Email Lists

Mailman Overview

What is a Mailman List?
Electronic mailing lists (also known as discussion lists) 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 WSU students, faculty, and staff to communicate.
Setting up a Mailman list gives you an email address of the form The Mailman server processes mail 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 you can read a description from the Open Source Mailman Software team.
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 from the list.
If you set up a Mailman list to distribute messages from any 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 may also take on multiple roles for a list or different roles for different lists. In addition, the Mailman list server at the Washington State University has at least one system administrator.
Someone who is subscribed to a list, receives messages posted to the list, and may also post messages for distribution to the list. 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 graduate student at Washington State University. Undergraduate students may request a list but a list Sponsor is required. The list Sponsor must be a full-time WSU Faculty or Staff member (most likely the Faculty/Staff Advisor to the student group or organization).
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 servers 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 do You Use Mailman at WSU?
Sending mail 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 a message to a list called wsu-members, you send mail to
All lists on the Mailman server at WSU have email addresses of the form:
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
To learn more, please read our Mailman Subscribers page.
Owners can go to the list administration page at To learn more, please read our Mailman Owners and Moderators page.
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