Wednesday, May 25, 2011

high-volume problem

Yesterday, Ralph wanted to send an urgent message to the entire RASC Toronto Centre membership about the David Dunlap Observatory.

He tried using the "old" high-volume SMTP mail management tool in our web admin tools. Something he has used in the past. Something the past SCOPE editor (Phil) used to notify members of the newest newsletter. But neither Ralph or the current SCOPE editor (Eric) had touched the tool in some time. In fact, neither had used since the web hosting switchover to HostPapa.

I wasn't surprised it didn't work. After reviewing Phil's notes, I jumped into the server and found coding in the CGI files still referring to the old server. I hacked at the code for a bit and got the program going. I conducted a test with a handful of personal emails and saw that it was working. I prepared the tool with Ralph's message and the list of over 500 member email addresses. And thought I was done...

This morning, when I saw that very few people received the message, I assumed the worst. It was a couple of hours later than I found the 400 or so rejected messages in the server admin inbox. Cricky! An outbound filter on the server had blocked most of the messages. Our old tool, while clever in its approach, would not work. At least, not be convenient. If we batched recipients (max. 50 per hour), it would take a day or two! Reconciled who received the message...

While logged into the admin account on HostPapa, at around 9:30 AM, I started examining the Control Panel. And I stumbled across a group email tool. It used GNU Mailman. All we'd have to do was make a master list and then send the message to the listserv. We could tear it down after. I conducted several tests around noon to make sure that it would work. Satisfied, I loaded all the candidates into the system, configured the appropriate restrictions on the listserv, and finally sent out Ralph's message. I was feeling pretty confident. Documented everything and sent a summary report to Ralph and Eric.

Ironically, Ralph himself did not receive the message. I polled a few others. It still didn't work for nearly everyone. Damn. Out of desperation, I reposted his message on the Yahoo!Group. To cover the bases... I don't know what this means for the future. Is Mailman itself outdated? I was under the impression that National uses this tool for its lists. So it should work for us.

An exercise in frustration.

Took hours of my time to analyse.

Why do these things get left to the last minute?


I phoned Eric. Asked if he'd like to use Mailman in the future with the newsletter notice. Urged him that we test it sooner vs. later.

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