Data Services Newsletter

Volume 7 : No 4 : December 2005

IRIS Mailing Lists: Communicating with the Seismology Community


Mailman logo

In 2005, the IRIS DMC installed Mailman, a Mailing List Manager, to support electronic mail discussion and news lists. Mailman is integrated with the Web, making it easy for users to manage their accounts and for list owners to administer mailing lists. Mailman supports Web-based list subscription, built-in archiving, automatic bounce processing, content filtering, digest delivery, spam filters, and more. The software is widely used by corporations and universities, so the online subscription feature will be familiar to many users.


Electronic mailing lists are a special usage of email that allows for widespread distribution of information to targeted groups of Internet users. Mailing list software, installed on a server, processes incoming email messages, and, depending on their content, either acts on them internally or distributes the message to all users subscribed to the mailing list.

In order to efficiently manage a variety of email lists at IRIS, it has become a necessity to use email list management software. Mailing List Management Software performs many functions that would otherwise have to be done manually, such as list creation and configuration, adding and removing subscribers, handling email bounces, and maintaining archives.

At IRIS, mailing lists are most often used for collaboration on projects and as a way of distributing current news, software announcements and other information. Popular examples of mailing list software include LISTSERV, Majordomo and GNU Mailman.

A Brief History of Electronic Mailing Lists

LISTSERV┬« was the first electronic mailing list software application, originally developed by Eric Thomas in 1986 for the Bitnet computer network. The word “listserv” is often (incorrectly) used as a generic term for any email-based mailing list application of that kind. L-Soft International, Inc. has a registered trademark for the term, and argues that it is not legal to use the term commercially except in reference to the L-Soft product. The proper generic term is mailing list. (read about the History of LISTSERV).

Listserv was originally written for IBM mainframes but there are now many alternatives for UNIX machines and PCs, such as Majordomo.

Majordomo is an open source mailing list manager developed by Great Circle Associates. It works in conjunction with sendmail on UNIX and related operating systems. It came into widespread use beginning in 1992, predating the popularity of the web browser, in an era when many people had email access but no Web access. As a result, tasks such as subscribing and unsubscribing are handled by sending email messages, a process that seems cumbersome today. Before the use of Majordomo, mailing lists were maintained manually, with a list owner adding and removing participants by editing a text file.

Due to the design of Majordomo, certain features (archiving, digesting, and moderated lists) are currently done in a “non-optimum” fashion. Before the summer of 2005, most of the IRIS mailing lists were run using Majordomo.

majordomo – n: a person who speaks, makes arrangements, or takes charge for another. From latin “major domus” – “master of the house”.

GNU Mailman is another open-source mailing list software that has gained popularity in recent years. Mailman is written in the Python programming language and can work with any common Unix mail server software, including Postfix, Sendmail and qmail. User features include the Web interface, built-in archiving of messages, automatic processing of bounce messages, digest mode, and spam filtering.

Mailman’s chief distinction is its easy-to-use Web interface for list administration.

Further reading

About IRIS Mailing Lists

Several mailing lists have been established at the IRIS DMC to facilitate discussions about software development, SAC, and Web services. IRIS has also setup moderated announcement lists, including IRIS Bulkmail and software-info, that provide news about seismology meetings, job postings and software releases. The following mailing lists were recently configured using Mailman:

IRIS Bulkmail List

Signup for the IRIS Bulkmail List to receive information about seismology employment opportunities, workshops or other announcements. This is a moderated list which means that all messages will be screened by the Webmaster prior to posting to the group. There are over 800 scientists, students and staff members on the IRIS Bulkmail List.

SAC-dev and SAC-help

SAC (Seismic Analysis Code) mailing lists were setup to stimulate discussions related to SAC software development and to answer questions about SAC usage.


The software-info list was created to provide a means for announcing new software products, new software releases, new features, and bug reports. This list is limited to software produced and supported as part of the IRIS Data Management System.

Web services

The Web services list is a forum for people in the earth sciences community to discuss issues related to the implementation and use of Web services.


Below is a listing of the public mailing lists on Click on a list name to get more information about the list, or to subscribe, unsubscribe, and change the preferences on your subscription.

Mailing List Description
Bulkmail IRIS Bulkmail List for announcements, workshops and job opportunities.
dhi-clients discussion forum about DHI clients
dhi-servers discussion forum about DHI servers
pdcc Portable Data Collection Centers Announcement List
sac-dev a forum for SAC developers to exchange ideas about SAC enhancements, bug fixes, etc.
sac-help a forum for SAC users to exchange ideas and ask questions about SAC usage, installation, portability, etc.
software-info IRIS DMC Software Announcement List
USArray_TA_QA USArray Transportable Array Quality Assurance
Webservices IRIS Web Services List

DHI/FISSURES Mailing Lists: There are two mailing lists which are relevant to DHI/FISSURES: dhi-clients and dhi-servers.

IRIS Bulkmail Service – Send announcements to the IRIS community

The IRIS bulkmail service is available to those users who want to inform the IRIS community of related employment opportunities, workshops or other relevant announcements. The bulkmail submission will be reviewed by IRIS staff and you will be notified by email regarding the status of the request.

Using IRIS Bulkmail

To send an announcement to the IRIS community, please fill out the IRIS Bulkmail Request Form.

Bulkmail List subscribers can post a message to all the list members, by sending email to

Subscribing to IRIS Bulkmail

You can subscribe to the list, or change your existing subscription, using the form on the IRIS Bulkmail Info Page.

by Tim Knight (IRIS Data Management Center)

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