Mailman Mailing Lists at UNH


Recipe R02 looks at how to create a self-subscription link on your organization's web page.



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R02: Adding a Subscribe Link to Your Web Page

Problem

You would like to make it easy for people to self-subscribe to your list from your organization's web site.

Solution

Add a web link that takes advantage of your list's special subscription request email address.

    <a href="mailto:my.list-join@lists.unh.edu?subject=Subscription Request for the My.List Demo List.">
    Request a subscription to the My.List demo mailing list.</a>
Or just add a link that points to your Mailman list's own home page which has a self-subscription request form.
    Our organization's 
    <a href="https://lists.unh.edu/mailman/listinfo/my.list">
    mailing list home page</a>.

Try It

Here is what those links would look like on your page.

Request a subscription to the My.List demo mailing list.

Our organization's mailing list home page

The request subscription link should open up a new email message window already addressed to our demo list's own "-join" address. Sending this message will automatically create a subscription request with your return address. (Don't worry, if you actually send this message, you will not be added to any list.)

Discussion

Mailman provides three methods for people to request to be added or removed from your mailing list:

  1. Using the web form provided on your list's own home page.

  2. Sending email to your list's "-join" or "-leave" address.

  3. Sending an email message directly to the Mailman robot and entering a subscribe or unsubscribe command in the body of the message (the old school method used by LISTSERV and ListProc).

Note that we have been using the term subscription request. The default setting for all lists when they are initially created is to require the list owner's approval before being added to the list. (See List Owner List Owner Q-09: for how to change this setting.)

One of the problems with asking a would be subscriber to supply their own email address is that the address provided will most likely work for successfully delivering mail, but it may not be the subscriber's actual return address. For example, Fred may customarily give out his email address as:

    fredf@crew.bsg.com
which is an address that will certainly reach him. But any email sent by Fred has his corporate preferred email address format as his return address:
    Fred.Flintstone@BedrockSandAndGravel.com
For a discussion list, Fred will become aware of the problem the first time he attempts to post. Mailman will not recognize the sender Fred.Flintstone, as being the subscriber fredf, and will summarily reject his posting.

In contrast, for an announcement list where subscribers do not make postings, this mismatch will go unnoticed since the fredf address works just fine for delivery. But when Fred eventually wants to sign-off the list, he'll have problems. Mailman will take Fred's return address from his unsubscribe email message and, not finding it on the list, unhelpfully tell him that he is not subscribed to the list at all. Fred will be very confused.

Bottom line, the subscription web form on your list's home page uses the email address provided by the subscriber, even if the return address on the confirmation email is different. In contrast the mailto link uses the return address of the subscriber's own email client, not that this method is not without its own problems.

But all things considered, the mailto link is probably the most reliable self-subscribe mechanism. For an unsubcribe link, use the same method only substitute the string -leave in place of -join within the email address.

See Also


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