Changes in the mailing list

January 21st, 2008

On Tuesday 22 January the agents mailing list ( will be offline between 21:00 and 23:00 UTC as we transition from Majordomo to GNU Mailman. Mail sent to the list at this time will bounce.

The agents list was begun in 1994 by Ray Johnson, then at the Lockheed Palo Alto AI Center and moved to UMBC in 1996. Majordomo represented the state of the art for mailing list software in 1996, but development stopped sometime around 2001. Moving to Mailman will make it easier for us to manage the list and let users manage a wider range of their own subscription options. The list currently has about 2000 subscribers.

If you are a subscriber to either the UMBC agents or agents-digest lists, your subscription will be transferred to the new Mailman-supported list. Subscribers to the old agents-digest list will get a daily digest of messages. Using the agents administration page you can elect to receive messages as they are sent or to get them in digest form. We’ve assigned subscribers random passwords, so you will need to recover your password before making any changes.

You can edit your Mailman configuration now, but we won’t start sending out mail using Mailman until the Tuesday evening. I’ll send out an announcement via the re-hosted list when I know it’s enabled.

An address entered in the Mailman admin page must match your subscribed address exactly. If you are not sure which of your email address is subscribed, check the message headers to see if that reveals it. Failing that, you can try asking the old system by sending poor old an email message with the command “which ” in the message body, where is a string you believe to be in your subscribed address. As a last resort, ask me for help (

You can continue to send mail to the list agents mailing list using the address agents at If the sending address is recognized as a subscriber, your message will distributed immediately and without moderation. Otherwise, you will be notified that your it awaits moderation, which might take a day or two.

In our old majordomo system, we maintained a separate list of additional pre-approved sending addresses. In general, if your sending address is not the same as your subscribed address, you should change the subscribed address. If you want to be able to send unmoderated messages from several accounts (e.g., your .edu and gmail accounts), you can always subscribe all of your accounts and disable email delivery for all but one.

Messages sent through the Mailman system will be available in an archive. The archive of old majordomo-era traffic is in disarray, but I think we have virtually all of the messages from 1994-2007. Eventually we’ll get it sorted out and online for posterity.

Our old moderation list was so inundated with spam and bounces from bad addresses that it became virtually impossible to moderate effectively. We anticipate that the new system will address both of these problems well and we will be thus be able to manage the moderation process better.

You can get more information about the list as well as manage subscriptions on the admin page and from the Mailman user guide. There are sure to be a few issues when we start using Mailman. If you have questions or suggestions about the list configuration, please let me know or send a message to the list if you think it should be of interest to the community.