National mailinglists - why isn't it there yet?

David Wolfskill david at
Sun Mar 2 22:14:42 UTC 2008

On Sun, Mar 02, 2008 at 10:04:34PM +0100, Ed Schouten wrote:
> ...
> Even though I am convinced the FreeBSD project should remain focused on
> developing its flagship product, the operating system, I think the
> community would have a great advantage if the project would already host
> national mailing lists, which should only be used for questions in the
> rare cases where the person doesn't understand English, but mainly to
> coordinate activities which have a national scope.
> These mailing lists could be used to discuss upcoming events and
> conferences, but could also be used for discussions about translations
> of the documentation.
> Is there a reason why such mailing lists don't exist yet?


> If not, what kind of procedures should one follow to create a
> mailing list for a certain language?

I gather you would like some explanation for why there are no "national
mailing lists" hosted at

What it comes down to is that I haven't figured out a way to implement
such a thing without significant disruption, and then, a way to maintain
such things without a significant (probably quite a bit greater than
"linear in the number of communities supported") increase in the
workload for postmaster at

The lists appear to be somewhat of an appealing target for
spammers; in particular, the freebsd-amd64@ list appears to have been --
whether by design or accident -- a victim of "joe-job" attacks (spam
sent to its purported victims with <freebsd-amd64 at> as the
envelope-sender, so the freebsd-amd64@ list is a recipient of a torrent
of "vacation" messages, responses from automated list managers, and
angry "unsubscribe me from your SPAM list!" messages from misguided,
or ignorant individuals or poorly-designed or -deployed software).

It has been my perception that the Web interface that Mailman provides
for dealing with the messages "held for moderation" is not a feasible
method for dealing with the matter, so I cobbled up a Perl script that
reads various sets of regular expressions and uses those to dispose of
messages to the extent that I can.

It's gotten bad enough so far -- with but the one list a known victim of
the joe-job attacks, and we have well over 100 -- that I leave a couple
of "while (1)" loops  running through the list of held messages, with
5-minute pauses at the end of each cycle, at all times:  one loop goes
backwards through all of the freebsd-* lists, and runs the script in
"completely automated" mode (i.e., it just ignores any message it can't
figure out what to do with); the other goes foward through all of the
lists (including, e.g., security@, ctm-*@, moderators@, mailman@,
trustedbsd-*@, ...) and runs in a mode where it prompts for human
intervention if it encounters a message it can't handle automagically.

The above isn't perfect -- there ahve been times I've found that a typo
in a regex has rather unintended consequences, for example, and the
mechanism depends on SpamAssassin classifying a message as "spammy
enough to hold" in the first place, so there's a lot more spam on the
lists than I'd like.  And there's a great deal (of spam) specifically
addressewd to <postmaster at>, so SpamAssassin doesn't even
come anywhere near it.  (I've resorted to silently discarding
"sufficiently suspect" messages that arrive at my home SMTP server.)

(The saving grace is that each "while (1)" loop doesn't even fire up the
script if there are no messages to check.)

Back to the topic at hand: we get a few messages in non-English
languages; a tiny fraction of those are messages that I can tell are
plausibly on-topic for the list in question, though I do not claim much
expertise in non-English languages.  The vast majority are the
above-cited responses to joe-job attacks; as a consequence, the set of
regexen set up to recognize "vacation" responses (and silently discard
them) includes quite a bit of Portuguese, Dutch, German, French, and
variousl Slavic languages -- among others -- as well as English.

At that, I'm working nearly completely with messages that are written in
plain ASCII.  I *really* don't want to think about what would be
necessary to support (e.g., separate the spam from the ham, or respond
to the queries of the lost or confused) using other character sets.

All that said, if you (or anyone else) has ideas on how to make such a
thing work, I'm certainly willing to listen -- or to just step aside and
get out of the way, if that would be better for the FreeBSD Project:  my
goal in accepting the postmaster@ position was to contribute back a bit
to the Project in ways that I can.

david   (current hat: postmaster at
David H. Wolfskill				david at
I submit that "conspiracy" would be an appropriate collective noun for cats.

See for my public key.
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