Massey University Mailing List Service: Sympa 6 (Beta)

National Shared Services, Information Technology Services

Note: We know that everyone is busy; to read an extremely précis version of this document, please read the text below in bold. Otherwise, if you have the time available, we welcome you to read the full article and provide us with feedback.

Overview

Information Technology Services (ITS) have a project underway to upgrade the software used for the shared Mailing List Service (Sympa) to the latest version. The existing production environment uses Sympa 5 (released circa 2006); the core product has evolved since, and we now want to upgrade to take advantage of new features and functionality available with Sympa 6.

Before upgrading the University-wide (production) service, we would like to extend an invitation to all ITS Staff to evaluate the new version.  We would like you to let us know of anything that needs to be fixed or improved prior to release.

Project Objectives

Sympa has proven to be a reliable product that fulfils a key communication need within the organisation. In this work, we want to retain the existing stability of the service and introduce the following changes:

  • Improvements to the end-user experience (transactional emails; branding; overall look and feel);
  • The introduction of custom features intended to make the product easier to use (thereby promoting customer self-service);
  • Native integration between Sympa and the shared Microsoft SQL cluster; this allows the mailing list service to integrate directly with our key business systems such as SMS and RPS;
  • Migration of List Archives to centralised storage on the dependable IBM N-Series (NetApp) storage appliances;
  • A full, permanent development environment, which we can use to introduce new functionality and troubleshoot problems which may occur.

We have tried to do the above in a way that doesn't make it difficult for us to upgrade to subsequent versions of the product (which has been a problem for us previously).


What Feedback are we after ?

This is covered in the following document:

Sympa6Feedback_v2.pdf (317 KB)


How do I access the Test Environment ?

• Web User Interface

The Sympa 6 (Beta) Web Interface is available at:

http://listsdev.massey.ac.nz/

We'd be interested to know whether you like the new User Interface, and if you notice anything that needs to be fixed.  Some background regarding the design process undertaken is available in the following document:

Sympa theme changes made to implement Massey branding_COMPLETED.pdf (1,958 KB)

Note that the development UI is currently only available internally or via the VPN service. 

• Sending Email

To send email using the Sympa 6 (Beta) environment, simply email the usual Sympa list, but use listsdev.massey.ac.nz rather than lists.massey.ac.nz as the email suffix.

Example: Emailing its-all@listsdev.massey.ac.nz will send mail via the Sympa 6 (Beta) environment.

lists_vs_listsdev__Sympa5_versus_Sympa6_graphic.png

How can I help test the new version ?

Firstly, treat the development as a "testbed"; at some point in the near future, we will refresh the environment with production data.  However, please be aware of the following caveat:

The development is live.  If you email its-all@listsdev.massey.ac.nz then everyone in ITS will get an email (albeit delivered using the Sympa 6 dev environment).  Because of this, “usual” email etiquette applies; sending “test” messages to large lists (its-all, for example) isn’t recommended.


Okay, so how can I safely test the new version ?

• For existing List Owners

If you are currently a list owner, you might like to visit the Web UI and comment on the updated site. You can safely make changes to the admin panel (i.e. add / remove subscribers etc, make changes to data sources), as the dev environment will be refreshed from production.

You can also go through the list creation process (i.e. request a list) to create a new Sympa list. As the development environment reflects production, lists will need to be approved - but we will be attempting to do this promptly during the beta. Once your list is created, you can add / remove subscribers, and explore any of the options available in the admin menus.

For existing Subscribers

Please log into the web UI, and experiment with the new user interface. Is there anything that you liked or didn't. What needs to change ?

You can also using the web UI to request subscription / unsubscription from lists.

For both cases, please let us know of any problems you encounter.

Providing Feedback

When you are ready to provide feedback, please email:

its-sympa6-uat@lists.massey.ac.nz

If you find something that needs to be fixed, please include steps to reproduce the fault (i.e. a "bug report"), including screenshots if relevant.

To report a technical fault / assistance (such as not being able to log into the Web UI for example), please contact the Systems Engineer for this work: Patrick Rynhart, P.Rynhart@massey.ac.nz, Phone 81075.


Additional Resources and Information

Note: If you just want to help test Sympa 6, you don't need to read anything from hereon.  This section contains additional content relevant to the project.

Service Description (Draft)

The Service Description (Draft) is available in the following document:

ServiceDescriptionMasseyUniversityMailingListsService.pdf (95 KB)

How old is the Data in the Dev environment ?

All mailing lists (including archives) have been imported into a development environment running Sympa 6. Currently, the development environment contains the following:

  • List Definitions (exported from Production) as of Tuesday, March 26 2013
  • List Archives (exported as of Saturday, March 23 2013

This means that any lists created and mails sent subsequent to the above dates in production won't appear in the development environment.

Author: Patrick Rynhart, Infrastructure Support Section

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