to administrators can't get blocked by a moderator or other mailing list rule. This allows administrators to determine for themselves what constitutes a good or a bad email message.

Aliases must be manually updated by an administrator if they need to forward email to new or different email addresses. For this reason, an alias is not a good choice if members or the general public should be allowed to sign up to receive the email. Email sent to an alias is also not archived on the web site. If you are an administrator receiving important business email through an alias, it is important that you retain copies of the email you receive for auditing purposes as this information cannot be retrieved through the website.

If you want to create an alias, see Managing Aliases.

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