Paleonet: False PaleoNet Unsubscription E-mails

Graciela Piñeiro fossil at
Fri Jan 6 04:07:44 GMT 2017

Dear Prof. MacLeod,
Thank you very much for this detailed explanation. I am glad to know that
the issue was solved.
Best regards,
Graciela Piñeiro

2017-01-05 4:49 GMT-03:00 Norman MacLeod <n.macleod at>:

> OK. Now that things have calmed down a bit it’s time to inform everyone on
> the list about what happened yesterday, how and why. First, what.
> Yesterday around 18:30 GMT I received a message from the PaleoNet
> listserver informing me that I had been unsubscribed from the PaleoNet
> list. This came as a bit of a surprise insofar as I didn’t recall
> unsubscribing myself from my own list. But that being said, it’s not
> unusual for me to get the occasional unusual message from the list software
> as the list owner. I immediately checked the list and saw that, in fact,
> there had been no unsubscriptions of anyone yesterday. Since there was,
> apparently, no problem with the PaleoNet list I decided to wait and see
> whether this was a one-off internal glitch that came to me or whether it
> had been sent to any others. I didn’t have to wait long.
> Shortly thereafter I began receiving messages from other PaleoNet
> subscribers alerting me to the fact that they had been sent an e-mail in my
> name informing them that they had been unsubscribed from PaleoNet and
> indicating to me they did not wish to be unsubscribed. Some subscribers
> thought they had done something wrong. Others thought it must be some
> glitch in the software. And others assumed they had been subject to some
> list-cleaning programme/routine. Once these started coming in I contacted
> Christian Jackson of NHM IT Services and asked him to look into the
> situation on the technical side as the NHM currently hosts the PaleoNet
> e-mail list on its servers.
> As you might expect there is some background to this unanticipated event
> and, before I continue with the story I need to fill you in on that. On 20
> September 2016 I was informed by NHM IT Services that a decision had been
> taken by the Natural History Museum to discontinue its hosting arrangement
> for the PaleoNet e-mail list and web pages. No specific reason for this
> discontinuance was given other than the following statement.
> “Recently [NHM] IT infrastructure has been standardised and rationalised
> to provide more robust, sustainable and secure services to meet the
> objectives of the Museum. Specifically a major project has been carried out
> to re-platform the Content Management System (CMS) and re-launch the NHM
> website, closing many sites and moving others into new platforms (e.g. the
> Data Portal). As such the Technology Solutions (TS) department need to
> manage current and future web hosting services in line with the new systems
> and services in place to best optimise use of resources, and to do this TS
> will be establishing a clearer hosting policy.
> The Paleonet site has been identified as one that the NHM is not able to
> provide a hosting and support service for going forward, and will need to
> be supported by alternative hosting arrangements.”
> Ivan Teage, Digital Development Manager
> The NHM has provided hosting services to PaleoNet since 2006. Since then
> PaleoNet has made very minimal demands on the NHMs IT infrastructure. There
> had been no indication to me that there was any lack of compatibility
> between PaleoNet IT requirements and new NHM IT infrastructure or between
> PaleoNet operations and the mission of the NHM. There was also no
> consultation between myself and the NHM over its hosting arrangement for
> PaleoNet prior to my receipt of Teage’s notification informing me of the
> museum’s decision.
> I immediately sought advice from colleagues regarding migration of the
> list to a new host. Following discussions with Alan Spencer I decided to
> write a hosting proposal to the Council of the Palaeontological Association
> (PalAss) to migrate PaleoNet to their servers. That proposal was submitted
> for consideration at the Council’s October meeting where it was approved in
> principle. Between October and December the Palaeontological Association
> drafted a formal contract for the hosting of PaleoNet. I received a copy of
> this contract on 7 December and, after a bit of negotiation over wording,
> that agreement was signed on 9 December. I informed the NHM that an
> alternative hosting agreement for PaleoNet had been approved on 12 December.
> The migration of an e-mail list is fairly straightforward but, inevitably,
> is a bit tricky as each list is interfaced within its host IT
> infrastructure in a slightly different manner. Also, the automated nature
> of listserver software is such that there’s no need for system
> administrators to become involved with listserver operations until/unless
> something goes wrong. Since this is infrequent in PaleoNet’s case it
> usually takes a bit of work to recall exactly how the list operates within
> the host IT server system and where the problem is. The migration from the
> NHM servers to the PalAss servers should be easier than the previous
> migration from the UC Berkeley servers to the NHM servers because the same
> listserver software that hosts PaleoNet now (Mailman) will be used after
> the migration. However, small glitches can, and often do, occur in the
> interval leading up to the migration (as system managers become familiar
> with the operation of the list-hosting software) and for an interval
> thereafter (as the listserver operations ‘bed in” with other operations
> going on within the new hosting server system). What happened yesterday was
> one of these glitches.
> My plan had been to meet with Christian and Alan prior to the migration of
> PaleoNet to agree a plan and then to write to the list informing all of you
> of the migration, the reasons for it, and the migration plan. Part of that
> communication was going to be a caution that glitches might occur during
> the migration interval, along with a reassurance that full operations would
> be restored for everyone on the list following migration. Christian, Alan
> and I had a Skype meting planned for last week, but that, unfortunately,
> didn’t take place owing to technical issues on the NHM end. The plan for
> agreeing a plan was to pick up that conversation next week. However, it now
> seems as though an inadvertent glitch occurred on the PalAss server side as
> Alan was adjusting some of the Mailman software settings. The unusual
> source address that was part of the false unsubscription e-mails (
> paleonet-bounces at was there because this message came from
> the PalAss - not the NHM - server.  As near as Alan can tell something like
> 700 false unsubscription notifications had been sent out to PaleoNet
> subscribers before he realized what the problem was and killed the routine.
> That’s less than half the list, but still a large number. On behalf of
> PaleoNet I apologise for the surprise, dismay and confusion suffered by
> those who received false unsubscription messages and the inevitable
> confusion the messages about the effects of the glitch must have caused all
> subscribers. I wanted this migration to be transparent and seamless, but
> best laid plan often do have a tendency to become more complicated than you
> hope they will be.
> So, there you have it. PaleoNet is leaving the NHM after 10 years of
> successful operation and moving to the Palaeontological Association
> servers. I’d like to thank the NHM for the service and support it has
> provided to PaleoNet - and through PaleoNet to the palaeontological
> community worldwide - for the past 10 years, and to thank the
> Palaeontological Association for agreeing to host and support PaleoNet into
> the future. Most of all, I’d like to thank you for your support of the
> list. PaleoNet is (literally) nothing without its subscribers. After being
> made aware of the NHMs decision to discontinue its support for the list I
> had been discouraged about PaleoNet’s future. Now, I am confident about it.
> Since it’s inception in 1995 PaleoNet has become part of the core
> infrastructure of serious palaeontology, which has been very gratifying to
> see. Migration to the Palaeontological Association servers will provide an
> opportunity to further develop the list and the web site, which is
> something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now. There will, no doubt,
> still be the occasional glitch in PaleoNet operations in the future, just
> as their has been in the past. But the important thing - that PaleoNet
> provides and quick, easy, stable, informative, and fun forum for the
> discussion of palaeontological topics and dissemination of information
> about palaeontology - won’t change; at least as long as I’m running the
> list.
> Thank you for being a PaleoNet subscriber.
> With kind regards.
> Norm MacLeod
> _____________________________________________________
> Professor Norman MacLeod
> The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD
> (0)207 942-5204 (Office Landline)
> (0)785 017-1787 (Mobile)
> Department of Earth Sciences, University College
> London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
> Nanjing Institute of Geology & Palaeontology,
> Chinese Academy of Sciences, 39 Beijing, Donglu, Nanjing, China
> _____________________________________________________
> _______________________________________________
> Paleonet mailing list
> Paleonet at
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