Discussion lists?


Hi – the discussion lists offered, are those majordomo lists, or some other type?


Mailman, specifically. It’s the same type of system as Majordomo but with a web interface for setting preferences and an annoying, useless password “security feature” that can’t be turned off.

Yeah, I don’t care much for Mailman.

If you want useful replies, ask smart questions.


You can turn off most of the weirder behaviors of MailMan… though not all of them, unfortunately…

We run MailMan at work, and we had to make a few code changes to get it to stop doing stupid things like mangling the From: headers…

Kept getting things like

From: myList-bounces@oursever.com on behalf of myList@ourserver.com

All because they add a bunch of extra semi-standard mail headers that we had to remove…

But, it does work, and it’s fairly easy to configure so that it “just works” so, whatever… 'Tis a shame that we can’t go hack at our own copy though… I’d like to fix a few of the bugs…

Eh, Whatever…

– Andrew


You can mostly hide the Mailman user password functionality from users by using the email interface for subscribing and unsubscribing. If you send an unsubscribe from the user’s subscribed address they don’t need the password to complete the unsubscribe. Likewise, if you subscribe from the email interface it will automatically create a password. If you then turn off the monthly password reminders, the majority of users will never know the passwords exist.

We’ve looked into other discussion list systems but haven’t found an open-source system with better functionality or wider use than Mailman. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done.

  • Dallas
  • DreamHost Head Honcho/Founder


[quote]Kept getting things like

From: myList-bounces@oursever.com on behalf of myList@ourserver.com

All because they add a bunch of extra semi-standard mail headers that we had to remove…[/quote]
I got really annoyed by this response, because it showed a lack of understanding about what Mailman is doing and why. However, some good came out of it anyway, because it clarified my own understanding of the situation as well. So thanks for posting this, even though you didn’t need to be such a jerk.

The behavior you describe is because of a “feature” of some versions of Outlook / Outlook Express. Outlook chooses to display messages this way. This is possibly confusing for people, but replies still go to the address in the message’s "From: " header. I was under the impression that Outlook does this based on the evelope-sender, however it looks like maybe it’s doing it based on the "Sender: " header instead - it would probably not be a huge deal to configure Mailman not to use a Sender header or to rename it to X-Sender[1] - maybe someone who has Outlook can do some testing (if this is the case, then DH can “fix” a long-standing complaint people have had about its customer mailing list system).

I think Outlook does this because if you look through rfc822, one original use of the Sender header was the case of someone (say a secretary) writing an email “for” someone else (though this concept doesn’t really seem to have taken off). So I can see why Outlook might choose to display things this way.

Mailman (correctly) sets the envelope-sender (shows up in the Return-Path header) to one of its aliases. It also adds Sender: and Errors-To: headers, which I would consider “standard” (not semi-standard)[2], plus it adds the rfc2369 and 2919 (list-*) headers, which have nothing to do with the behavior you describe. I would argue that Mailman is correct to add these headers, based on my interpretations of the standards.

This is so that (among other things) Mailman can correctly process bounces and avoid having bounces go to the message’s sender.

[1] http://www.python.org/cgi-bin/faqw-mm.py?req=edit&file=faq02.003.htp

[2] Standard (though optional in many cases) as per rfc822 and 2822 (its proposed replacement)
"The “Sender:” field specifies the mailbox of the agent responsible for the actual transmission of the message" [RFC 2822 3.6.2]


But hey, as long as you can be a jerk right back at them then it’s all a-ok?

You still a DH employee, will? I seem to recall you leaving DH a while back, but your posts lately have been sounding like you’re still working with them. What’s next, DH support sending flaming emails if a customer queries about a billing error?


Nope. I work full-time somewhere else[1]. This is made quite clear by my personal site (linked from my profile). Also, as you’ll notice, my posts since I left no longer show me as a forum admin. I don’t really like having any sort of “boilerplate” message about all this in my signature, though I have thought about adding something in my user profile.

Just here out of (bad) habit, I suppose (next step is putting an /etc/hosts entry pointing discussion.dreamhost.com to :>), as well as a fellow “customer”. My occasional participation here is completely voluntary[2], and is in no way intended to make DreamHost look bad (or good). And I certainly haven’t meant to convey that impression [that I work @ DH] with any of my recent posts (which have been fairly infrequent, at least compared to when I worked there).

In any event, this is an unofficial forum. And anyone who has been on the forum knows that I’ve always been a jerk[3], so this is nothing new. Were I an employee, I would probably be more tactful. But I’m not. Anyway, this is hardly the same thing as customer support sending a rude response. If you receive a rude response from support, you would certainly be justified in complaining.

In any event, to be more specific, I think you could have either a) gotten your facts straight, b) been nicer, or c) offered to provide your patches to the Mailman developers, in the interest in fixing the “bugs” to the software which they freely distribute.

I’m not trying to say that Mailman’s perfect - as Dallas says, it’s not. But I agree that it’s one of the best MLMs out there - I’d argue that that’s including commercial and non open source products. And I agree that there are bugs - I’ve come upon some myself (along with some design decisions I don’t personally like or agree with). I just don’t think that your example is a good example of a “bug” in Mailman.

Wow - sorry for the long-winded response.

[1] http://pricegrabber.com/

[2] Full disclosure - I have some financial interest in DH, don’t pay for my hosting, and occasionally drink beer with some of their employees.

[3] Albeit a jerk who sometimes knows the answer and / or can get things fixed. Some people like me; some don’t. I will manage to sleep Ok at night if you’re one of the people who doesn’t. I like to think that I’m at least (usually) a reasonable jerk. I’m certainly not above a little intellectual bullying to get my point across, but I like to think that I generally try to provide some actual facts / evidence to back up what I’m saying. And, while I like to be right, I am happy to concede when someone proves me wrong.

In this case, as my backhanded apology was trying to indicate, I’m glad that I was “wrong”, because it may suggest a solution to a long-time annoyance.


Well, that was news to me and I’ve been reading your posts for a while. Your comments seemed a bit… out of character, judging from your previous posts. And yes, I know you better than you do, so don’t argue with me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not think I have, in this thread a) presented facts that are curved, b) been nice, nor c) offered any opinion, one way or another, on Mailman. Perhaps you were mistaking me for someone else? :wink:

Of course, I would be happy to a) straighten curved facts, b) be nice on Thursdays, and c) offer patches to Mailman developers if I ever decided to take a look at it. Of course, in return I would request that next time you cordially honor my attempts at starting a flame war. This is the time-honored and proper Internet etiquette all the way from Usenet days.


I have seen discussion on the mailman developers list about this Sender: header versus From: header and all the other stuff Mailman does. They are aware of it and their general stance is that Outlook is wrong. Open-source projects can get away with stuff like that. As Will mentioned, the RFC is somewhat ambiguous about it but as far as I know Outlook is the only client to have implemented this behavior.

I also think it only happens in some versions of Outlook. I think that because the complaints seem to have mostly died out now. I don’t really know for sure since none of us use Outlook.

I’m not too keen on fiddling with the way Mailman processes email due to the potential consequences of goofing it up.

  • Dallas
  • DreamHost Head Honcho/Founder