scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: List Moderation - List Management - Thanks Due
Michael Bowman (mfbowman@USSCOUTS.ORG
Sun Nov 28 1999 - 18:04:23 CST
Over the course of the last several years our list has grown in size
considerably. We now have about 1,950 active subscribers and probably
another 2,000 or so receiving the list in digest mode. That is a huge
number of people for a single listserv. If you look at in terms of daily
traffic 50 messages x 4000 people, it means that the list is generating over
100,000 individual pieces of mail (even after reducing the total to account
Managing this amount of server activity is a real challenge. Several times
the mail from this list has swamped the servers at TCU, our host. Jon is
contantly monitoring the server usage to make sure the mail gets through and
spending time spreading the load between several servers so that the entire
load doesn't get to the point where TCU gives us all the boot. Just
managing the servers takes lots of hours each day. At work I also manage
servers and lists as part of my job, I can tell you just keeping traffic
moving is a task that does take time.
Jon's day at his regular job along with his extra hours managing the servers
would be enough for most people to simply call it a day and do nothing else.
However, each day you can be sure that Jon has to:
* Handle bounced mail and bad accounts because people do not unsubscribe
when they want to quit - just cancel accounts and because folks do not use
the "nomail" option when they go on vacation & mail bounces when their
mailbox gets full.
* Stop bouncing mail from hitting the list. Of course when mail bounces it
generates another e-mail to the list and the same is true when people have
their computers set to generate an "Out of the Office" message. Of course
the good folks on this list would no doubt go nuts, if all of these ever
made it to general distribution. But, good fellow that he is, Jon intercepts
and handles all of these without us ever knowing just what a royal pain they
* Respond to requests to subscribe, unsubscribe, and change subscription
modes. Yup, a fairly large number of people do not read the directions
(MaryEllen just posted them) and write to Jon for help in changing accounts,
getting unsubscribed, and so forth.
* Respond to requests for "how does this work" kinds of stuff.
* Deal with complaints from one subscriber about another subscriber or about
* Assure security for the list and prevent commercial spamming.
* Create and deliver digest logs
* Restart the list each day after the 50 message limit has been reached so
that none of us gets so swamped that we can never get through the mail.
And there is more, but I think this gives you a picture for just what kind
of effort is involved in managing the list. Now given this time-consuming
job, please understand that Jon and Kyna (who helps out with list
management) are only human. They can only answer so many e-mails a day and
only respond to so many taskers.
Think of it this way - according to U.S. Today the average number of e-mails
received by an individual is 17. Those getting over 25 are regarded as
intensive users - that's us folks. Of those folks getting over 50 e-mails a
day, the average individual can only respond to about 20 at most -- there
are some who do more, but they are the exception. Now consider our
list-managers. They get to see all 50 e-mails sent to the list and another
batch of bounces, out-of-offices, questions, requests for unsubscribing and
so forth adding up to several dozen. Along with that they end up with lots
of questions about moderation and so forth. Under the circumstances, it
would be predictable that both would soon get farther and farther behind in
their ability to respond directly to each person who sends an e-mail and so
it is here.
Now if I recall correctly, Jon has tried to use some scripting and listserve
management tools to automate some of the tasks because of the huge time load
that is imposed. Some of those scripts will place a person in a moderated
status, for example when the individual sends an e-mail in html format, rich
text format, or mime encoded. Similarly, other no-nos for the list may
trigger other scripts that in turn produce moderated status. In my own case
I managed to get on the moderated list because I absent-mindly started
quoting entire messages when responding - forgot to cut them out and so it
was I goofed.
Now this process isn't foolproof and it isn't perfect, but lets understand
that considering the number of people on the list and the time required for
managing the list that things are actually going pretty well overall.
Yep, it might help to get a personal message that says "Hey bubba you
overquoted" or "You need to turn off your html" or whatever. But that takes
time and resources, time and resources from volunteers who are already
pretty taxed. Instead of saying well they should tell me, it may be well to
say "hmm now what did I do?" and then read the list's instructions/rules.
At that point, if you can't figure it out, then ask for help. It may be
that there was really nothing there to trigger moderation, but the listserv
management software triggered anyway and your account then can be reset. And
please don't take it personally - it isn't personal -- just a dumb computer
and over-taxed people trying their best to help Scouting out by running this
My hat is off to both Jon and Kyna for working tirelessly to keep the list
running through thick and thin with as few hitches as possible.
Mike Bowman, Vice President
U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.