By Rod Dav4is
Friday, July 28, 2006
RootsWeb adopts Mailman as new mail list manager

The new list processor is in beta test with a few selected extant mail lists. I have issues with some unnecessary changes that have been made.


The new listnames, e.g. "ny-longisland" from "NY-LONGISLAND-L" and "...-D", are causing problems for users who use their email client filter capabilities, like myself. This change guarantees that all such users must adjust their filters.

While I appreciate that it was not possible to continue the SmartList fiction of distinct -L and -D listnames, the change could be made such that at least some users would not be required to adjust their filters. The way would be to name all the lists in Mailman as "listname-L".

Some will object on the basis of this nomenclature (i.e. -L) having previously been associated with a particular mode of delivery under SmartList. In fact, this nomenclature is a return to the even earlier convention under ListServ, where the -L in all list names simply identified them as mail lists. I should point out that the new naming (in the beta test) allows no easy way for users to distinguish RW mail list traffic from other RW mail.

Some may object on the basis of earlier failed attempts in the beta test to perpetuate the SmartList fiction of -L and -D lists in Mailman. Some have even associated those problems with the suffixes -L and -D, and have complained that naming the Mailman lists as "listname-L" would present great technical difficulties. According to the response to my recent posting on the Mailman-users list, this nomenclature is not a problem for Mailman.

Some may object on the basis of beta experience thus far having impacted few users -- at least few reported impacts. Be that as it may, at least some users will be impacted, such as myself. The impacted users will be those using their email client filters who have included the -L or -D part of the email name in their filters. I can only ask: Why make a change guaranteed to impact these users? A different naming strategy, i.e. to name all Mailman lists with the -L suffix, would absolve some of these users from impact, specifically those with list-mode subscriptions.

Upper case vs mixed case in listnames

Some have advocated the use of case differences to distinguish surname lists from similar place name lists.

This will impact some users of Netscape, where a bug in its filter mechanism makes some filter rules case sensitive, i.e. the string tested must be in the exact case coded in the rule. This bug has been reported, but there is no guarantee it will be fixed. (Yes, this hit me also, when NY-LONGISLAND-L became ny-longisland.)

The two sorts of list must anyway be otherwise distinguished because case matters not in email addressing. That is, "fonda" and "FONDA" are the same, email-wise.

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