Kavi Mailing List Manager Help

Chapter 10. Managing Mailing Lists

Mailing List Analysis and Management

Like email, mailing lists may appear deceptively simple at first glance. People send messages to mailing lists and the messages are distributed to all subscribers, right? But mailing lists can enforce posting rules based on who a sender is. They support email commands, such as those used to subscribe or retrieve stored email messages. They may route incoming messages to a moderation queue for moderator approval, and as a mailing list administrator you may act as moderator, or you may support other moderators who are knowledgeable about the subscriber community but not about the technical aspects of list behavior.

Before you can manage mailing lists effectively, you need to understand how mailing lists work, what kinds of features they offer and what access controls might be imposed so you can successfully determine how the mailing list you're managing will behave based on its configuration, or how to configure the one you're adding so that it behaves properly.

This document assumes you have read the Introduction to Mailing Lists and Aliases and How Mailing Lists Work Concepts documents.

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Dual Access Routes

Kavi Mailing List Manager is essentially a Web interface built on top of third-party mailing list management software: ezmlm. Below the surface, ezmlm is responsible for all of the message posting tasks (except those that involve human moderators), enforcing rules and permissions, and handing out subscriptions and email messages from the raw archives to the public. As described in How Mailing Lists Work, ezmlm configuration settings in the List Type determine most mailing list features and behavior.

Any number of mailing lists may be based on a particular List Type, such as the 'Newsletter' default List Type, and all of these mailing lists will sport the same basic feature set and implement the same rules for posting, email subscription commands and email archive retrieval commands. Note the emphasis on "email" in the discussion of List Types and ezmlm configuration settings. This is because ezmlm settings govern the way that a mailing list interacts with list users via email.

In contrast, options that are set when a specific mailing list is added or edited control access to the mailing list through Kavi Mailing List Manager tools and User Area pages. These options govern who can use webtools to subscribe and who can view Web archives. They do not override options set in the List Type. Instead, they control Web access, which can be thought of as the alternate access route to the Subscriber Lists and Web-based archives, and this alternate route is most important when the main email route to the Subscriber Lists and raw archives is closed off in the List Type.

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Total Access = Email Access + Web Access

Mailing list administrators have to be aware of these dual access routes in order to understand who has access to what mailing list content. When setting list-level Web access options, List Type email access settings need to be taken into account to develop a holistic plan for list user access. Here is an example analysis of two mailing lists based on the same 'Newsletter' List Type. They provide the exact same level of access via email, but Web access is configured differently to fit different use cases.

Example 10.1. Two Newsletters with Different Web Access Settings

Imagine an administrator is going to use the Add a Mailing List tool to create a pair of newsletters aimed at different target audiences. The organization wants one newsletter to reach the largest possible consumer audience and the other to target the adopter community.

Both of these mailing lists are based on the Newsletter default List Type, so they have identical access via email subscribe and archive retrieval commands: anyone can subscribe via email and anyone can access the raw email archives (i.e., both kinds of commands are accepted from the public).

Consumers aren't eligible to join the organization, so the Consumer newsletter needs to be available in the Public Area of the website. When the Consumer mailing list is added, the 'Web Availability' and 'Web Archive Visibility' options are set to to 'Public'. A Web designer adds a custom public page that includes links used to manage subscriptions (this one just pops up an email client window where the To: address field is prefilled with the ezmlm email subscribe command) and a link to the Web-based archives.

Adopters are eligible to join the organization, and the organization wants to use the Adopter newsletter to encourage enrollment. Anyone can subscribe to the list via email, but the administrator sets the 'Web Availability' and 'Web Archive Visibility' options to 'Account Holder', so you have to have an account and login to view the Web archives. Since the Web archives are in a searchable and include attachments that can't be retrieved from the raw archives, restricting access to the archives does provide an extra incentive join.

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All Possible Ways to Subscribe and Unsubscribe

Depending on configuration, the public may subscribe directly to a mailing list via ezmlm email commands, users may subscribe via webpages, users may be added by administrators or subscribed automatically, as we'll explain in a moment. There are several types of Subscriber Lists, including the Regular and Digest Subscriber Lists. The mailing list sends list messages to these types of subscribers and consults these two Subscriber Lists to help determine who has posting or email archive retrieval permissions. There are three special kinds of Subscriber Lists that are managed exclusively by administrators: Allow, Deny and Moderator. The Allow Subscribe List is used to grant posting privileges to email addresses that aren't on the Regular or Digest Subscriber Lists, the Deny Subscriber List is used to revoke posting privileges from an address that would otherwise be authorized to post, and the Moderator Subscriber List is used to subscribe moderator email addresses.

Subscriber Lists are used extensively to manage email access as described in many Concepts documents, including Subscription Types and Subscriber Lists and Access Control.

In addition to the ways that subscribers can be added or removed through ezmlm and Kavi Mailing List Manager, Kavi® Members can cause subscribers to be add or removed from mailing lists based on the user's status and the Regular Subscriber List of a Members Mailing List is always populated dynamically through a query against the Kavi Members database.

When an email address stored in the Kavi Members database is edited, this change is automatically propagated to all Subscriber Lists.

All the Ways to Subscribe and Unsubscribe:

Ezmlm Email Commands

If the List Type is configured to accept email subscribe commands from the public, users can subscribe to (and unsubscribe from) the Regular Subscriber List and Digest Subscriber List under any of their email addresses.

Kavi Mailing List Manager Tools

Only administrators can subscribe email addresses to the Allow, Deny and Moderator Subscriber Lists. Users on these Subscriber Lists, including moderators, cannot unsubscribe themselves. The ability of other users to subscribe to mailing lists depends on list-level configuration settings:

  • If the mailing list is configured to allow all account holders to see the list, any logged-in account holder can subscribe or unsubscribe their primary email address to Regular or Digest Subscriber Lists.

  • If the mailing list is configured to only allow all subscribers to see the list, only logged-in subscribers can see the list. These list users can change their subscriptions or unsubscribe, but if they unsubscribe from both the Regular and Digest Subscriber List they cannot resubscribe themselves.

  • If the mailing list is configured to only allow administrators to see the mailing list, subscribers cannot manage their own subscriptions. Administrators have to add or remove subscriptions to all the Subscriber Lists, including Regular and Digest.


List Types that accept subscriber's posts but reject public posts (i.e., lists with the -u setting) support cross-posting by other, specified mailing lists. These privileges extend to everyone on a list with cross-posting privileges (unless the address is on the Deny List). For more information, read the Edit Cross-Posters tool page help.

Alternate Email Addresses Auto-Subscribed as Posters

If the organization collects multiple email addresses for its account holders, non-primary email addresses in the Kavi Members database are automatically subscribed as Posters. The Posters Subscriber List is maintained automatically, so it isn't accessible through Kavi Mailing List Manager Tools.

Members Mailing Lists Automated Subscriptions

Members Mailing Lists are lists whose Regular Subscriber List is populated dynamically by a query each time a message is posted to the mailing list. Other Subscriber Lists ( are maintained manually by administrators.

Automated Unsubscribe Due to Deactivation

Subscribers are automatically removed from mailing lists if their accounts are deactivated, then added back if the account is reactivated.

Automated Unsubscribe by Bounce Handlers

Subscribers whose messages bounce repeatedly over a period of several days may be automatically unsubscribed by bounce handlers.

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Posting Management

Ezmlm handles posting management based on rules set in the List Type. Administrators may be called on when an unwanted message is posted or when someone who expects to be able to post has their message rejected or sent for moderation. To revoke posting privileges, add the sender's email address to the Deny Subscriber List. To answer questions, you need to know how the mailing list is configured and how posting access rules are enforced. Click the View link for a Mailing List to see how it is configured. For more information on this topic, read Posting Access.

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List Moderation

Users who are subscribed as Moderators can moderate posts via ezmlm email commands, whereas administrators can moderate messages through Kavi Mailing List Manager tools. Be sure to read Mailing List Moderation and How to Moderate a Mailing List if you are managing or moderating a mailing list.

Administrators can click here to visit the Moderate Pending Messages tool. Click the page help icon to read more about the tools.

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Archive Management

There isn't a lot that administrators have to do to manage archives except to determine who has access. In the rare event that your organization wants an archived message removed from the archives, contact system support. You can hide Web archives temporarily using the Edit a Mailing List tool and setting Web Archive Visibility to 'Admin Only'. If you set this to 'No archives', the Web archives will be deleted. As long as raw archives still exist, Web archives can be regenerated but any edits (e.g., spam messages that were removed) will be lost. Archives are discussed in detail in the Concepts document Mailing List Archives. You can view archives by clicking the Archives link on the Mailing List Home page.

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Facts All Administrators Need to Know

Here are some miscellaneous facts that may help in list management and troubleshooting.

Mailing List Trivia:

  • When a user's account is deactivated, their subscriptions are removed, but the system stores a record of these subscriptions. If the user's account is reactivated, the subscriptions are restored. If the user is a Company Representative, the account is deactivated if the company is deactivated and reactivated if their company is reactivated, although the Company Representative can be deactivated independently of their company. This subscription removal or restoration happens simultaneously with activation or deactivation.

  • When a user subscribes or unsubscribes or changes to a different Subscription Type via ezmlm email commands, the change is made locally on the ezmlm Subscriber Lists. The Kavi Mailing List Manager database is synchronized to the ezmlm Subscriber Lists when a cron task runs. This synchronization happens nightly by default (in the server timezone, which is probably PST), but some websites have it configured to run more frequently.

    In the period between synchronizations, the information displayed in Kavi Mailing List Manager tools doesn't completely match the Subscriber Lists. This can make troubleshooting more difficult, especially when someone has been unsubscribed by automated bounce handlers. The user reports not receiving a list message and their email address appears as subscribed when viewed through tools such as Edit Mailing List Subscribers, but the mail logs don't show the message as being sent to this address. However, if the Bounce Report is consulted, it is easy to see that messages to this address have been bouncing.

  • When a user changes their email address information in Kavi Members, the change is propagated throughout the system immediately.

  • When a user is unsubscribed by ezmlm bounce handlers, the change is made locally on the ezmlm Subscriber Lists. are propagated to the rest of the system via a nightly cron task. This means that Kavi Mailing List so they don't effect immediately. The change is propagated to the rest of the system via a cron, so there is some lag time before the change shows up in Web interfaces, logs, reports, etc.

  • You can't manually remove a regular subscriber from a Members Mailing List, since the Regular Subscriber List is populated dynamically each time a message is posted to the mailing list. If the Members Mailing List is configured to respect the email preferences opt-out, the user can set the opt-out if desired and won't receive messages from this mailing list...nor any other Members Mailing List that respects the opt-out. If the user wants to subscribe to any of these other lists, the user can be added to the Digest Subscriber List.

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Mailing List Admin Tools

Kavi Mailing List Manager provides an extensive set of tools for managing mailing lists. This isn't an exhaustive list (some tools were already introduced in this document and others are included in the troubleshooting section at the end of the document), but points out some of the tools you'll want to use right away and some that you might not notice at first glance.

Manage Mailing Lists

Begin by visiting Manage Mailing Lists, which displays all lists managed in Kavi Mailing List Manager (this includes Members Mailing Lists, but does not include Kavi Groups lists). From here you can navigate to Mailing List Home for any mailing list.

Administrators can click here to visit the Manage Mailing Lists tool.

Mailing List Home

List user and administrators can find all available information about a list, its archives and tools used t manage subscriptions on the Mailing List Home page. Of course, the array of tools available to administrators is much larger. You can navigate here through Manage Mailing Lists.

Tools to Add, Edit and Delete Mailing Lists

Refer to the Concepts document How to Set Up a Mailing List for instructions on adding a mailing list. More information on editing and deleting mailing lists is available in the tool page help.

You cannot change the name of a mailing list once it is created, so when it is really important that a list have a different name, a new mailing list has to be created to replace the original.

Replacing a List

  • All archives remain with the original list. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to migrate these archives to the new list.

  • Configure the new list exactly like the original list and be sure to download the Subscriber Report from the original list before deleting it to make it easy to add subscribers to the new list.

  • When you have added the the new list, you can use the Add Subscribers tool to add all the subscribers from the original list to your new list.

To edit or delete or perform any other list management tasks, you can go through the main menu or through Mailing List Home. If you want to add a list you can go through the main menu or Manage Mailing Lists or administrators can click here to visit the Add a Mailing List tool. Click the page help icon to read more about the tool.

Subscriber Management Tools

If you look at the Admin Menu, you can see a Subscribers section with various subscriber tools.

Administrators can click here to visit the Admin Menu. Click the tool links, then the page help icons to learn more about these tools.

Alias Management Tools

The Admin Menu has an Aliases section where you'll find most of the tools you need to manage aliases. Some of the subscriber management tools are also useful, such as Manage Subscriptions. Too see all the mailing lists and aliases installed on your website (with the exception of list-specific ezmlm aliases), use List/Alias Name Lookup tool. Logs and Reports tools do not include data on aliases.

Administrators can click here to visit the Manage Subscriptions tool and List/Alias Name Lookup tool.

Logs and Reports

Most of the logs and reports tools are covered in the section on troubleshooting at the end of this document, but the Subscriber Report is often used to generate reports that help the organization gauge interest or participation in a mailing list.

Administrators can click here to visit the Subscriber Report tool.

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Super Admin Tools

Kavi Mailing List Manager doesn't have a lot of tools in the Super Admin Area. It has tools used to configure and manage List Types (which are probably most important during site setup) plus a couple of tools used to configure individual mailing lists, the tool used to synchronize databases and a tool that can be used to email a bounce report periodically.

Set Maximum Allowed Message Size tool

The Set Maximum Allowed Message Size tool is used to set different message sizes limits for different mailing lists and temporarily raise the limit to allow a specific message to be sent out. This tool gives the organization the opportunity to manage bandwidth consumption at the list level. Message size caps encourage more economical use of bandwidth by preventing users from emailing over-sized attachments. The cap can be raised to make an exception for a particular message, then set back to a lower level after the message goes through.

Super Admins can click here to visit the Set Maximum Allowed Message Size tool. For more information, click the page help icon.

Edit Mailing List Text tool

This tool is used to configure ezmlm template text for a specific mailing list.

Super Admins can click here to visit the Edit Mailing List Text tool. Click the help icon for detailed instructions.

Configure Bounce Report Summary tool

Use this handy tool to schedule a Bounce Report to be automatically emailed out to administrators every week or two.

Super Admins can click here to visit the Configure Bounce Report Summary tool.

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Troubleshooting Mailing Lists

Kavi Mailing List Manager help devotes a whole chapter to Troubleshooting, but here is some background information that you need to know plus tips on the most common causes of issues reported by list users. Click here to see what's available in the chapter on Troubleshooting.

Understanding Access Issues

Mailing list configuration and access controls are explained at length in the Kavi Mailing List Manager help. The material is complex and extensive, but the importance of mastering this information cannot be overstated. If you do not understand how to interpret access rule configuration for a mailing list, you won't be able to troubleshoot access issues. When an administrator adds, edits or troubleshoots a mailing list, the administrator must understand how mailing lists implement List Type and list-level settings in order to correctly grasp the complete picture of list behavior and especially what kinds of access controls it imposes.

Information every mailing list administrator needs to successfully troubleshoot access issues:

  • A mailing list is essentially a fancy way of forwarding email. List messages are vulnerable to the same delivery issues during the host-to-host transfer process as other email messages. Since a high volume of messages can be generated instantaneously, a mailing list message sent to a large number of subscribers or a message with a large attachment may overwhelm the mail queue, temporarily slowing mail delivery. Mail delivery can also be slowed by an excessive number of stale email addresses on the subscriber lists, but those that experience persistent or fatal delivery failures will eventually be removed by automated bounce handlers. If you are troubleshooting a mail delivery issue and don't understand all of these statements, you should read How Email Really Works, Introduction to Mailing Lists and Aliases and Bounces and Automated Bounce Handlers.

  • Mailing lists recognize subscribers as email addresses. The list decides what access the subscriber should have based on d its configured rules and which Subscriber Lists the email address appears upon. If you do not understand these two statements, you need to brush up on these topics before you can successfully troubleshoot any mailing list issues. Read How Mailing Lists Work, Subscription Types and Subscriber Lists and Access Control.

  • Mailing list access is a product of List Type configuration in the ezmlm-make argument string and list-level Web availability settings. If you are troubleshooting a mailing list and click the View link you can see how email access to posting, subscriptions and archives is controlled. If you don't understand these settings, refer to Mailing Lists and Ezmlm and List Types. You may also look up a specific option that you don't understand in Appendix documents such as Posting Access or Ezmlm Quick Reference. If you've read the previous sections in this document and all the documents referenced in this list, you should be able to interpret how these coordinate with the list-level settings that control Web access.

Most Common Issues, their Causes and Solutions

The Usual Suspects:

  • Email seems slow because of a high-volume mailing list message (message sent to a large number of subscribers or having a large attachment or both).

    Nothing is wrong here, the mail server must simply work at full capacity until the message clears the mail queue.

  • Sender reports their post was unexpectedly rejected or moderated, but it wasn't sent from an email address with posting privileges.

    The email address can be added so that future posts from this address will be accepted or the sender can be instructed which email address they need to use (hint: probably their primary email address). If the message is in the moderation queue, an administrator can approve it. If the message was rejected, the sender can resend it from an email address with posting privileges.

  • List user receives a bounce probe indicating there was a problem with their email.

    Delivery of the probe confirms that everything is working properly.

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Troubleshooting Tools

Most Kavi Mailing List Manager tools have a part to play in troubleshooting processes, and as you gain experience managing mailing lists you are acquiring background knowledge, skills and familiarity with basic list management tools that you can draw on when troubleshooting. These tools are used specifically for troubleshooting.

Examine Mail Headers

This easy-to-use tool is a nice way to introduce yourself to the art of troubleshooting. Practice dropping in a few email messages with the full headers and read the page help to learn how to analyze email envelope headers.

Administrators can click here to visit the Examine Mail Headers tool.

Mail Transfer Agent Status

Another simple tool that you can master immediately. The values here show the number of messages in the incoming and outgoing mail queues. When most or all mail slots are full, the mail server is working at or near capacity.

Administrators can click here to visit the Mail Transfer Agent Status tool.

Mail Delivery Logs

Mail Delivery Logs are extremely useful when troubleshooting email delivery issues, but for best results, always use the shortest possible Search Time and set any other appropriate search criteria to optimize your search. Mail logs searches are resource intensive searches that go back more than a few days can timeout. The tool page help provides detailed instructions and examples.

Administrators can click here to visit the Mail Delivery Logs tool.

Bounce Report

The Bounce Report shows which email addresses were unsubscribed by automated bounce handlers because of fatal delivery failures or repeated delivery failures.

Administrators can click here to visit the Bounce Report tool.

Subscriber Logs and Full Logs

Consult the Subscriber Logs when you want information about when an email address was subscribed or unsubscribed from a specific mailing list. The Full Logs provide detailed information about mailing lists, such as when they are added, edited or deleted, including configuration information.

Administrators can click here to visit the Subscriber Logs tool or Full Logs tool.

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