[Biojava-l] [housekeeping note] experimental changes to bioperl-l and biojava-l list configuration

chris dagdigian dag@sonsorol.org
Tue, 19 Feb 2002 10:50:10 -0500

Hi folks,

The Open Bioinformatics Foudation's recent subscription to the RBL+ list 
(http://mail-abuse.org/rbl+/) has done a great job at seriously cutting 
down the amount of spam that leaks onto our mailing lists.

It does not however, protect us from virus-laden email messages as the 
members of biojava-l have found out on multiple ocasions. We are 
eventually going to deploy antivirus scanning on all of our inbound and 
outbound email but until that happens we need an interim solution.

Typically the way that most large  mailing lists handle this is to 
employ a "no attachments" policy. All attachments are either stripped at 
the MTA level or converted into plaintext by external helper 
applications. The side effect of this is that it also removes HTML-email 
which 90% of the time is spam anyway.

The feedback from people I asked about doing this on our server was that 
it could be "too drastic". Instead of stripping anything MIME-encoded 
I've made some experimental changes to 2 of our largest lists: biojava-l 
and bioperl-l.

What I've done is configured the lists  to "hold" messages that contain 
suspect "content-type:" fields. What this mean is that messages won't be 
"stripped" but they will be blocked and held for moderator attention. 
Anything that is spam or suspicious will get blown away by an OBF 
mailteam volunteer. Messages that look OK will get passed on to the list.

This is the best compromise I can come up with between "stripping 
everything" and converting the lists to 100% moderated forums. One side 
effect is that our "hold" patterns are going to block HTML messages wich 
is probably a good thing. Another side effect is that innocent messages 
may get held up or delayed as they wait for moderation. This is mostly 

For those that care, here are the patterns we are trying to use to hold 
suspect message:
Content-Type: .*multipart
Content-Type: .*mixed
Content-Type: .*rich

As a general rule to avoid having your emails held for approval people 
may wish to keep the following in mind:

(1) Be polite to text-only email readers; don't send HTML messages to 
the list.
(2) Don't send file attachments; post URLs or links within your message

Feedback directly to me or to mailteam@open-bio.org is welcome. I'll let 
people know how this experiment goes - most likely in our next 
newsletter scheduled for mid-March.


Chris Dagdigian, <dag@sonsorol.org>
Life Science IT & Research Computing Freelancer
Office: 617-666-6454, Mobile: 617-877-5498, Fax: 425-699-0193
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