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Use Central Lists Service to host Informatics Database Generated Mailing Lists

Project ID: 
Current stage: 

Description: The Informatics Database currently generates the list memberships for about 860 locally run mailman lists (out of a total of 1560 lists).
This project would implement hosting of those lists on the central IS, Sympa based lists service.

Deliverables: A service similar to what we currently have, but hosted on the IS service.


Customer: Primarily Student Services, as they have the most DB generated lists, but also the School in general. Also the members of those lists.

Case statement: We have a requirement to move School services to Centrally provided equivalents where appropriate. It should also save us resources.


Status: pending

Timescales: I suspect most time would be spend familiarising ourselves with Sympa's synchronising facilities, and whatever mechanism IS implement to allow automated list creation. Also on figuring out the criteria to produce the required list memberships in Prometheu


Time: I would estimate it might only take 1 to 2 weeks to sort out the technical aspects of driving list creation and synchronising of list memberships.

A bigger unknown would be how long it would take to migrate the current conduit logic into Prometheus - if we decided to do it that way. There would be the basic "how we do it in Prometheus" - say 1 week for those with experience of Prometheus conduits. And then another week to actually migrate the logic for the lists?

So in all it could be 2 to 4 weeks work.



Resources: Access to Prometheus and/or Informatics DB.




  • Currently there is no way to automate the creation of mailing lists on the sympa service at our end. IS are currently looking at providing this facility, but it is not there yet. Other Schools are requesting this, and it is something they are planning on providing, but it isn't there yet. Whatever they provide, we will have to produce the XML file that Sympa requires to create a list from the command line.

    Once a list is created, sympa can currently manage a list membership from an external MySQL DB, web page, LDAP.

  • Conduit knowledge may be required if we were to use the DB to generate web pages, or other files containing lists of users to be synced to the lists.
  • Prometheus knowledge, as Sympa can sync lists directly from LDAP, then this would seem an obvious place to source the data.


  • The address for all Sympa mailing lists is a flat mail space They have no plans to support virtual domains, eg It's a first come, first served policy for list names. So our lists could actually be called something like, or We'd have to setup forwards so that staff@inf or it-t02@inf are forwarded appropriately.
  • We'd want to check that the Sympa lists are aware of these aliases, and will accept the forward, they should. But are we bothered about the "clunky" real list names?
  • As I mentioned the lists names are allocated on a first come, first served basis, so there's nothing stopping someone else creating a list called and potentially being nothing to do with Informatics. And any list creation mechanism we create would need to take into account that list names it wants to create, may already be taken.
  • There isn't apparently a way to automatically add new members as a one time event. eg as we do for the seminars@inf list. We'd need to investigate if this is indeed true, or decide if we can live without it and have some work around.
  • Does sympa provide the functionality users are used to, if not (would seem unlikely), is it a show stopper?
  • If this goes ahead, what do we do with the remaining manually managed lists?


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