About Mailing Lists Print E-mail

What is a mailing list?

Think of a mailing list as just a collection of email addresses. The software that manages a mailing list uses the name of the list to send messages to all the email addresses on the list. When people add their email address to a list they become 'subscribers' to the list. For example, if you have a CommunityLists mailing list named 'my-list' then sending an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it will send that message to every person's email address who has subscribed to your list.

What's involved in operating a list?

The person responsible for a list is known as the list 'owner'. List owners may also be the person who monitors the operation of the list or they may ask additional people to be 'moderators' who deal with the day-to-day tasks involved in managing the list. Regardless, someone will have to take responsibility for assisting those using the list, approving posts from non-members and other tasks.

How do people use mailing lists?

How a list is used is entirely up to the list owner. The operation of lists typically falls in to one of two general categories. Some people prefer to operate lists that simply send out information such as notices or newsletters. This type of list is typically referred to as an announcement list.

Lists can also be configured for the use of subscribers to discuss topics of interest. On a discussion list a subscriber uses the mailing list to send a message to all the other subscribers, who may answer in similar fashion. Thus, actual discussion and information exchanges can happen. Mailing lists of this type are usually topic-oriented (for example, politics, scientific discussion, joke contests), and the topic can range from extremely narrow to "whatever you think could interest us".

What now?

Getting started with a list at CommunityLists is easy. Once you submit the sign-up form and your list has been configured, we will send you a message to confirm the list is active and provide you with access details for the list web administration page. The administration web page gives you full access to all operations of the list including subscriber management.

Please be aware that the default settings for your list have been set in a manner that suits the vast majority of list owner/users and it is very important that you do not make any changes without fully understanding what effect the change will have. Please review the documentation carefully before deciding to customise the list settings.

You may also choose to advertise the list information web page address to users where they may subscribe to your list. Be careful about advertising the actual address of the email list on web sites. If this is not done carefully it could lead to a large amount of spam being directed at the list email address.

When a visitor to your list information web page decides to subscribe to your list they will automatically receive a message telling them that their subscription must be approved by the list moderator. The moderator will also receive an email message asking them to visit the list administrator web page to approve or reject the subscriber. Messages emailed to the list by non-subscribers must be approved by a moderator before the list software will send the message to subscribers. This is a measure to prevent unwanted messages such as spam from being distributed to the subscribers of your list.

The software used at CommunityLists is quite advanced and it will automatically send informational messages to both moderators and subscribers with full information and instructions as required for the smooth operation of the list. List owners have full control over these messages but we highly recommend that the default settings not be altered.

Need more information?

CommunityLists is operated using the very popular open-source software 'Mailman'. If any of your users have used a list before, chances are it will have been a Mailman list and therfore they will feel right at home. Mailman has a wealth of useful options that people have now come to expect of list services. If you require more information regarding the use of Mailman software then we recommend that you read the following documentation:

Managers of CommunityLists lists should read the Manager's Guide.

Users of your lists should check the User Manual for any questions they may have about using Mailman mailing lists.

For more in-depth answers to technical questions you may also want to review the Mailman Frequently Asked Questions.


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