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Need a (safe) searchable archive for your mailing list? Get one for free!

Is your group's mailing list run on a traditional list server? If so, do you have an available, searchable archive of past messages? If not, or if it doesn't work well, here's a free solution for your group.

mail-archive.com is a free service for archiving any mailing list. Once your list's archive is created, the service will receive and archive all future messages to the list, and offers a web-based interface for anyone to view the list messages (by date or thread) and of course search existing messages.

And yes, someone can even import past messages to stock the archive (http://www.mail-archive.com/faq.html#import). Cool! Better still, it protects the privacy of the list members by hiding or obfuscating their email addresses. They even make it possible to respond to the sender via the archive using a special server mechanism that avoids delivering the address to a spambot. See the info at http://www.mail-archive.com/faq.html#spam and skip to the 2nd paragraph for more. I note they even detect emails in signatures and remove those, replacing it with "[EMAIL PROTECTED]". Very nice. They even have a mechanism to permit a sender to a list to PREVENT their message being archived (by their including the header X-No-Archive: yes). Finally, I'll point out that other CF mailing lists already use it, including the venerable CF-talk list: http://www.mail-archive.com/index.php?autobahn=nolimit&hunt=fusion so a list organizer or list member can check out the interface before deciding whether to use it. If you're interested in doing this for your list, you may want to contact the person who runs it (though, technically, they don't mandate that you be the list owner to set it up). You may at least want to announce your intent on your list to avoid a bunch of members setting up duplicates. Feel free to point them to this very blog entry to learn more.

And on a related topic, if your group's mailing list is hosted on a "groups" site like google or yahoo groups, then you should already have archiving and searching of the list contents there.

If you have a group and don't yet have a list, you should consider those free "groups" services. It's a great way to bring a community together. I've written elsewhere about that. (Update: tipicalcharlie domain is no more, but page recovered using Archive.org.)

PS I do realize that Gmail could help me here, as an individual, but this is about solving the problem for all members of the list.

PPS I'd like to point out that I did previously write an entry on this same topic on another blog but wanted to reprise and update it here for those who may have missed it.

Comments
"Is your group's mailing list run on a traditional list server"
Yes, MailMan, which like all listservs comes with a funky web interface, email-protecting archives etc.
# Posted By Tom Chiverton | 11/21/06 4:14 AM
Thomas, I don't know if you're just pointing out what you use, or the fact that Mailman does offer a web interface and archives, but if you're contention is that I've wasted people's time with this suggestion, because "all listervs come with" those things, I have to disagree. They don't "all", and even if they do, I've just seen too many lists where there is no web-based, searchable archive. Perhaps the admins don't set it up, or don't publicize it. Whatever.

I just mean to point out the mail-archive site. It's free, it works, and it hosts thousands of lists. Clearly, all those list owners and users can't be wrong or stupid in wanting/using such an alternative.

It's curious: when I posted this same info on the other blog, I had similar kinds of negative comments. I just don't get it. It's free. It works well. It's safe. What's the beef with those who want to somehow argue against it?

If yours was an innocent comment and you meant nothing negative, no worries. I just know (again from that past experience) that some do have issues (which is why I tried to word things more carefully in this post to try to avoid any confusion over what this was all about.)
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 11/21/06 11:32 AM
I wasn't being negative about mail-archive - it's a great service if you are using some bonkers list manager software that doesn't have a full set of proper features.
But then, I'm odd, and don't see why anyone would ever want to write *another* mailing list manager when there are several free ones that already do everything - why reinvent the wheel, ya know ?
Likewise, why would anyone choose to use a list manager that didn't have all the features they needed, given that you can have one that *does* have all the features for, roughly, $0 and 0 cents.
# Posted By Tom Chiverton | 11/21/06 11:53 AM
Ok, but you're putting yourself in the position of someone who is setting up a list. I was speaking more to those who are members of a list, where the choice of the list package (and the control of availability of any archive) is beyond their control.

More to the point, I was motivated to post this when I noticed that one particularly popular CFUG mailing list remains broken after over a month. And I've been on other lists that had no search at all. This is just about helping empower people who use lists, that's all. And it need not even be the person who runs the list who sets up the archive.

I'll point out as well that the archive service offers an RSS feed mechanism as well, which perhaps some listservs may not yet (or the owners of the list may not have upgraded to a version that supports it). The bottom line is that the service offers solutions to problems that many may find that don't get from their existing lists. It's just an available solution.

It seems that arguing against it is like arguing about why some anyone would use a lawn service. You can just do it yourself, and get a mower that does all you need, after all. :-)
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 11/21/06 12:23 PM
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