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Automated!



The AMSAT.ORG mailing lists are now automated.

This change has numerous advantages and a few disadvantages.
Please bear with us as we work out the inevitable startup glitches.
Please send all comments to me (kb5mu@amsat.org), not to the mailing
list(s).

You don't have to do anything right now.  All your mailing list
subscriptions will continue without interruption.

You should probably save this message for future reference.

New Procedures
==============
Send all your requests to majordomo@amsat.org.  You can also send
AMSAT-BB requests to amsat-bb-request@amsat.org, SAREX requests to
sarex-request@amsat.org, and so on.

Because you will be talking to a dumb machine, you must use the
exact syntax it requires.  I won't detail the syntax here.  The
machine will send you a comprehensive help file if you send it
a message it can't understand.

Effective immediately, if you send requests to the old address
(listserv@amsat.org) you will just get a help file back.  No action
will be taken on your request.  No person will read your message.

You can contact a human for general issues by sending your message
to listmaint@amsat.org.  For AMSAT-BB issues, use the special
address amsat-bb-approval@amsat.org.  And so on.

I realize this is a lot less friendly than the old, manual system.
That's one of the reasons I have resisted automation for so long.
However, I think we will find that the advantages outweigh the
disadvantages.

New Features
============

* Subscribe and unsubscribe operations will be very quick.  You
won't have to wait for a slow human to deal with each request.
You should get a response from the robot within a few minutes,
and usually much faster.  If it takes longer than that, the delay
is probably in the network or in your local email system.  Or
perhaps the machine couldn't figure out how to reply to your
message; check your mail program's setup.

* Subscribe operations will be more secure.  When you request to
subscribe, you won't get added to the list right away.  Instead,
the machine will send you one special email message at your new
subscription address.  You must copy a command out of that special
message and send it back to majordomo@amsat.org.  This is a little
bit of a hassle, but it has two advantages.  First, it guarantees
that the email address you supplied is valid and working.  Second,
it makes it much more difficult for somebody else to subscribe you
to unwanted mailing lists as a prank.

* New subscribers will now get a welcome message.  For discussion
lists, this message contains some general rules for use of the list.
(Note: these rules are newly drafted.  Comments are welcome.)
For bulletin lists, this message contains information on what to
expect and how to use the bulletins.  A current subscriber can get
the welcome message again by sending the command "intro listname"
to majordomo@amsat.org, substituting the mailing list name for
listname.

* Digest service is now available for the discussion mailing lists:
AMSAT-BB, AMSAT-DC, AMSAT-NE, and SAREX.  If you unsubscribe from,
say, the AMSAT-BB mailing list, and subscribe instead to the
AMSAT-BB-Digest mailing list, you will receive the same AMSAT-BB
messages, but in digest form.  That means that instead of getting
a bunch of individual messages every day, you will generally get only
one each day, containing all the messages from that day.  There will
be no digest if there are no messages that day, and there may be
several digests if traffic is heavy.  Of course, you won't get each
message right away, so if you're worried about the delay or want
your replies to be prompt and in natural order, you won't want to
switch to the digest service.  If you pay by the message (not by
the byte), or if you find that so many messages are cluttering up
your mailbox, you might find the digest service useful.

* Archives are now available for the discussion mailing lists.
These archives are just the digests, saved as files.  They will
be available at ftp://ftp.amsat.org/archives/.  The archives start
today; no back issues are available.  If you have to unsubscribe
for your vacation, you can catch up by reading the archives when
you return.

* Many (but probably not all) of the bogus subscribe and unsubscribe
messages will be automatically caught before they go out to the
mailing list.

* Extraordinarily long messages will be automatically caught before
they go out to the mailing list, and reviewed manually.

* A note on how to unsubscribe will be attached to the bottom of
each message.

* The subject of each message sent to a non-digest list will be
prefixed with the name of the list in square brackets, to make
it easier for you to find messages that came from a list.

* Posting to the discussion mailing lists will be restricted to
subscribers of the list.  This should greatly cut down on unwanted
commercial messages (spam).  Of course, it will still be possible
for a spammer to impersonate a subscriber (or become a subscriber)
in order to abuse the mailing list.  This feature has a down side:
if you post a message from a different address than you use to
receive messages, your post will be intercepted.  Such messages
will go to a human (me for now).  If they look legit I will go
ahead and post them to the list, but there will be a substantial
delay (up to a week).

There is one special exception.  If you subscribe as xxx@yyy.com,
the mailing list will accept postings from xxx@zzz.yyy.com, for
any name zzz.  This is for people who post from many machines in
the same company.

One particular case to notice.  If you have set up your mail program
so that your mail appears to come From: your callsign@amsat.org
mail alias, your postings *will* be delayed.  I do not recommend
that configuration.

If you anticipate posting routinely from an address that the mailing
list will reject, you may send a message to the -approval address
for the mailing list (for example, amsat-bb-approval@amsat.org)
requesting that your alternate address be approved for posting.
This is a manual operation, so allow up to a week.

* Posting to the bulletins-only mailing lists (ANS, KEPS) will
be restricted to authorized bulletin stations.  This will be
enforced automatically, so there will be less delay in getting
the bulletins out.

* Mailing list privacy is still enforced.  There should still be
no way for anybody to get a list of who subscribes to any of the
mailing lists, in order to circumvent mailing list restrictions.  

* Mail aliases are still available, but they will still be handled
manually for now.  Send mail alias requests to the special address
mail-alias-request@amsat.org.

Up to now, if you mentioned your callsign in a request to subscribe
to a mailing list, I would automatically create a callsign@amsat.org
mail alias for you.  The automated server won't do that.


Future Plans
============

* There will be a web-based interface to subscribe and unsubscribe
from mailing lists.

* With automation, it will be less painful to split mailing lists.
This was impractical before, because splitting a large mailing list
could generate thousands of subscribe and unsubscribe requests all
at once.  Since the automated system handles the requests, this
is no longer a problem.

One likely change is to split the KEPS mailing list into two lists,
one for AMSAT format and one for NASA 2-line format.  Subscribers
who want both (say, for posting to a packet BBS) would simply
subscribe to both lists.  Another likely change is to split up the
SAREX mailing list into two lists, one for discussion and one for
announcements only.  In each case, current subscribers would start
out automatically on both lists, and would have the option of
unsubscribing from the one they don't want.

* I would like to provide some indexing, searching, and possibly
hypertext retrieval for the mailing list archives.  For now, you
can only grab archives by digest issue number.

* Today, the web pages describing the mailing list services have
not been updated to reflect the new system.  That will change
very soon.


Comments, Please
================

I am interested to know what you think of all this.  Please send
your comments directly to me, kb5mu@amsat.org.  Don't clutter up
the mailing lists with off-topic discussion about mailing lists.

I hope you will find this a change for the better.

73  -Paul
kb5mu@amsat.org
AMSAT-NA Vice President, Electronic Publishing


----
Via the sarex mailing list at AMSAT.ORG courtesy of AMSAT-NA.
To unsubscribe, send "unsubscribe sarex" to Majordomo@amsat.org



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