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NetNews/Mailing List Gateway Policy

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Archive-name: bit/policy
Last-modified: 1 July 1994

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      *** General Information on Mailing List/Netnews gateways ***

This document  gives general  information on gateways  between Electronic
Mailing Lists and Netnews as implemented  in Netnews version 2.5 by Linda
Littleton  at Penn  State University.  It includes  guidelines on  how to
establish a new Mailing List/Netnews gateway.

*** What are Electronic Mailing Lists?

Electronic Mailing  Lists are controlled  by a software package  called a
Mailing List Mananger (or MLM). Since  the most widely used MLM is called
ListServ  many people  refer  to electronic  mailing  lists as  "Listserv
lists". (Listserv,  which stands for List  Server, is a MLM  that runs on
VM/CMS, AIX,  VMS, and other  platforms. It is  a product of  LSoft, Inc.
Write to for more information on Listserv.)

MLMs provide "mail-exploding"  capabilities so that people  with a common
interest can communicate with each other  by sending mail to a particular
address (one address per mailing list), which then redistributes the mail
to each  person "subscribed"  to the  list. Each  person subscribed  to a
particular list gets a copy of each piece of mail in their mailbox.

*** What is Netnews?

Netnews is  a bulletin  board system  in which articles  on a  variety of
topics are arranged in "newsgroups" and  stored in a shared location from
which  individual users  can read  them.  These newsgroups  can be  local
newsgroups, available only at a user's  site, or may be shared with other
sites to form a world-wide bulletin board system called Usenet.

*** What does the gateway do?

The gateway  software (which  is a  built-in part  of the  VM/CMS Netnews
server from  Penn State) puts  each piece of  mail for a  particular list
into  a corresponding  Netnews  newsgroup and  also  sends each  Netnews-
originating posting to the newsgroup  back to the mailing list. Generally
gatewayed groups  on Netnews are given  the name bit.listserv.<listname>.
When appropriate, the items in a  mailing list might also be cross-posted
to a "mainstream" Usenet group.

*** Moderated or Unmoderated Newsgroup

The newsgroup gatewayed to a list can be either moderated or unmoderated.
If it is unmoderated, all posts are immediately accepted in the newsgroup
and make  their way eventually to  the mailing list. If  the newsgroup is
moderated the posts  are not accepted in the newsgroup,  but instead sent
through e-mail  to a  moderator address.  This moderator  can be  a human
being who decides if the post is  appropriate, or can even be the mailing
list address  (where, for example, the  list owner may from  time to time
set the list to  "Send= Private" to limit the mail  coming from Usenet to
the mailing list).

Whether the  mailing list is edited  is a separate decision  from whether
the newsgroup is moderated. Many  unedited mailing lists are gatewayed to
moderated newsgroups  so the list owner  can impose controls when  and if
inappropriate posts come from the newgroup to the mailing list.

*** Why have a gateway?

The major  reason sites  decide to  carry gatewayed  mailing lists  is so
their users can read these lists  via shared disks, rather than requiring
each user to receive each item to their mailbox. In addition, the gateway
gives greater  exposure and wider readership  to the list since  the list
can be now be read by users at thousands of Usenet sites.

*** The gateway can be LOCAL or GLOBAL

On a per-group basis, the gateway can  be either LOCAL (only users on the
machine where Netnews  is running will see the Listserv  items) or GLOBAL
(the  Listserv items  will propagate  to  other Usenet  sites). To  avoid
problems that can be caused by  multiple sites gatewaying the same group,
we request that only  a handful of sites set up  global gateways and that
other sites receive these groups through their normal news feeds.

                    *** AN IMPORTANT PRECAUTION ***

It is  important that  no more  than one site  per list  set up  a GLOBAL
gateway. If  more than one  site does a  GLOBAL gateway for  a particular
list,  the list  may get  duplicates  of some  articles. It  is the  list
owner's  responsibility  to  make  sure there  are  not  multiple  global
gateways for  the list and to  "signoff" any suspect gateway  site should
problems start  to occur.  No GLOBAL gateway  should ever  be established
without the express permission of the list owner.

In the  event that two  sites did  set up a  global gateway for  the same
list, here is what might happen. If  a user anywhere on the net posted an
article to the group via Netnews and the article found its way to both of
the global gateway  sites, both of these sites would  forward the article
back to  the mailing list. The  mailing list would therefore  receive two
copies and although  Listserv will usually detect  the duplicate posting,
it will return one of the copies to the author with a message saying that
the post  was a duplicate. Since  the author only posted  once, this will
cause them some confusion. Also, it  is possible that both posts would be
distributed to the  list if a MLM other than  Listserv is controlling the
mailing list.  Netnews would not have  a problem handling this  (since it
checks message-id's  for duplicates), but  it is  the people who  get the
items in their mailboxes who would see two copies of the article.

*** Gateway registration

In  order to  avoid  problems  caused by  multiple  gateways,  a list  of
gatewayed newsgroups is maintained by David Lawrence (
This list is  posted monthly to bit.admin, and copies  are available from by sending the  command GET NETGATE.GATELIST as the
first and only line  in the body of a piece of e-mail.  This file is also
available via anonymous ftp from

Please consult this list before  establishing a gateway between a mailing
list and a newsgroup to verify no gateway already exists. If you set up a
gateway you should have it added to the list by writing to David Lawrence
at, or by writing to

*** Setting up the gateway.

The gateway is set up by  having the Netnews service machine subscribe to
the mailing list  in the same way  that a subscriber would. The MLM must
ensure that each post has a unique  Message-ID. If none is present in the
incoming post, the MLM must add one.  Also, the posts must come from some
consistent  address in  the  "Return-Path" (generally  OWNER-<listname>).
With  LSoft's Listserv  these  requirements  can be  met  by setting  the
FULLHDR option  on (additionally  the NOFILES option  should be  set, and
NORENEW should be set if the list expires subscriptions).

*** Guidelines for establishing a Mailing List/Netnews gateway.

It is the  responsibility of the person requesting the  gateway to do the

1.  Get  the approval  of  the  mailing  list  owner(s) and  the  MLM
    administrator at  the host  node. (For  Listserv, send  a "REVIEW
    listname" command to the Listserv at  the host node for the names
    and addresses  of the list  owner(s), and a "RELEASE"  command to
    the same address for the Listserv administor's name and address.)
    Send them  each a  copy of  this document. If  the list  owner or
    MLM administrator objects, the gateway is not done.

2.  Get the approval of the mailing  list readers. This could be done
    somewhat informally  by posting to  the list and asking  if there
    are objections.  If the  issue was  controversial, a  formal vote
    should be held according to the same guidelines as for creating a
    new Usenet group. If there was no major dissenting opinion a vote
    will not be needed.

3.  If there is  a Usenet group where crossposting  would be logical,
    get the approval  of the people who read that  group (in the same
    way as approval of the mailing list readers was gotten).

4.  Post to bit.admin to see if there are any objections. The subject
    of  the   posting  should   be  "Gateway  for   <listname>  under
    discussion". Explain  briefly what  the list is  for. If  you are
    proposing   that  the   list  be   gated  to   something  besides
    "bit.listserv.<listname>", this should be stated. Again, if there
    was no major  dissenting opinion within seven days,  a vote would
    not be needed; otherwise a vote would be held.

    Steps 2, 3, and 4 can all be done at the same time.

5.  Write to to say  that all of the criteria
    have been met.  Indicate the gateway site (if you  wish some site
    besides to be  the gateway), mailing list name,
    mailing list host node, list  owner(s), and a short (45 character
    maximum)  description  of  the list.  News-admin  will  establish
    and/or register  the gateway, and  then post to bit.admin  to say
    that the gateway is operational.  The subject of the posting will
    be "Gateway for <listname> operational".

If  for some  reason  you  cannot follow  the  steps  outlined here  (for
example, if you do not get the  bit groups, so cannot post to bit.admin),
write to to explain the situation.

*** Where to address questions

Questions about Listserv/Netnews  gateways can be posted  to bit.admin or
sent to

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