As the email-for-nothing hordes continue to attack, it's become
obvious to me that most users cannot understand even the simplest
command summary. Also, most users are not interested in what
the commands are; they're interested in doing what they want to do,
and only want to see the commands to do it.
So, in light of the Dumbing of Cyberica, I'd like to offer (seriously)
my impression of what a help file should look like. This may even be
too sophisticated, <your-favorite-deity-here> help us.
I'll attempt a similar feat for the error messages next...
This help message is being sent to you from the Majordomo mailing list
management system at $whoami.
This is version $version of Majordomo.
If you're familiar with mail servers, an advanced user's summary of
Majordomo's commands appears at the end of this message.
Majordomo is an automated system which allows users to subscribe
and unsubscribe to mailing lists, and to retrieve files from list
You can interact with the Majordomo software by sending it commands
in the body of mail messages addressed to "Majordomo@$whoami".
Please do not put your commands on the subject line; Majordomo does
not process commands in the subject line.
You may put multiple Majordomo commands in the same mail message.
Put each command on a line by itself.
If you use a "signature block" at the end of your mail, Majordomo may
mistakenly believe each line of your message is a command; you will
then receive spurious error messages. To keep this from happening,
either put a line starting with a hyphen ("-") before your signature,
or put a line with just the word
on it in the same place. This will stop the Majordomo software from
processing your signature as bad commands.
Here are some of the things you can do using Majordomo:
I. FINDING OUT WHICH LISTS ARE ON THIS SYSTEM
To get a list of publicly-available mailing lists on this system, put the
following line in the body of your mail message to Majordomo@$whoami:
Each line will contain the name of a mailing list and a brief description
of the list.
To get more information about a particular list, use the "info" command,
supplying the name of the list. For example, if the name of the list
about which you wish information is "demo-list", you would put the line
in the body of the mail message.
II. SUBSCRIBING TO A LIST
Once you've determined that you wish to subscribe to one or more lists on
this system, you can send commands to Majordomo to have it add you to the
list, so you can begin receiving mailings.
To receive list mail at the address from which you're sending your mail,
simply say "subscribe" followed by the list's name:
If for some reason you wish to have the mailings go to a different address
(a friend's address, a specific other system on which you have an account,
or an address which is more correct than the one that automatically appears
in the "From:" header on the mail you send), you would add that address to
the command. For instance, if you're sending a request from your work
account, but wish to receive "demo-list" mail at your personal account
(for which we will use "firstname.lastname@example.org" as an example), you'd put
subscribe demo-list email@example.com
in the mail message body.
Based on configuration decisions made by the list owners, you may be added
to the mailing list automatically. You may also receive notification
that an authorization key is required for subscription. Another message
will be sent to the address to be subscribed (which may or may not be the
same as yours) containing the key, and directing the user to send a
command found in that message back to Majordomo@whoami. (This can be
a bit of extra hassle, but it helps keep you from being swamped in extra
email by someone who forged requests from your address.) You may also
get a message that your subscription is being forwarded to the list owner
for approval; some lists have waiting lists, or policies about who may
subscribe. If your request is forwarded for approval, the list owner
should contact you soon after your request.
Upon subscribing, you should receive an introductory message, containing
list policies and features. Save this message for future reference; it
will also contain exact directions for unsubscribing. If you lose the
intro mail and would like another copy of the policies, send this message
(substituting, of course, the real name of your list for "demo-list").
III. UNSUBSCRIBING FROM MAILING LISTS
Your original intro message contains the exact command which should be
used to remove your address from the list. However, in most cases, you
may simply send the command "unsubscribe" followed by the list name:
(This command may fail if your provider has changed the way your
address is shown in your mail.)
To remove an address other than the one from which you're sending
the request, give that address in the command:
unsubscribe demo-list firstname.lastname@example.org
In either of these cases, you can tell Majordomo@$whoami to remove
the address in question from all lists on this server by using "*"
in place of the list name:
unsubscribe * email@example.com
IV. FINDING THE LISTS TO WHICH AN ADDRESS IS SUBSCRIBED
To find the lists to which your address is subscribed, send this command
in the body of a mail message to Majordomo@$whoami:
You can look for other addresses, or parts of an address, by specifying
the text for which Majordomo should search. For instance, to find which
users at my-isp.com are subscribed to which lists, you might send the
Note that many list owners completely or fully disable the "which"
command, considering it a privacy violation.
V. FINDING OUT WHO'S SUBSCRIBED TO A LIST
To get a list of the addresses on a particular list, you may use the
"who" command, followed by the name of the list:
Note that many list owners allow only a list's subscribers to use the
"who" command, or disable it completely, believing it to be a privacy
VI. RETRIEVING FILES FROM A LIST'S ARCHIVES
Many list owners keep archives of files associated with a list. These
- back issues of the list
- help files, user profiles, and other documents associated with the list
- daily, monthly, or yearly archives for the list
To find out if a list has any files associated with it, use the "index"
If you see files in which you're interested, you may retrieve them by
using the "get" command and specifying the list name and archive filename.
For instance, to retrieve the files called "profile.form" (presumably a
form to fill out with your profile) and "demo-list.9611" (presumably the
messages posted to the list in November 1996), you would put the lines
get demo-list profile.form
get demo-list demo-list.9611
in your mail to Majordomo@$whoami.
VII. GETTING MORE HELP
To contact a human site manager, send mail to Majordomo-Owner@$whoami.
To contact the owner of a specific list, send mail to that list's
approval address, which is formed by adding "-approval" to the user-name
portion of the list's address. For instance, to contact the list owner
for demo-list@$whoami, you would send mail to $list-approval@$whoami.
To get another copy of this help message, send mail to Majordomo@$whoami
with a line saying
in the message body.
VIII. COMMAND SUMMARY FOR ADVANCED USERS
<old help syntax jive here>
ROGER B.A. KLORESE rogerk@QueerNet.ORG
2215-R Market Street #576 San Francisco, CA 94114 +1 415 ALL-ARFF
"There is only one real blasphemy -- the refusal of joy!" -- Paul Rudnick