Virtual aliases

Addresses based on official student enrolments (@enrol.program)

The CSE mail system has a module that will send email to students that (were/are/will be) enrolled in a specified year and session in any specified combination of courses, programs, or plans. Mail system modules are called pageboys and this particular module is called the enrol pageboy. It acts on mail addresses of this form: grouping@enrol.program In brief, the enrol pageboy:
  • Relies on enrolment files derived from official enrolment records. The Enrolment files for the current and next session for CSE students are updated daily;
  • Can specify enrolments in courses, programs, and/or plans from any year and session back to session 1 1999, in a particularly flexible and powerful way;
  • Can be used to generate lists of addresses and/or registration numbers of students matching the enrolment specification.
The enrol pageboy is described in much more detail in the enrol pageboy document.

Addresses based on the account membership (-list@cse)

The mlalias command is used at CSE to create mailing lists. One of its most powerful features is its ability to hook into the UDB (the user database) to create mailing lists based upon the current membership of a UDB class such as a course or program. Such lists are known as virtual aliases as they are not predefined, like standard mlalias lists, but created at the moment of invocation. By using virtual aliases, you can avoid having to create or update long lists of email addresses by hand. The general form of a UDB mediated virtual alias is: <UDBclass1>-list. ie: simply append "-list" to the UDB class that describes the group you wish to email. The UDB has a logical, hierarchical structure which anybody can inspect using the acc and udblist commands. In general, a course will have Lecturer, Supervisor (the subject administrator), Tutor and Student classes defined (some large subjects also have Demonstrator, small ones may not have Tutor). Each of these classes will be prefixed by the course code. So, for example, COMP1011 has the following UDB classes: COMP1011 (65931) COMP1011_Reason (68513) COMP1011_People (68514) COMP1011_Teacher (68643) COMP1011_Demonstrator (67113) COMP1011_Supervisor (66681) COMP1011_Lecturer (66584) COMP1011_Tutor (66533) COMP1011_Employee (68642) COMP1011_Student (66482) (For the interested, this is an excerpt from the output generated by the command udblist comp1011 5, which dumps information from the UDB to 5 levels of nesting.) So:
  • To email the tutors of COMP1011, send to COMP1011_Tutor-list (from a non-CSE computer, you will have to send to COMP1011_Tutor-list@cse.unsw.edu.au);
  • To email everybody on the teaching side (ie. the lecturers, the admin and the tutors) send to COMP1011_Teacher-list;
  • to email all students currently in COMP1011, send the email to the address COMP1011_Student-list

So this is how I email everyone in a Course?

Not really. The set of students that are members of an UDB account class (eg: COMP1011_Student) is not necessarily the same as the set of students who are currently enrolled in that course. This is because students may be members of the UDB class for longer than they are officially (or technically) enrolled in the associated course. (As of 2014s2 the delay is eight weeks from the end of session.) For example, if you email COMP1011-list@cse at the start of session 2, this will email:
  • Student who were enrolled at the end of session 1
  • Currently enrolled (session 2) students
  • Current teaching staff
  • Lecturers and Supervisors from the previous session
This is done to allow students to access their account (and some classes) both before the start of the session, and after the end of the session. It means that setting supplementary exams doesn't require reinstating students in the course class.

Restrictions on virtual mlalias lists.

  • By default, non-CSE accounts, and CSE undergraduate students are not able to send email to course mailing lists. This can be changed upon request from the LiC. This is a security feature intended to reduce spam.
  • Because these lists aren't manually constructed, they can't be manually modified. The only way to add/remove somebody from a virtual alias is to add/remove their account to/from the relevant UDB class. This will usually require SS assistance.
  • These virtual mail aliases are used extensively within CSE to construct mailing lists that go to research groups or the School. They can also be used to construct mailing lists based upon group membership, but it is slightly trickier to get the authorised posters correct.

Emailing UDB class intersections

A special form of virtual alias can be used to email people in one class who are also in another (ie. the intersection of the classes). The general form is: <class1>+<class2>-list For example, mlalias 3978+comp3-list for all students enrolled in the 3978 program doing third year courses.

Emailing members of a UDB class from past sessions

All the virtual aliases described above use the current contents of the UDB to determine class membership. However, if you want to send email to past members of a UDB class, then you will need to use a virtual address that refers to historical dumps of the UDB database that have been made at the end of each session since session 1 of 2001. These virtual addresses are of the form: ${UDBCLASS}-list-${year}${session}. ie: Appending the year and session (eg: -03s2 or -2002s1) to the end of the <UDBclass>-list address, will get all users who were previously members of that UDBclass at the end of that session. For example, the address: COMP1021_Tutor-list-03s2 will map to all users who were members of COMP1021_Tutor at the end of session 2 of 2003.
Last edited by robertd 10/08/2016

Tags for this page:

alias, email, lists, mlalias, virtual