The following message was posted to the AMSAT-BB mailing list on July 5, 1998 by
AMSAT-NA Vice President for Electronic Publishing Paul Williamson, KB5MU.
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 (email@example.com), 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.
Send all your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also send AMSAT-BB requests to email@example.com,
SAREX requests to firstname.lastname@example.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 (email@example.com) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For AMSAT-BB issues, use the
special address email@example.com.
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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com, 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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, the mailing list will accept postings from
email@example.com, for any name zzz. This is for people who post from many machines in the
One particular case to notice. If you have set up your mail program so that your mail
appears to come From: your firstname.lastname@example.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, email@example.com) requesting that
your alternate address be approved for posting. This is a manual operation, so allow up to
- 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
- There will be a web-based interface to subscribe and unsubscribe from mailing lists. [Mail Alias Lookup
- 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. [Now done.]
I am interested to know what you think of all this. Please send your comments directly
to me, firstname.lastname@example.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.
AMSAT-NA Vice President, Electronic Publishing
Updated August 6, 1998