Kavi Mailing List Manager Help

Chapter 15. Mailing List Archives


A mailing list archive is a convenient, centralized way to store mailing list posts for easy retrieval. Publicly viewable Web archives provide transparency into a technical standards organization's activities and standards development processes, and archives of lists that exchange confidential or sensitive information can be kept private. Access to a mailing list's Web archives may be as open or as restricted as required.

Among their many virtues, archives allow users to follow subject threads, to catch up on email that may have been missed while on vacation and to familiarize themselves with mailing list history.

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Raw Ezmlm-Idx Archives and Web Archives

There are two types of archives in Kavi Mailing List Manager. The ezmlm-idx software that handles mailing list configuration and management also processes mailing list messages into raw archives. These raw archives are converted into Web-viewable archives by MHonArc software, which provides more sophisticated indexing and search functionality.

Raw Archives

Raw archiving is enabled in all Kavi default list types (the preconfigured templates on which different types of mailing lists are based). Raw archives can be retrieved via email using ezmlm email address commands, assuming the list type is configured to accept email admin requests.

The ezmlm archive indexing tool, ezmlm-idx, maintains a subject and author index for the raw archives. These indexes are used in ezmlm email commands to select and retrieve messages from the raw archives. For more information, see Email Commands.

Web-Viewable Archives

Web-viewable archives are created by MHonArc, which uses the raw ezmlm archives and formats them for presentation on the web. MHonArc HTML archives are accessible through Kavi Mailing List Manager tools, can be formatted to match the look and feel of the rest of your site, are searchable and offer several types of indexes including subject, author, date and thread.

Because the Web-viewable archives present a persistent record of the organization's activities, they are sometimes edited to remove inappropriate messages that were posted to the list. Editing of MHonArc archives must be performed by Kavians or other system administrators.

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Managing Archives

In order for a mailing list to have any archives whatsoever, ezmlm archiving must be enabled (i.e., the -a switch must be set in the ezmlm-make argument string) in the List Type on which the mailing list is based. As long as archiving is enabled in the List Type, raw archives will be created, even if they are not accessible to anyone except administrators.

The option to enable Web-visible archiving is available when a mailing list is added or edited. If Web-visible archiving is disabled, MHonArc archives are not created. If the feature is enabled and then later disabled, any existing MHonArc archives for that list are deleted—but as long as the raw archives still exist, Web archives can always be recreated. There is one caveat to this: any edits performed on the Web archives will be lost.

Since archiving does consume some system overhead, raw archiving can be disabled for lists where archives are unnecessary.

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Archive Access

Access to raw archives via email commands is configured in the List Type, whereas permissions for the Web-viewable archives are set independently through tools used to add or edit a mailing list. This means that a mailing list's raw archives may be available to a different set of users than its HTML-formatted archives. Generally, access to raw archives is more restricted than access to web-viewable archives because they may contain content that isn't present in the Web archives, such as the full email addresses of people who have posted to the list, which are usually obscured in the Web archives.

If Web-visible archives exist, they are accessible through Public, Member or Admin pages, depending on list user level and access control settings. Administrators may always access the raw archives by URL path. Web-visible archives is determined by options set at the list level when the list is added or edited. Web archives can be temporarily hidden by editing the list and setting the Web Archive Visibility option to 'Administrators only'.

For information on how mailing lists classify list users and control access, see Archive Access Controls in the Concepts document Access Control. For information selecting appropriate user access settings for raw and Web archives, see Configuring Lists for Common Use Cases. For information on reconfiguring existing lists, see Changing List Type Options.

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How Archiving Works

When raw archiving is enabled, every message that is posted to the list is also forwarded to a mailbox that collects messages to add to the archives. These messages are added to the archives in the order in which they are received.

Instant or Periodic Archiving

The 'Instant Archiving' option, which is set in the List Type, determines whether messages are archived the instant they are sent to this mailbox or periodically (the default is one hour for the periodic setting).

Periodic archiving works well for most lists and is particularly appropriate for lists that receive posts intermittently.

Instant archiving consumes more system resources than periodic archiving, but virtually eliminates the lag time between a message being posted to the mailing list and a message being available in the archives. This lag time is a common source of confusion for list users who are following a thread in the archives or looking for confirmation of whether the message they just sent to the list was posted or not. Many assume that the absence of a message in the archives or a difference in the time the message was sent and the time it is displayed in the archives is proof that something is wrong with the mailing list. The benefits of instant archiving often justify any increase in system overhead for busy lists or any list where timeliness is of paramount importance.

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Archive Structure

Raw Archive Structure

When ezmlm archives messages, it removes most of the header information, leaving only the message header fields. The message body contains the text of the original message, with any attachments extracted from the message and replaced by links to the extracted files.

Messages are indexed in the order they are received by the mailing list, beginning at 1 and ending at 100. When the first index reaches 100, a second index is begun.

Web-Viewable Archive Structure

In the Web-viewable archives, the archived messages for each list are compartmentalized into monthly buckets. This enhances the performance of the archiver and presents the messages in user-friendly, month-size chunks.

The indexes are largely self-describing, though it's probably a good idea to note that the 'Messages by Thread' index only includes messages to which there are replies or follow-ups. In other words, a thread is defined as a series of messages on a single subject, so messages without replies are omitted from this view because they don't qualify as threads.

Each monthly archive for a group contains four indexes:

  • Messages by Date

  • Messages by Thread

  • Messages by Author

  • Messages by Subject

For more information, see the page help for the List Archives tool.

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Archive security is primarily managed by setting access controls for the raw archives and the Web archives, but there is another option that can be enabled when adding or editing a mailing list. The 'Protect Archives from Spam' option "x's" out the domains of subscriber email addresses in the archives (e.g., fred@xxxxx.xxx) to protect subscriber addresses from address harvesting software. Spammers use address harvesting software, also known as spiders or scrapers, to search out and copy email addresses from every webpage on the Internet. These addresses are compiled into address lists for the spammers personal use and for resale to other spammers.

Obscured email addresses are a little inconvenient for list users when they want to respond to another list user privately and can't get the other user's address from the Web archives. On the other hand, address harvesters are relentless in their attempts to crack or bypass system security, and their compiled lists of email addresses may be sold to spammers around the world, including people running phishing schemes and other scams.

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