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 Manager (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 [email protected] 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 is Netnews?
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.
  What Are Moderated and Unmoderated Newsgroups?

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.
  What Are LOCAL and GLOBAL Gateways?
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.
  Are There Special Concerns With LOCAL/GLOBAL Gateways?

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-IDs for duplicates), but it is the people who get the items in their mailboxes who would see two copies of the article.

  How Do I Register a Gateway?

In order to avoid problems caused by multiple gateways, a list of gatewayed newsgroups is maintained by NewsAdmin.Com([email protected]). This list is posted monthly to bit.admin, and copies are available 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 NewsAdmin.Com at [email protected].

  How Do I Setup a 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).
  What Are the Guidelines For Establishing a Mail-News Gateway?

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

  • 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 administrator'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.

  • 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.

  • 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).  

  • 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) 

  • Write to [email protected] 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.  NewsAdmin 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 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 [email protected] to explain the situation.

  Who Can Answer Questions About Gateways?

Questions about Listserv/Netnews gateways can be posted to bit.admin or sent to [email protected]

(This article is based on documentation provided by Jim McIntosh, who through American University, previously facilitated administrative duties and gateway support for the bit.* and other Usenet hierarchies.)