FAQs for listowners and moderators

If you are accessing the Sympa admin interface from outside the University, you will need to connect to the VPN first.

Should I use a Delegated Account or a Mailing List?

Delegated accounts

Delegated accounts are shared mailboxes, separate email accounts (and addresses) for staff that can be accessed via your Gmail pages. They are normally role- or project- based so that a team can organise and respond to emails jointly; or pass the account onto the next person in the role.

Mailing lists

Mailing lists (maintained via our Sympa pages) tend to serve one of three purposes:

  1. A newsletter or distribution list (where a central person or team email out to many). In particular, if you are email large numbers of people you should use a mailing list. See also our Mass emailing policy.
  2. A discussion list, where all members (e.g. in a department) can email to everyone on the list
  3. Niche cases where a role- or project- based email address is desired but where there is no need to pool the emails in a separate address (i.e. anybody can email the list but there are only a few members who receive copies of incoming emails). We generally recommend Delegate accounts instead.

Emails to mailing lists are distributed to all members, not to a pooled account.


What type of list should I choose when asking for a new mailing list?

See information on the most common types of mailing list in use at the University. This page also includes links to instructions on further settings that will need to be done when the list has been approved and created.


What is the largest sized attachment I can send?

The largest size attachment you can send is 5MB, though this can be changed by the list owner.


How can I see who has subscribed to a list?

To view a list of subscribers:

  1. Login to Sympa and click on the relevant list name.
  2. In the 'Admin' panel to the left of the window, click on 'Review members'.

If you cannot see the 'Review members' option, then you have not been given the permissions to view subscribers.


I want to be able to let my team send messages to a mailing list without my having to moderate every email. Should I just make everyone a moderator?

Its probably not a good idea to remove the moderation because then anyone could send to this list. The best thing to do is to create another list and populate the subscribers with those who you want to be able to mail to the original list. We call this kind of list a 'sister list'. Once you have created this new list, you can then go into the original list and set this list up to control access.

Don't forget you'll need to create your new list first before you can set it up to control the main list. If the original list is called something like elgar-music, you could name the sister list something like elgar-music-nimrod.

Once you have created the sister list, do the following:

  1. Log in to the original list.
  2. Go to 'Edit Config', and select the 'Sending/Reception' menu.
  3. In the 'Who can send messages' section click on the drop down menu and select 'restricted to subscribers to [custom_vars ->sisterList - otherwise moderated'.
  4. Click on 'Update' to save your changes.

To complete set up of the sister list:

  1. Go to the 'Miscellaneous' menu, and scroll down to the custom parameters section.
  2. In the 'var name' field type "sisterList".
  3. In the 'var value' field type the name of the new list, e.g. elgar-music-nimrod (please note: you don't need to add the @bristol bit).
  4. Click on 'Update' to save your changes.

I'm getting emails saying "WARNING: Bounce rate too high". What should I do?

When an email is sent to a mailing list, Sympa will try and deliver that email to the lists subscribers. For a variety of reasons, this delivery may fail. When this happens, Sympa will increase the "bounce score" associated with each subscriber that failed and send you a warning message to let you know. This notification will contain a link to where you can login to Sympa and view these bounce scores.

Delivery failures can be both temporary and permanent. In the case of a permanent failure, it is likely that the email address of that subscriber has expired and you can no longer contact them on that email address. In these cases, you will see that the bounce score associated with that subscriber is 100. You will need to either remove the subscriber or change their email address. If you believe that the email address should work, please contact the Service Desk for assistance.

In the case of a temporary failure, Sympa will attempt to deliver the message serveral times. As the first try failed, Sympa will give the failing subscriber a bounce score and send you a warning. However, when it retries (usually several seconds later) often the address will work this time and the email will be successfully delivered. In this case, when you login to Sympa, you will see that the bounce score of the subscriber is set to 0. In order to clear the warning and stop further notifications about the problem, you need to click the checkbox to the left of each bounce subscriber and then click "Reset errors for selected users".


What is the difference between a listowner and moderator?

See the introductory explanation of the different roles assigned to list users.


How do I send commands to a mailing list?

The easiest way to use the mailing list is to send commands via email, and emails can contain multiple commands.

To send a single command to Sympa by email you must:

  1. Type the command into the subject line of your email
  2. Make sure that the message body is blank (if you have an email signature, this must also be removed).
  3. Send the email to sympa@sympa.bristol.ac.uk.

If you are sending more than one command you must:

  1. Leave the subject line blank.
  2. In the message body, write each command on a new line.
  3. Make sure that the message is in plain text and not in HTML format (refer to your email application documentation fort further help on this point).
  4. Make sure that your message only contains Sympa commands and nothing else (if you have an email signature, this must also be removed).
  5. Send the email to sympa@sympa.bristol.ac.uk.

What commands can I use with a mailing list?

Commands for listowners

  • ADD list email name: add a member to the list
  • DEL list email: remove a subscriber from the list
  • STATS list: check the statistics for the list
  • REMIND list: send to all subscribers a personalized reminder with the address with which he/she is subscribed to the list

Commands for list moderators

  • DISTRIBUTE list key: approve of a message
  • REJECT list key: reject a message to be moderated
  • MODINDEX list: check the list of messages to be moderated