Kavi Mailing List Manager Help

Chapter 28. Introduction to Troubleshooting Email

It's So Simple, What Could Go Wrong?

Email seems simple, but email delivery can fail at any number of places in its journey from the MUA (mail user agent) of the sender to the MUAs of the intended recipients. Delivery may be delayed in a mail queue somewhere in the network cloud, may fail because the email was deleted by a spam filter or rejected for being over file-size limits or having the wrong MIME type content...or the user may be embarrasses to realize that the email that mysteriously vanished is still sitting in their outbox.

Messages sent to mailing lists can be unexpectedly rejected or sent to moderation queues because the sender doesn't understand posting rules, which can vary from list to list and depend on how the sender is classified by each mailing list. Generally, the privilege of direct posting is limited to certain classes of known users to protect the list from spam. Users may think something is wrong when they are unable to post directly to a list when they are actually using a different account from the one under which the posting privileges were granted.

The need to troubleshoot email isn't limited to apparent delivery failure or delays. Sometimes users receive automated email messages they don't understand, or sometimes inappropriate messages get posted to a list.

The existence of so many variables yields so many potential failure points that even though email seems simple in principal, troubleshooting email is an inherently complex process. In the interests of empowering everyone in the online community who would like to understand more about email and possibly troubleshoot email themselves, this documentation addresses a wide audience from users experiencing issues when posting to a mailing list to mailing list administrators and site managers. It covers a broad range of topics specific to troubleshooting email but references material scattered throughout the Concepts, Appendix and Tools page help. The purpose of this introduction is to help you get a birds-eye-view of the available documentation, some suggestions as to what might be of most interest to you (depending on whether you are a website user or administrator), plus some pointers that we hope will guide you along the fastest path to the information you need to resolve your issue.

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Available documentation on email and troubleshooting

A list of available documentation and the target audience for each document.

Email basics for everyone

Although these documents were written with the mailing list newcomer in mind, they contain information that everyone who is using or managing a mailing list should know. Experienced users can give these documents a quick glance for review purposes. Site managers and administrators should familiarize themselves with these documents so they will know where to refer others.

Composing an Email to Post to a List

Read this short, point-by-point walk-through of email construction to learn to compose email that will not run afoul of list rules. Administrators can read this to review the most common causes of email delivery failure.

How Really Email Works

This document provides an explanation of how email works and links to more advanced troubleshooting documents that may be of interest to users who want to diagnose email issues for themselves.

Analyzing Email

This document explains what email headers are and how to extract the information you need for troubleshooting purposes. This is useful for anyone who wants to troubleshoot email and does not already understand email headers.

Accessing the Full Header for Email Troubleshooting

This simple document tells how to get the full header information from an email so that it can be used to troubleshoot email and mailing list issues. It is meant to be used by anyone seeking support.

Flowcharts for troubleshooting email

These documents walk mailing list administrators and technical support personnel through the troubleshooting process for a predefined set of problem statements. The first several steps can usually be performed by technically minded users, but later steps require access to tools that are only available to administrators. The one exception to this is 'What Does this Message Mean', which contains a table of messages commonly generated by automated systems including the Mailing List Manager and ezmlm, mail servers and Kavi applications such as Members, Groups and Showcase, instead of a flowchart.

How to Use the Email Troubleshooting Flowcharts

Read this if you haven't used one of these flowcharts yet or are not sure which problem statement is the best fit for your situation.

What does this message mean?

A table containing keywords and strings found in some of the most common types of automated messages.

General background information

If you are not already familiar with these subjects and need to know more about them before proceeding, here is a list of available materials.


Describes bounces, probes and automated bounce handling. If you know your email bounced and you want to know what happened, read this.

Virus Scanning and Spam Blocking

This describes the mechanics of virus and spam filtering. If your issue involves an email that was caught in a filter and you're not sure why, read this.

Email Sent to or from Mailing Lists

These documents are aimed at mailing list administrators and technical support personnel troubleshooting email sent to or from a list. The documents may be of some use to members, but they assume access to tools that are generally available only to site managers and administrators.


See Introduction to Mailing Lists and Aliases, Managing Aliases and Default Email, Mailing List and System Aliases. You can look at these documents if your problem involves an alias and you want to know more.

Access Control

The ability to post or subscribe to a list or retrieve raw archives is based on the user's access level (i.e., whether the user is a member, a subscriber, a poster or a moderator). If your issue involved an email rejected because of user access level and you don't understand this hierarchy, read this document. You may also need to understand the list's rules and configuration, as determined by the list type (see next item).

Default List Types

Email troubleshooting often requires you to understand the rules and configuration of your list, which is determined by the underlying list type. Use the Manage Mailing Lists tool to find the list type on which your list is based. If your list is based on a default list type, you can find out more about the list by studying this document.

List Features

Use this document if you want to learn more about a specific feature in your list.

List Moderation

Most lists are moderated, although whether a post or subscription will be moderated is dependent on list type configuration and the user's access level. Read this for a description of how list moderation works.

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