Information about Mailman

What is Mailman?

Mailman is a web-based email distribution list manager. With an email distribution list, you can send an email message to a single address and have it automatically distributed to any number of predetermined addresses.

Mailman allows list owners to create and modify lists easily as well as add and remove subscribers without having to know specific commands. List subscribers can easily modify their list subscriptions and preferences.

You can request that a new Mailman list be created for you by contacting the IT Help Desk.

What is a Mailman List?

Electronic mailing lists (also known as distribution lists or discussion groups) offer a highly efficient way to both disseminate information to a large number of people and hold long-distance discussions among many people. They are commonly used by Valpo students, faculty, and staff to communicate.

Setting up a Mailman list gives you an email address of the form <listname> A special computer server processes email sent to this address, screening it according to rules established for the list. It then distributes a copy of the message to every list member. List owners can manage their lists, adding and deleting list members and making changes to how the list operates with an administrative Web page set up for their list.

For more information see: A description of Mailman published by the Mailman vendor.

Why Use Mailman Instead of an Address Book in Your Email Client?

  • An address book can be used by only one person (though there are ways to share distribution lists or set up global address books). A Mailman list is available to anyone who can send email, but also offers control over who can get messages distributed to the list.
  • If you set up a Mailman list to distribute messages from any of the subscribers, you will have a tool for group discussion via email.
  • Mailman gives many options in areas like privacy, control over who can subscribe, control over who can post, and moderation of postings.

Mailman List Roles

With Mailman, you can be a list subscriber, list owner, or list moderator. You also may take on multiple roles for a list or different roles for different lists. In addition, the Mailman list server at Valparaiso University has a system administrator.

  • Subscriber: A subscriber is someone who has subscribed to a list, receives messages posted to the list, and may also post messages for distribution to the list if permitted. Who may post, and how it is done, may be controlled by the list owners. A subscriber has no administrative power over list operation but can change a few of his or her own subscription settings. For example, a subscriber can decide to receive message "digests" rather than individual postings.
  • List Owner: Each list must have an owner who is responsible for configuration, maintenance and operation of the list. The list owner may establish other owners, and may optionally have others take roles such as moderating the discussion or managing subscription requests. List owners may execute commands for their subscribers including adding and deleting subscribers. Each list must have at least one owner who is a current faculty, staff, or student at Valparaiso University.
  • List Moderator: List moderators are optional. They are assigned by the owners and can manage list subscriptions and postings.
  • Mailman System Administrator: A system administrator is responsible for the operation of the Mailman list server on which many lists reside. Administration tasks include installation and maintenance of the software and the computers where Mailman runs as well as creation and deletion of the individual lists. The system administrator is also entitled to act as the list owner of any mailing list on the server.

How to Use Mailman

Sending an email to list subscribers

When a message is to be distributed to the subscribers of a Mailman list, it must be addressed to the list's address. For example, to post to a list called vusports-l, you send email to

All lists on the Mailman server have email addresses of the form <listname>

Messages sent to these addresses first go to the Mailman server. Mailman receives the message and processes it, checking for errors and following the rules established by the list owners. If a message is valid, a copy is forwarded to each of the list's subscribers.

Changing subscriber/owner configuration options

Mailman performs lots of functions in addition to distributing messages to subscribers. It allows you to do a task, like subscribing to a list or changing how a list works, by going to a specific Web address.

  • Subscribers can do their tasks on the list information page at
    where listname is replaced with the actual name of the list. For example, if a subscriber wanted to change his subscription options for the vusports list, he would go to
  • Owners can go to the list administration page at
    where again listname is replaced with the actual name of the list.
  • List owners and moderators can go to their list's moderation page at
    when there are subscription requests or messages to be moderated.

    List owners should use the password supplied when the list was created to authenticate to the adminstration and moderation pages. There is an optional Moderator Password that can be set by the list owner for moderators.