About the HarmonySite Mailing List System


HarmonySite uses a mailing list software package called "Mailman" (https://www.gnu.org/software/mailman) to deliver group emails.  HarmonySite integrates tightly with Mailman for subscribing and unsubscribing email recipients, and sending emails to those recipients.

Note that Mailman is NOT part of HarmonySite - it is a separate, industry-standard software package that HarmonySite integrates with.  This can create confusion, as HarmonySite keeps information about each Mailman mailing list within its database, but the actual mailing list is in a separate part of your account.


Types of mailing lists


You will likely want one or more of the following types of mailing lists for your HarmonySite system...

  1. Mailing lists for groups of members - either the full set of members, or a subset such as Basses, Tenors, etc
  2. Mailing lists for teams or committees - such as Executive, Board of Directors, Music Team, Events Team, etc
  3. Mailing lists for supporters/friends (non-members of your organisation)

Each is configured slightly differently, as described below.



How do mailing lists work?


In HarmonySite/Mailman, every actual mailing list is identified by an email address - a regular email address, such as members@mygroup.com.  Any email sent to a mailing list's email address is automatically distributed to each person that is subscribed to that mailing list.  This way, you only ever need to address an email to a single, simple email address in order to have the email sent to a large group of people.


Mailing lists can be configured in a variety of ways (see below).  In the most common scenario, any person who is subscribed to a mailing list can send emails to that mailing list.  So if the mailing list contained the email addresses of all your members, then any of those members can send emails to all other members.  This may not be the desired behaviour, and if so, this can be easily changed.  A mailing list of supporters/friends, or other non-members of your organisation, is an example of a mailing list where you would not want everyone on the list to be able to send emails to the whole mailing list.


Also keep in mind that because a Mailman mailing list is a simple email address, anyone can send an email to that address - including non-members of your group or even spammers (if they know about the email address).  There are options within each mailing list's configuration that determine what happens when someone who is not on the mailing list sends emails to the mailing list.  Options include accepting the email (not recommended), silently discarding the email (also not recommended), bouncing the email back to the sender, or asking the list's moderator to decide (see Moderating a Mailman Mailing List, below).



Creating a Mailing List


As a HarmonySite administrator, you can create a mailing list from a number of pages on your website:

  • From the Mailing List page, via the Add new mailing list button in the top-right corner of the page
  • From the Member Groupings page, via the Create mailing list link displayed next each member grouping's name.
  • From a Committee/team's page, via the Create mailing list link displayed beneath the committee/team's name at the top of the page.


All of the above options will take you to the Mailing list Details page:



The fields on this page are described below:


Name

The name of your new mailing list, such as "Members mailing list", or "Website Team mailing list".


Email address

This is the address by which your email address will be identified - the email address that people will send emails to, in order to have their email distributed to everyone on the list (as described above).  Note that you are creating a new email address at this point, so you must invent a new email address at this point, one that doesn't already exist.  For example, if the mailing list is for the "Website Team", then you could enter something like webteam into the Email address box, which will create the mailing list with an email address something like webteam@mygroup.com.


Password

Invent a password for the mailing list, and enter it here.  The password will be used during the moderation process (see below).



The next set of fields (shown below) allow us to specify what collection of members this mailing list is based on (if any). Your mailing list will either be for a Member grouping, a Committee/team, or neither (non-members of your organisation, such as supporters/friends).



Member Grouping

If you are creating a mailing list for one of your member groupings, select the name of the member grouping from the drop-down list, as shown below...



Note: If you are creating this mailing list via a Create mailing list link on the Member Groupings page, then name of the member grouping will be already pre-selected.


Committee/team

If you are creating a mailing list for a Committee/team, select the name of the Committee/team from the drop-down list, as shown below...



Note: If you are creating this mailing list via a Create mailing list link on a Committee or Team's page, then the name of the committee/team field will be already pre-selected.


"Non-members"

Tick this box if you are creating a mailing list that will include people that are not members of your group, such as a supporters, friends, etc.



Regular member access

This specifies who is allowed to know of the existence of this new mailing list, as follows...



Display Ranking

The number entered for the Display Ranking specifies in what sequence this mailing list will appear in the list of mailing lists on the Mailing Lists page.  Mailing lists with lower display rankings (e.g. 10) will appear before higher display rankings (e.g. 80).



Tuning a Mailing List


Before a new mailing list can be used, it must be "tuned".  Tuning means optimising the configuration of the mailing list for your particular needs.


When you have finished entering details on the Mailing list Details page, and clicked Save at the bottom of the page, the system takes you to the Tune Mailing List page, shown below..


Ensure that the details on this page match your intentions for the mailing list.  The options are described below...


Mailing List Type

The Mailing List Type that you select determines certain behaviours of the list, as follows...


Behaviour
A group of members
A team of committee
Supporters/friends
Recipient clicks "Reply"
Reply is addressed to original sender
Reply is addressed to entire mailing list
Reply is addressed to original sender
Subscribers can send emails to the whole list
Yes
Yes
No
If they try, their email is held for moderation
Subscriber gets "you have been unsubscribed"
message when they leave the mailing list
No
No
Yes
List administrator is notified if someone subscribes
or unsubscribes themselves

Yes
Yes
No
Subscribers are automatically removed from the list
if sending to them results in repeated bounce messages

No
No
Yes


Mailing List Name

The Mailing List Name is the name that emails from the mailing list appear to be from - either directly (from = "My-Group-name Members Mailing List") or indirectly (from = "Fred Smith via My-Group-Name Mailing List").  You can, of course, enter any name you want here.


Administrator/Moderator email addresses

Specify the email address(es) of the administrators/moderators of this mailing list.  Ensure that any email addresses you enter actually exist!


Where there is more than one administrator email address, specify each email address on a separate line.



Click the Submit button at the foot of the Tune Mailing List page when you have finished entering these fields.




Sending Emails to a Mailman Mailing List


Recall that every mailing list is identified by an email address, just like any other email address in the world, meaning that if someone - anyone (not necessarily a member of your group) - knows the email address, they can send emails to it.  The Mailman software has rules in it governing what to do when emails are received from unknown email addresses.


So an email can be sent to a Mailman mailing list from anywhere - any email program (Microsoft Outlook, Mac Mail, etc) or online service (Gmail, YahooMail, etc).  Emails can also be sent to a mailing list from within the HarmonySite website, such as the Send Email page, or via the functionality for notifying members of a new/updated song, event, document, news item, poll, announcement, etc. 


Sending Emails to Mailing Lists from the Send Email page

From the Send Email page, an email can be sent either to manually selected recipients, or to any of your mailing lists, as shown below..



To send an email to any one of these mailing lists, simply tick the box next to the name of the mailing list you wish to send to, add the subject and body of your email, and click Send at the bottom of the page.


Sending Emails to Mailing Lists from a Song's page

From a Song's page, click on the Email song to members now button to display the Email song to members now box shown below..



To send an email to any one of the mailing lists listed in the Send to drop-down list, select the mailing list name and click the Send button beneath this.


Note: In the case of the Song's page, the only mailing lists we can send an email to are mailing lists that contain only members, since song details cannot be sent to non-members.



Manually Subscribing and Unsubscribing


With mailing lists that are based on member groupings or committees/teams, it is generally not necessary to manually subscribe or unsubscribe email addresses to/from the mailing list.  Typically the only sorts of mailing lists that require manual subscribing or unsubscribing are friends/supporters mailing list.


If you ever need to manually subscribe or unsubscribe email addresses to/from a mailing list, it's done as follows...


On the main Mailing Lists page, click the Administer link to the right of the mailing list in question.  On the mailing list's page, there is a list of the email addresses that are currently subscribed to the mailing list, as shown below...


To manually unsubscribe an individual email address, click on the Unsubscribe icon (the "minus" icon), next to the email address in question.


To manually subscribe email addresses to the list, enter the email addresses you want to subscribe into the Subscribe New Email Addresses box, which appears below the list of currently subscribed email addresses...


Separate the individual email addresses with commas, semicolons, spaces or newlines. Click the Subscribe button beneath this to subscribe these addresses to the mailing list.



Moderating a Mailman Mailing List


When an email is sent to a mailing list from an email address that is not one of the email addresses on the list, then the mailing list needs to know what to do with this email.  Is it spam?  Should it be delivered to the list?  The mailing list software can't know the answer to this, and often needs to ask for human intervention.


For example, you may have a member whose personal email address is subscribed to the "members" mailing list, but he or she occasionally sends emails to the mailing list from their work email address.  You could simply subscribe their work email address to the mailing list as well, but perhaps they don't want to receive personal emails at work, or perhaps they don't want to receive two copies of every mailing list email.  Not to mention that HarmonySite cannot automatically manage more than one email address for any member.


Another example:  Your music director wants to be able to send emails to the mailing list of each "section" (tenor, bass, etc), but the director doesn't want to receive all emails sent to those lists.


So we need a mechanism to allow people who are not on a mailing list to be able to send to the mailing list.  And we also need a mechanism to decide what should happen to any email sent to a list from an email address that is not on the list.


This decision mechanism is called moderation.  It's the responsibility of the "list moderator", typically the person who holds the email address webmaster@YOURDOMAINNAME.COM.   It can sometimes be a tedious, time-consuming task, but it gets better over time, as we shall see...


Any time an email is sent to a mailing list from an email address that is not one of the email addresses on the list, the list needs to know what to do with this email, so it asks the list moderator, by sending an email to the list's Moderator email address (see above), which would typically be set to webmaster@YOURDOMAINNAME.COM.   The email looks like this...


Moderation Email


The list moderator must then do the following...

  1. Click on the big link in the email
  2. Log into the Mailman mailing list console with the list's administrator password.  If you don't know this password, it can be found by doing the following...
    1. Log into your main HarmonySite Members area
    2. Click on the Mailing Lists icon
    3. Click on the Administer link to the right of the mailing list in question
    4. Click the Update button at the top of the mailing list's page.  The password will be shown on the page you're taken to.
  3. You will be shown a page similar to the following...

    Moderation page
  4. First you must decide what to do with this email, via the Action to take on all these held messages section.  You have four choices:
    1. Defer - do nothing at all.  This email remains on hold, awaiting moderation
    2. Accept - allow this email to be delivered to all the people on the mailing list
    3. Reject - bounce the email back to the sender
    4. Discard - silently delete the email
  5. If you're not sure what to do with this email, and you need to see the email before you decide, you can either click the [1] link next to the email subject, or return to the moderation email you received, which will contain an attached copy of the original email.
  6. It's highly likely that you'll want to perform the same action (accept/reject/discard) with all future emails from this same email address.  Mailman offers you the option to automatically do that in future, via the Add [email address] to one of these sender filters section:
    1. Accepts - Always accept emails from this email address, for delivery to all people on the mailing list
    2. Holds - Always hold emails from this email address for moderation (just like what's happening now)
    3. Reject - Always bounce emails from this email address back to the sender
    4. Discards - Always silently delete emails from this email address
  7. It is important that you take this extra step, so that you are not pestered by emails from this email address to this list in future.  Over time, emails from these unknown email addresses should gradually dry up, as you have decided what to do with each one.
  8. Click the Submit All Data button at the bottom of the page.

So if you want to allow someone who's not part of a mailing list to send an email to that mailing list, simply ask them to send the email. When it is received by the mailing list, it will be held for moderation, and an email will be sent to the webmaster (you). You can then approve the email to be delivered, and add their email address to the list of all email addresses that are allowed to always send to the list.


The "noreply" Email Address

What happens if you're asked to moderate an email from the noreply@YOURDOMAINNAME.COM email address?  What is this email address?


Firstly,  if you've set up your mailing list correctly, you shouldn't ever be asked to moderate emails sent from this email address.  This email address is automatically added to the List of non-member addresses whose postings should be automatically accepted when the mailing list was first created.  But perhaps it didn't happen...


The  "noreply" email address is a specific, built-in, hidden email address  within the HarmonySite system. It is used whenever anyone sends an email  from the Send Email page of your website (and a couple of other internal places). It is used to better facilitate email delivery - to  attempt to bypass many email server's rules about what emails should be blocked.  It works quite well, and doesn't interfere with the recipient's ability to reply to an email that they receive from someone sent "from" this email address.


Because  the "noreply" email address is used extensively within the HarmonySite  system, the associated mailing lists need to be aware of it, and know  what to do when an email arrives from that email address.  So if you are  ever asked to moderate an email from the "noreply" email address,  "accept" it, and also add it to the "Accepts" list.



Allowing Members of One Mailing List to Send to Another Mailing List


Sometimes it is useful to allow all the members of one mailing list to send emails to another mailing list - without having to have their emails moderated (as per above).  For example, you may want all your regular members to be able to send emails to the "Board of Directors" mailing list.  If you want to allow this sort of behaviour, then there are two steps to follow...


First, you need to ensure that the target mailing list ("Board of Directors" in this example) is simply visible to members.  Do this as follows:

  1. Log into the main Members page as an administrator
  2. Click the Mailing Lists icon
  3. Click the Administer link to the right of the mailing list in question (e.g. "Board of Directors")
  4. Click the Update button at the top of the page
  5. Ensure that the Regular member access option is set to List is visible to regular members
  6. Click Save at the bottom of the page


Secondly, you need to adjust the mailing list itself:

  1. On the mailing list's page (as above), click the link called Administer this list via external Mailing List Management Console (Mailman)
  2. In the top set of links, click the Privacy options... link, then Sender filters
  3. In the box called List of non-member addresses whose postings should be automatically accepted, you need to add the name of the other mailing list (in this example the members mailing list), so that everyone on that list can send emails to this list without moderation. You need to add the name of the mailing list in a very particular (and non-obvious) way.  If the email address of the list is (for example) member@mygroup.com, then you need to add it as follows:  @members_mygroup.com
  4. Click Submit your changes at the bottom when you're done.

Allowing Anyone with an "Official" Email Address to Send to a Mailing List

There's also a way to allow anyone with an "official" email address to send to a mailing list.  An "official" email address might be something like president@mygroup.com, or treasurer@mygroup.com.  These instructions allow any member with an official email address to send to a mailing list using that email address.


Note:  It's not sufficient for a member to simply be able to receive emails to that official address - they also need to be able to send using that official email address.  If the email address is set up as a "mailbox on the server", for use with a standard POP email program (such as Microsoft Outlook or Mac Mail), then that is sufficient - the member can send using their official email address.  If the email address is set up as a "forwarder to the member's personal email address", then the only way that member can send using that email address is via the Send Email page on the website.


To allow any official email address to send to a mailing list:

  1. On the mailing list's page (as above), click the link called Administer this list via external Mailing List Management Console (Mailman)
  2. In the top set of links, click the Privacy options... link, then Sender filters
  3. In the box called List of non-member addresses whose postings should be automatically accepted, add the following:  ^[^@]+@mygroup.com (replace "mygroup.com" with your own domain name, of course)
  4. Click Submit your changes at the bottom when you're done.

Allowing Someone who is not part of a Mailing List to Send to the Mailing List

It's also possible to allow any individual to send to a mailing list. To do this, proceed as follows: 


  1. On the mailing list's page (as above), click the link called Administer this list via external Mailing List Management Console (Mailman)
  2. In the top set of links, click the Privacy options... link, then Sender filters
  3. In the box called List of non-member addresses whose postings should be automatically accepted, add the individual's email address.
  4. Click Submit your changes at the bottom when you're done.



Allowing Specific People to Send to a "Friends" Mailing List

Your group may have a mailing list for sending news and announcements to your friends and supporters.  Let's refer to this mailing list as the "Friends" mailing list (although it could have any name).


By default, the Friends mailing list blocks anyone from sending to it. That's so that the people on this list (your supporters) can't "reply all" to the list and send to everyone else.  If you want someone specific to be able to send emails to the Friends mailing list, you need to manually allow them to, as follows...

  1. Ensure you're logged into the main Members page
  2. Click the Mailing Lists icon
  3. Click the Administer link to the right of the Friends mailing list (whatever it's called)
  4. Click the link called Administer this list via external Mailing List Management Console (Mailman)
  5. If the email address of the person that you wish to allow to send to the list is currently one of the subscribed email addresses on the list, then, in the top set of links, click the Membership Management link
  6. Find their email address in the list, and then un-tick the box immediately to the right of their email address (in the mod column - "mod" means "will be moderated if they attempt to send to the list"), and click the Submit your changes button at the bottom of the page
  7. In the top set of links, click the Privacy options... link, then Sender filters
  8. In the box called List of non-member addresses whose postings should be automatically accepted, add their email address, and click Submit your changes at the bottom of the page