FreeLists Recommended Configuration

This page contains recommended configurations for mailing lists. These are general guidlines; you don't have to stick to them, but they'll certainly improve the general quality of your list. This guide is broken up into pieces according to what type of list you're running. We assume here that you're familiar with the Web interface-- if you need help with that, please see our other help documents. For options that every list should have but we've left up to you, see the bottom of this document.

Things you should go through for every list

  • » Turn who-status to 'admin.' This prevents just anyone from viewing the list of subscribers. This is important for privacy, but you may want to allow subscribers to view the list; if you do, set this to 'private.' Setting this to 'public' will allow non-subscribers (anyone) to get the list. This is a SPAM-hole.
  • » Choose your subscribe-mode. This is a matter of preference for your list. See the documentation on subscription here.
  • » Choose your unsubscribe-mode. This is also a matter of preference, and follows the same scheme as subscribe-mode.
  • » Decide whether or not you want to allow Digests of the list to be sent. If you wish to disable them, turn on 'no-digest.' You probably want to allow you users to choose this option.
  • » Check the bottom of this page to see a list of things that every list should have.

A note about list types (list modes)

In general, there are four types of lists: Open, Subscriber-only, Moderated, and Newsletter-style (Note that there are several "subtypes" though, and depending on how you mix and match your configuration, you can draw the lines elsewhere.):

  • » Open: Anyone can post at anytime, and they don't have to subscribe first. Setting a list up like this is just begging for SPAM and other forms of rot, so we won't even discuss them.
  • » Subscriber-only: Any subscriber can post, but non-subscribers' messages are refused. This is the default configuration, and a good one to keep.
  • » Moderated: Like Subscriber-only, but any message that a subscriber sends in first goes through the moderator for approval. This is ideal for large lists and those that would otherwise have uncontrolable volume. This is also great if you want a "newsletter" style list, but want to at least have the chance to pass your subscribers' posts to the list.
  • » Newsletter-style: This is like the Moderated list setup, but posts to the list are automatically denied. This setup is ideal for distribution and newsletter lists (of course).

The Subscriber-only list

We'd like our list to accept posts from every user by default, yet still keep out people who aren't subscribed. Note that this is the default configuration for all lists at FreeLists, so you shouldn't have to change anything. We set the following options:

  • » Make sure Default-flags has at least |ECHOPOST|. Note: Separate flags with post symbols (|), and make sure you begin and end the string of flags with one post (|).
  • » Turn Closed-post on. This prevents outsiders from posting.

The Moderated list

We want to allow people to post, but we want to make sure their posts are legit first. To accomplish this, we have all messages routed through the moderator(s) for forwarding to the list. To start, follow the configuration steps for the Subscriber-only list.

  • » Set 'moderated' to on/true.
  • » Check on the following variables: admin-approvepost, moderate-include-queue, moderate-notify-nonsub, verbose-moderate-fail, and moderator-approvepost. Most of these are fluff, but they're nice to have available.

The Newsletter list

We want to setup a list that allows the moderator to post, but no one else. To do this, we set the default-flags setting to "|NOPOST|" plus whatever other flags you'd like each user who subscribes to have. Note: this only affects users as they subscribe -- all current users on the list are unaffected by changes made to this variable -- just something to keep in mind if you decide to change the format of your list after people are already on it.

Things every list should have

These are things that every list owner should consider adding to the list configuration. These things make your list easier to use, and will make your job as the moderator easier in the end. All this stuff can be done right in the web interface, and that they only take a few minutes. Note though that for each option (except the webpage), you must first enable the appropriate option in the list's configuration.

  • » A webpage: Login to the FreeLists Administrator Login with your administrative account and setup your webpage. This is your chance to advertise your list on our site. Put your list-specific info on the page, like who you are (the moderator), how to subscribe, how to unsubscribe, and of course, what the list is about.
  • » A footer-file: Believe it or not, having a 4 or 5-line footer attached to the bottom of every post can be quite helpful to list subscribers. Put in things like the name of the list, the list's webpage, a link to the archives, how to unsubscribe, and the moderator's email address.
  • » An intro-file: This file is made available to anyone who wants to find out general information about your list. Include things like list policies, topics, etc.
  • » A welcome-file: This file is emailed to new users when they subscribe. This can be the same thing as the intro-file.
  • » A FAQ-file, or a pointer to one. Put in here the frequently asked questions like "how do I subscribe?" and "how do I post?" You may want to duplicate this on your webpage.

Some suggestions

This is just general stuff we thought you should know. Do with it what you will.

  • » Don't change the humanize-xxxx settings. These include humanize-mime and humanize-html, which allow attachments and HTML emails, respectively. Attachments and HTML emails on a mailing list are two very bad things: Attachments may not be large, but when multiplied by the number of subscribers on your list, they result in horrible network problems. Also, you risk the spread of viruses. HTML mails can also cause network usage problems, but are mostly just a nuisance to those who pay for their ISP by the minute and for those who don't use HTML-capable mail readers.
  • » List owners: don't unsubscribe yourself from the list. Yeah, that sounds ridiculously stupid, but it happends more often than Charles Darwin would care to admit. :) If you unsubscribe yourself, you'll lose all of your nifty ADMIN privileges, which we'll have to add back in manually for you.
  • » Make your users aware of the services FreeLists has to offer. Let them know about the archives, the webpage, the web interface, etc.
  • » Use Ecartis's bounce handling to your advantage. Ecartis has a lot of configurability when it comes to handling these things. It'll automatically unsubscribe people after a number of bounces that you specify, or set them VACATION instead, up to you. It'll send you reports so you can track bounces and unsubscribe problematic people manually.
  • » Use the web interface! It's a nifty little program, and it'll help you out immensely. All the same things can be done through email administration, only it's a great deal easier.

If you have any questions about the content of this document, or come across anything you feel should be added to this document, please feel free to let us know.