The Rutgers Automated Mass-mailing System (RAMS), is really a conglomeration of databases, web-based applications, and automated processes designed to deliver mass-mailings via e-mail to portions of the Rutgers population based on demographic information. The web-based applications allow authrorized users to create and manage mailing lists, and to view the archives and statistical information about them. As someone who operates a list, these are the parts of RAMS that should most concern you.
At the heart of RAMS ate two databases that are really the heart of the system; one gathers information from a various other university databases and condenses it to one local database. This is done primarily to avoid issues with maintenance hours on other systems conflicting with the hours that are best for sending out bulk mailings. This database is updated daily. The other database contains all the information for the mailing lists. When a message goes out for a list, RAMS looks up the rules for the list in this database, and uses the rules to compose the address list from the first database.
The web-based applications provide 99 per cent of the user interface for RAMS. They basically update information in the list database, and trigger actions or automated processes. The important thing to remember is that they interact with the database in real time. If it looks changed, it is changed.
Also, the automated processes keep RAMS functioning. The daily database updates keep the demographic information current; the daily backup preserves the list information. The RAMS daemon fields incoming postings and the prime-time process runs every hour to process mailings that are pending primetime.
The Life Cycle of an E-mail Message
Here's what can happen in RAMS when a message is posted to a list.
If the list is an open list (i.e. anyone can post to it), you send the message which is received by the mail server on the host system. The mail server hands it over to the RAMS daemon. The daemon parses it and checks if the list actually exists. If the list exists, it checks if it has a primetime restriction on it. If there is no primetime restriction or the mail arrives at a time when it is allowed to be broadcast, it posts the message, and the process is complete. If there is a primetime restriction, the mail is put in the primetime queue to be processed when it is within the lists scheduled prime-time.
If the list is a closed list, the process is the same except that the RAMS daemon also checks to see if the sender of the message is a member of the list in question. If they are it proceeds as described for an open list. If they are not, it sends them an error message, and the process is complete.
If the list is a moderated list, then the process is somewhat different. First, the mail is received by the mail server. Then it hands the message off to the RAMS daemon. The rams daemon queues a copy of the message in the moderation queue, and then appends another copy to a confirmation request sent to all the moderators. A moderator may reply via e-mail to approve the message for posting or they may approve it via the List Manager. If approved by e-mail, the reply is sent to the mail server, handed off to the RAMS daemon, and the moderation queue is checked for the message. If it is there, it either sends it out or pushes it to the prime-time queue as appropriate for the list.
If approved via the web application, the application checks the primetime restrictions, and either sends the message out or pushes it to the primetime queue to be sent out later. Once the message is sent, the process is complete. Once one moderator approves a message, it will no longer appear available for moderation in the web application, and any further attempts to confirm by e-mail will generate error messages.
What do I need to do to operate my list?
Your responsibilities depend on the type of list you have:
- General mailing lists are static lists of member e-mail addresses that are provided and maintained by the owner of the list. General mailing lists are handled through the mailman software. Mailman mailing lists can be requested at http://www.nbcs.rutgers.edu/newdocs/unx01001/unx01001.php3.
- Official mailing lists are primarily for official University announcements. The owner of the list provides a demographic category, and the list of member e-mail addresses are provided by the Rutgers databases. Official mailing lists can be requested by contacting the Help Desk with the information noted below.
- Class mailing lists are for announcements and class discussions outside of normal class meeting hours and are created through the class list creator. The list creator requires logging in with a valid Rutgers NetID and password. In addition, access to class sections is governed by a user's roster privileges, which may be obtained by contacting your Dean/Director/Department Chair or their designated assistant responsible for assigning privileges.
Tips, Caveats and Other Information
- If you want to confirm that a message has been sent to the listt, look on the archive page.
- If you need to make sure a mailing is approved immediately, don't wait for the confirmation message--use the web interface.
- If it is an emergency, and you need a message to go out immediately, you can skip the primetime wait by using the override feature of the List Manager. Please note the primetime override feature is monitored, Abuse of this feature may be construed as a violation of the University's Acceptable Use Policy and may get your list turned off.
- Suggestions for list features or ways to improve RAMS are welcome. Submit your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Messages can also be handled with :
Log in the Web-based list manager by entering your Rutgers NetID and case-sensitive password in their respective fields. A screen should open in which you can select a list from the RAMS lists you have permission to edit.
Select the appropriate list and click the Manage Messages button, which should open a window displaying the pending messages submitted to the list.
To approve messages, check the Approve box for all messages you wish to approve then click the Approve Selected Messages button at the bottom of the table. Similarly, to delete (i.e. reject submissions to the list) click the Delete box then the Delete Selected Messages button. Please note you cannot simultaneously approve and delete messages in bulk.
Tips and Troubleshooting:
- Do not reply to informational messages advising you that your message has been submitted to the moderator for approval. You will just keep receiving more of them as the system treats replies as new message submissions.
- If you reply to Confirmation Req: messages, and you get the informational message and a new Confirmation Req: message with a new number, there is a problem with your e-mail account. Please contact your campus Help Desk for assistance.