Kavi Mailing List Manager Help

Chapter 9. How to Moderate a Mailing List

If you are a moderator, this document shows you how to use ezmlm moderation commands to moderate and post messages to a moderated mailing list. If you are an administrator, this document tells you how to use Kavi Mailing List Manager tools to manage Subscriber Lists, add moderators and moderate messages.

Who Should Be Appointed Moderator?

A mailing list with moderated posting or moderated email subscription process must have at least one designated moderator and may require several, particularly if there are a large number of posters.

The Organization Admin may act as message moderator, and in fact, the admin alias is subscribed to the listmoderator alias by default, so that the Organization Admin will receive message moderation requests unless the alias subscriber list has been customized on your website. As described in the companion document Mailing List Moderation, administrators can moderate messages and manage subscribers Kavi Mailing List Manager webtools. However, ezmlm-based mailing lists, such as those managed through Kavi Mailing List Manager, can also be moderated through ezmlm email commands, and to use these commands, a user has to be subscribed to a mailing list as a moderator. If the mailing list is based on a custom List Type with moderated subscriptions, someone has to be subscribed as a moderator in order to handle subscription requests, which can't be handled through webtools.

The Organization Admin isn't necessarily the ideal mailing list moderator because the administrator is managing a broad spectrum of responsibilities and isn't necessarily as familiar with the posters and content being exchanged through any one mailing list as someone who is an active participant in the mailing list. Even if the Organization Admin is well-versed in organization business, it is often best to distribute the workload between multiple moderators.

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Moderator and Administrator Responsibilities

Moderator and administrator responsibilities fall into several general categories, as discussed in the following sections. These responsibilities may be shared with other moderators and with administrators. Administrators have a somewhat different set of actions that they can perform, as highlighted in Moderator Versus Administrator Actions. The following sections cover both moderator and administrator responsibilities, and provide instructions on how to accomplish each task through ezmlm email commands and Kavi Mailing List Manager webtools.

If you are moderating or administrating a mailing list, you need to know what posting rules apply and whether the list has moderated subscriptions or not. Posting rules can vary, depending on the configuration of the List Type (i.e., ezmlm mailing list template) on which the mailing list is based. See List Types with Moderated Posting for more information. You should be able to find out about your mailing list's posting and subscription rules in the Policy and Usage section of the Mailing List Home page. If the information isn't there and you don't have administrative access, ask an administrator to provide you with information about the List Type posting and email subscription rules.

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How to Add a Moderator

Kavi Mailing List Manager has several tools that administrators can use to add moderators. To the underlying ezmlm software, a "Moderator" is nothing more than an email address subscribed to the Moderator Subscriber List, so all these tools do is add one or more email addresses to the Moderator Subscriber List. When the mailing list receives a message that needs to be moderated, it forwards the message to all the addresses on the Moderator Subscriber List. When the mailing list receives a message and veirifes that it is from a sender on the Moderator Subscriber List, it classifies the sender as a moderator and processes the message according to the rules that apply to moderators.

Unlike Regular or Digest subscribers, moderators can only be subscribed or unsubscribed through Kavi Mailing List Manager Admin Tools.

Tools Used to Add or Delete Moderators:

  • When creating a new list, you are required to add one or more moderators by entering their email addresses into the Moderators text box Add a Mailing List tool. If these moderators want to receive messages posted to the list, you need to add these kinds regular or digest subscriptions through the Add Subscribers tool.

    When adding a mailing list, be sure to include posting rules in the Policy and Usage information where it can be read on the Mailing List Home page by list users and moderators. These users won't necessarily be able to view List Type details directly.

    Click here to visit the Add a Mailing List tool.

  • You can add multiple new moderators by entering their email addresses in bulk through the Add Subscribers tool. Use this tool when you also want to add regular or digest subscriptions so these moderators will receive list messages. After you've added the subscribers as moderators, click Add More Subscribers, then select the 'Regular' or 'Digest' subscription type and reenter the email addresses.

    Click here to visit the Add Subscribers tool.

  • If you want to designate existing subscribers as moderators and/or remove existing moderators, use the Edit a List's Subscribers tool, which displays a list of all current subscribers so you can manage multiple subscribers at once. You cannot add new subscribers through this tool, but there is a link to the Add Subscribers tool.

    Click here to visit the Edit Mailing List Subscribers tool.

  • When you want to add or remove a single subscriber from multiple lists, use the Manage Subscriptions tool.

    Click here to visit the Manage Subscriptions tool.

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How to Post Messages

Moderator is the most privileged type of list user and a moderator can always post messages to the list. On lists with the strictest control over the content of messages posted to the list, only moderators are allowed to post and all posts are sent for moderation. If you are a moderator for this type of list, your primary responsibility will be to post messages, then approve your message as it comes through the moderation queue.

If your mailing list only accepts posts from moderators and rejects posts from other senders (the -moU configuration setting), you have to send posts from an email account that is subscribed to the Moderator Subscriber List or your post will be rejected. The mailing list software checks the sender address against the Moderator Subscriber List to determine whether the sender is really a moderator or not. If you send the message from some other email address, the software won't recognize you as a subscriber and your message is rejected. Setting the 'From:' address to some other value won't fool the mailing list software. If you want to post messages from more than one email address, an administrator needs to add these alternate email addresses to the Moderator Subscriber List.

You also need to be careful to send posts from a subscribed email address if your mailing list rejects posts from the public and sends subscriber posts for moderation (the -mOuy configuration setting). In this case, the message can originate from any subscribed email address, even if it isn't the address on the Moderator Subscriber List, but the moderation request and reply will be handled through the moderator address.

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Moderate Subscriptions

Subscription moderation isn't implemented in any of the default List Types, but it can be used on customized lists (although it is rare). If your list is configured to accept subscription requests by email but send them for moderation, your responsibilities may include approving or rejecting subscribe and unsubscribe requests as well as moderating messages for posting. As with other email in the moderation queue, if you ignore a subscription request, it will go away. Since this only applies to customized lists, further description of subscription moderation process is outside the scope of this document. The subscription moderation request provides complete instructions.

Note

If subscription moderation is enabled, the confirmation requests sent to the subscriber and moderator are virtually identical, except that the subscriber's email address commands contains the code 'sc' and the moderator's email address commands contain the code 'tc'.

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How To Moderate Posts

On moderated discussion lists, the moderator's primary responsibility is to moderate posts from subscribers or others who are allowed to submit posts for moderation. Moderators can choose to accept messages that are relevant and interesting to the list community or reject messages they feel are inappropriate. The mailing list wraps the message in a rejection notice and returns it to the sender, and the moderator can opt to add an explanation of why the message was rejected. Messages that aren't acted upon will timeout eventually and be returned to the sender, which means moderators can selectively act on some of the messages sent to the mailing list and ignore others without fear of the moderation queue bloating out of control.

If you are moderating a mailing lists where all posts are moderated, you will have to accept your own posts before they can be sent to the mailing list. This may seem redundant, but it prevents users from impersonating moderators and posting to the list by spoofing address information in the email headers.

Message Moderation Strategies

Strategies for mailing list moderation depend on the number of moderators, whether moderation is also being handled by any website administrator, whether the list is public or private, the number of subscribers and posters and the use that the mailing list is designed to serve.

Conditions and Possible Strategies:

Large Public vs Small Private Lists

The easiest way to manage a high-volume moderation queue is to "cherry-pick" the messages that seem to be of most interest to the mailing list based on the message's subject line or sender. When a single moderator is responsible for a large mailing list, its possible that only a relatively small percentage of the moderation request messages will ever be reviewed. This issue can be somewhat offset by having multiple moderators. Administrators can add senders to the Allow and Deny Subscriber Lists to reduce the volume of messages that get sent to the queue.

On a mailing list that receives messages from a smaller number of posters, such as a private list that only sends subscriber messages to the moderation queue, moderators may be expected to review and act on every message in the queue. Users within an organization have a higher expectation of being able to post to a mailing list than public subscribers do, and their posts are more likely to contain time-sensitive information, so subscribers to these kinds of mailing lists are more likely to expect a prompt response to messages moderation requests.

Single Moderator vs Multiple Moderators

When there is only one moderator it can be difficult to keep up with the volume of messages flowing through the moderation queue. The easiest way to manage a high-volume moderation queue is to "cherry-pick" the messages that seem to be of most interest to the mailing list. Since there is only one moderator, there isn't any need to worry about possible conflicts in moderation actions so no risk is accrued by simply allowing a message to timeout rather than actively rejecting it.

The moderator needs to work with an administrator to add senders to the Allow and Deny Subscriber Lists to help reduce the volume of moderation requests.

Administrator Acting as Moderator

When the administrator and moderator are the same individual, this individual can manage the mailing list any way they see fit, using whatever combination of ezmlm commands and webtools works best. There isn't any need to worry about possible conflicts in moderation actions, but keeping pace with the volume of moderation requests may prove to be a challenge. Adding trustworthy (or untrustworthy) senders to the Allow (and Deny) Subscriber List can help reduce the volume of moderation requests, but the moderator/admin will probably find it easiest to use webtools to perform most of the moderation tasks since messages can be moderated in bulk or sorted by sender to make it easier to cherry-pick messages from the moderation queue. The delete action isn't as important in this situation since there is no other moderator to inadvertently approve the message, so the moderator/admin may rely on the timeout feature to clear unwanted messages out of the queue rather than taking the time to selectively delete them.

Both Moderators and Administrators

This can lead to a certain amount of chaos unless there is some division of responsibilities. It is usually best to have the moderators perform most of the tasks that specifically relate to reviewing and accepting messages for posting, and have the administrator be responsive to moderator requests when it comes to adding subscribers to the various Subscriber Lists.

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Ezmlm Moderation Messages

When a message is sent to the moderation queue, the ezmlm software that manages the list sends a moderation message to the listmoderator alias (e.g., 'listname-moderators@example.org'), and the message is forwarded to all the moderators on that alias. The moderation message includes the contents of the sender's original message for the moderator to review, plus instructions on how to approve or reject the message or add the sender's email address to the Poster List.

Moderation Message Mechanics

The moderation message is cleverly constructed with prefilled 'From', 'Reply-To' and 'Cc' header fields, which contain email address commands. These fields aren't necessarily visible when viewing the moderation message because some of them are in the envelope header, which is usually hidden.

Each of these email addresses is a different mailing list command. The moderator tells the mailing list how to handle a moderation message by sending the moderation message to the 'accept' or 'reject' address. When the list receives the moderation message from the moderator, it executes the command. Once the list receives an email address command, it manages all the details of posting the message to the list or rejecting it, so moderators do not need to include a copy of the original message. Moderators do have the option of adding a comment to messages they've rejected.

Depending on the moderator's MUA, sending a 'reject' command may be as simple as clicking 'Reply', because most MUAs automatically insert the 'From:' address of the moderation message into the 'To:' field, which rejects the message. Replying to the sender usually inserts the 'Reply-To:' address into the 'To:' field, which approves the message. Using the 'Reply to all' option usually approves the message and also sends a command to the 'CC:' address, which adds the address to the Poster List.

Email Moderation Commands

These commands appear in the body of the moderation message, as shown in the Sample moderation message.

Important

Before moderating a message for the first time, you should check which addresses your MUA inserts in the 'To:' and 'Cc:' fields when you click 'Reply', 'Reply to Sender' and 'Reply to All'. Some MUAs insert the 'From:' address rather than the 'Reply-To:' address when you click 'Reply', which sends the 'reject' command instead of the 'accept' command.

Adjust your method of sending commands to fit your MUA or just paste the appropriate email address command into the 'To': and 'Cc:' fields. The moderation message contains complete instructions, including the correct address, so you can just copy and paste it into the appropriate field.

From:

Replying to the 'From:' address rejects the moderation request, so the message is deleted from the moderation queue. It should take this form:

From: listname-reject-messageid@example.org

Reply-To:

Replying to the 'Reply-To:' address accepts the moderation request, so the message is posted to the list. It should take this form:

Reply-To: listname-accept-messageid@example.org

Sample moderation message

In the following sample moderation message:

  • 'timestamp' represents a series of numbers indicating the time the message was received

  • 'messageid' represents an ID assigned to each individual message

  • 'senderid' represents the ID assigned to the sender's email address

Example 9.1. Sample moderation message


MODERATE for listname@example.org

From: listname-reject-timestamp.messageid@example.org

To: 

CC: listname-allow-tc.timestamp.senderid-username=example.com@example.org

Date: Today 15:39:12

The enclosed message was submitted to the listname@example.org
mailing list. If you'd like to approve it for distribution to all
the subscribers, please e-mail:

   listname-accept-timestamp.messageid@example.org

Usually, this happens when you just hit the "reply" button. You can
check the address to make sure that it starts with
"listname-accept". If this does not work, simply copy the
address and paste it into the "To:" field of a new message.

To reject the post and cause it to be returned to the
sender, please send a message to:

   listname-reject-timestamp.messageid@example.org

You do not need to copy the post in your response to accept or 
reject it. If you wish to send a comment to the sender of a rejected
post, please include it between two marker lines starting with three
percent signs ('%'):

%%% Start comment
%%% End comment

Thank you for your help!

--- Enclosed, please find the posted message.

Encapsulated message

email moderation example

From: User Name <username@example.com>

To: listname@example.org

Date: Today 15:38:27

Subject: Semicolons

I'm a subscriber to the Hyphen mailing list and enjoy receiving
    the discussion group email, but I have trouble
    adhering to the McGaughey Protocol in all situations...and
    I'm an English teacher! Despite what McGaughey says,
    there are situations where semicolons really seem
    necessary. I'd like to see others in the community weigh
    in on whether they are able to adhere to the prohibition
    against semicolons demanded by the McGaughey Protocol.

End of encapsulated message
          


Accepting a Moderation Request

To accept a moderation request, select the message, then click 'Reply' or paste the 'accept' email address command into the 'To:' field. Once the moderation message is correctly addressed, it is ready to send. The address in the 'To:' field should look something like this:

<listname-accept-1119636291.16980.mhpgcbmhojbkpmfjplgj@example.org>

In this example, 'listname' is the name of the mailing list and 'example.org' is the domain of the organization's website.

Rejecting a Moderation Request

To reject a moderation request, select the message, then click 'Reply to Sender' or paste the 'reject' address into the 'To:' field. When rejecting a message, the moderator has the option of adding a comment. If you wish to add comments explaining the reason for the rejection and possibly give the sender some advice that might be of use when submitting future posts, insert your comments between the two marker lines that begin with three percent signs ('%') in a series:

%%% Start comment

%%% End comment

These marker lines are shown in the Sample moderation message.

On most lists, particular those that allow the public to submit messages for moderation, rejection of a message is entirely at the moderator's discretion and the moderator's decision is final and needs no explanation unless the moderator wishes to provide it. This may even be stated explicitly in the mailing list's Policy and Usage statement. Some mailing list moderators are generous with comments because it helps forward the goals of the organization and the community served by the mailing list. For instance, a moderator might provide a link to the mailing list's Policy and Usage statement on the mailing list home page to help educate an inexperienced sender who has run afoul of list policy.

Once the moderation message is correctly addressed, it is ready to send. The address in the 'To:' field should look something like this:

<listname-reject-1119636291.16980.mhpgcbmhojbkpmfjplgj@example.org>

Example 9.2. Sample moderation reject message

    
Hi! This is the ezmlm program. I'm managing the
test_cross-post@tbkorg30.teya.sarge.kavi.com mailing list.

I'm working for my owner, who can be reached
at test_cross-post-owner@tbkorg30.teya.sarge.kavi.com.

I'm sorry, your message (enclosed) was not accepted by the moderator.
If the moderator has made any comments, they are shown below.
        


Message Timeout

A message that sits in the moderation queue for too long will time out. The length of time it can sit in the queue before timing out is configurable, so you will have to ask a list administrator how your list timeout is set. The minimum timeout is 24 hours, the average is 5 days (120 hours) and the maximum is 10 days (240 hours). When a message times out, it is removed from the queue and the sender of the message is notified (unless the list is configured not to send this notification). If a mailing list is inactive, messages that have timed out may remain in the queue until the next moderation request comes along and wakes up the process that manages the moderation queue.

Example 9.3. Sample moderation timeout message


Subject: Returned post for listname@example.org
Date: 24 Aug 2005 20:03:03 -0000
From: listname-help@example.org
To: username@example.com

Hi! This is the ezmlm program. I'm managing the
listname@example.org mailing list.

I'm working for my owner, who can be reached
at listname-owner@example.org.

I'm sorry, the list moderators for the listname list
have failed to act on your post. Thus, I'm returning it to you.
If you feel that this is in error, please repost the message
or contact a list moderator directly.

--- Enclosed, please find the message you sent.
          


Moderation Failure Messages

If you attempt to moderate a message that has already been removed from the queue because it was acted upon by another moderator or timed out, ezmlm sends you a failure message containing a description of the error.

The error message appears immediately after the phrase 'ezmlm-moderate: fatal', meaning that the error condition is permanent—once a message has been removed from the moderation queue it cannot be retrieved. In this excerpt from a moderation failure message, a moderator tried to accept a message after it had been rejected by a different moderator:

Example 9.4. Excerpt from a moderation failure message

<members-accept-1119636291.16980.mhpgcbmhojbkpmfjplgj@example.org>: ezmlm-moderate: fatal: I'm sorry, I've already rejected this message


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