[Molvis-list] To the moderator (and list admin)

Dan Bolser dmb at mrc-dunn.cam.ac.uk
Sun Nov 21 13:28:31 EST 2004

I have a few comments, but I am not sure if people would care enough to
'vote' on the issue yet...

Email spoofing is rare, so having a subscriber only policy gets rid of
most spam attacks (which on the whole are opportunist and not directed).
Mailman on bioinformatics.org should be compatible with a spam filter,
bouncing suspicious email to the sender automatically, and automatically
allowing it through on the completion of some 'human' task.

In the same vein, it is very simple to configure procmail or the like to
pickup mail with the word unsubscribe in the header and send it to the
list admin.

Subscriber requests again are only allowed after a few tasks have been
completed, so I don't think bulk junk subscriptions can happen (at the

Again, procmail can easily be used as a vote polling mechanism, parsing
email, invoking scripts, binning mail, sending replies, etc. However, lets
leave it a while before asking, just to test the water.

I just get a bit frustrated by what I saw as an uncessary wait :) sorry!

If people are rude on this list, then we have bigger problems ;) 

I never had a problem with spam on unmoderated lists at bioinfo.org, but
then again I have hefty spam filters this end. (Please feel free to put my
email address anywhere you like - I welcome the spam so my filter can
learn more :) - Besides it could be a good experiment ;)

All the best, 

On Sun, 21 Nov 2004, Eric Martz wrote:

>At 11/20/04, you wrote:
>>Can I ask why this list is moderated?
>>In the spirit of "This makes the discussion more interesting"
>>(http://bioinformatics.org/mailman/listinfo/molvis-list) I don't see why
>>this should be necessary.
>Presently this list is moderated by Eric Martz or Tim Driscoll.
>"Moderating" an email list means that a moderator must approve each message 
>before it is broadcast to the list. The moderator may refuse to broadcast 
>inappropriate messages. The RasMol-list subscribers have been quite civil 
>during the 9-year history of this list. However, were a disrespectful, 
>name-calling, or inflammatory message to be sent, the moderators could 
>request that such messages be rephrased, or reject them. In some cases the 
>moderator may choose to edit messages before they are broadcast, but the 
>mailman software running molvis-list does not provide this option.
>I chose to moderate the new molvis-list, at least for an initial period, to 
>preclude the broadcasting of spam. Messages are accepted only from 
>subscribers, but it is easy for spammers to "spoof" a message as being 
>"From" a sender, fooling this safeguard. A handful of spam messages were 
>broadcast on the old list because I chose not to moderate it for most of 
>its history.
>Moderation also enables me to respond to "unsubscribe" requests that are 
>inappropriately sent to the entire list, without broadcasting them. There 
>has already been one of those.
>The present mechanism for moderation in mailman does not allow me to edit 
>messages before broadcasting. I have found no need for such editing, but 
>sometimes it would be useful to add a comment before broadcasting (which 
>mailman does not enable me to do at present). Bioinformatics.org plans to 
>upgrade to a new version of mailman which may have more flexibility.
>The old listproc mechanism enabled me to get a little information about new 
>subscribers, which helped me to refuse subscriptions to dozens of clearly 
>bogus requests received over the years. The present mailman mechanism gives 
>me only the email address for subscription requests, so I have no basis for 
>refusing a subscription request. This made me a little more nervous about 
>the possibility of vandals subscribing to broadcast spam. So far it hasn't 
>happened, but it has only been one month. The list is more visible than it 
>used to be because of its presence in a large group of lists at 
>The only downside of moderation that I can see is the sometime delay of up 
>to a day (rarely more) before Tim or I get around to checking and approving 
>new messages. Tim Driscoll has just today been added as co-administrator. 
>This should reduce the lag time on average.
>The lag occurs in part because the mechanism provided by mailman, to alert 
>the list administrators when a message has been sent, also displays the 
>admininstrators' email addresses plainly on the main list web page. Tim and 
>I did not want this because it makes it easy for email address harvesting 
>worms to spam us. So I displayed the admin addresses in an alternate 
>format. However, doing so obviates the mechanism mailman has for alerting 
>us of new messages.
>If the subscribership prefers that the list not be moderated, I don't mind 
>turning moderation off. There is a slight risk that all 600-some of us will 
>be bombarded with molvis-list spam one of these days. Dan, if you wish to 
>propose to the list subscribers that it not be moderated, go ahead. I have 
>no convenient mechanism for taking a vote of all subscribers, but we can 
>see if there are any objections. I would not object to trying it unmoderated.
>Otherwise, I plan to continue moderating the list for a couple more months 
>until I see how it goes. Then I expect I'll turn off moderation if it seems 
>Eric Martz, Professor Emeritus, Dept Microbiology
>University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA US
>Molvis-list mailing list
>Molvis-list at bioinformatics.org

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