Campus Life


This week’s column covers e-mail and mailing lists at MIT.

Mailing lists are used for all sorts of things here, and IS&T has placed a large amount of control over mailing lists in the hands of students — we can even create our own mailing lists! Whether you want to get access to loads of free stuff ( and, or want to follow the latest on your dorm’s discussion list (ask your neighbor if you don’t know already), you’ll need to deal with mailing lists in some form.

How do I manage my mailing list subscriptions?

First, you have to know what type of mailing list it is. There are two types of mailing lists at MIT, Moira lists and Mailman lists. To test if a list is a Mailman list, try the command

athena% blanche LISTNAME -i

and see if it contains something like

LISTNAME is a Mailman list on server → PCH.MIT.EDU

If there is no mention of Mailman in the output, the list is a Moira list.


Moira lists (also known as traditional or Athena lists) can be used as mailing lists, as well as to give a group of people access to web pages and Athena (AFS) directories. From Athena, an easy way to access Moira lists is by using the mailmaint command, which gives you a menu you can navigate with the arrow keys. Type

athena% mailmaint

(If you don’t have an athena% terminal window open, click the button at the lower left labeled “Prompt”.)

Alternately, you can use the blanche command. To add yourself to the cluedump-announce list, if your username is “joeuser,” type:

athena% blanche cluedump-announce -a joeuser

To delete yourself from the list, use -d instead of -a; to view the members of the list (if the list isn’t hidden), just type blanche cluedump-announce .

If you have a web browser and MIT certificates, a third way to manage your lists is by going to

If you want to create your own list, you can do so online at Fill out a form, and the list will be available immediately for use with commands such as blanche. You can also use this website to create Mailman lists (see below).

Note that changes to the mailing lists are only sent to the mail servers approximately every 3–4 hours. You can determine when the last mailing list update was by running the lastupd command (in the consult locker, so you may need to type add consult first). The command lastupd mailhub contains a bit more information about the mailhubs in particular.

Our November 22, 2002 column has much more detail on manipulating Moira lists; our website has archives of old columns.


Mailman lists are an alternative to Moira lists. They’re less integrated with Athena, but they have a fancier web interface, including automatic list archives and the ability to hold messages for moderation. To subscribe or unsubscribe from a Mailman list, visit the website

(replacing LISTNAME with the name of the appropriate list, of course).

What is this “Spamscreen” folder? Can I spam-filter my e-mail?

MIT runs two spam-filtering products: the open-source SpamAssassin, and its commercial cousin, the Barracuda Spam Firewall. These products assign a score ranging from -5.0 (or below, in rare cases) to beyond 25.0 (for particularly egregious spam specimens) to every e-mail. By default, if this score is at or above 7.5, the e-mail goes to your Spamscreen folder and is deleted after 10 days.

You can configure this threshold and delay, as well as set up blacklists and whitelists (to ensure that particular e-mail addresses are always or never filtered), at the following website:

To ask us a question, send e-mail to We’ll try to answer you quickly, and we can address your question in our next column. You can also stop by our office in W20-557 or call us at x3-7788 if you need help. Our volunteer staffers don’t keep regular hours, but afternoons and evenings (even on weekends) are usually good times. Copies of each column and pointers to additional information are posted on our website: