University of Wisconsin–Madison

Improving the WiscList Service

The campus WiscList email distribution service has experienced several periods of significant delay at various times in the past several weeks. The most recent slowdown occurred when many departments used it to notify their staff of the impending campus closing due to cold weather.

The service team met immediately after the closing to hear and consider list owner experiences. This has led to several changes to WiscList, as well as longer-term plans to improve communications channels.

For example, the team has tested the hardware and database that WiscList uses. While there are no concerns with the hardware, the database presents several issues. A memory upgrade was completed that has so far not resulted in improved performance. The service team anticipates potential performance improvements from an impending database upgrade. They are also investigating other types of queries that are causing database performance issues.  

The de-duplication function delays WiscList message delivery, particularly during times of high traffic. This feature checks for and eliminates duplicate mailings to recipients who receive the same mailing to multiple lists in a 24-hour period. It was recently disabled for all WiscLists but the List Library, with some measurable but inconsistent improvements.

Team members continue to meet with list users from across campus to more fully understand their requirements for urgent communications. Based on these requirements, they are developing alternative urgent communication strategies for specific lists. The long-term strategy is to replace the underlying software that drives WiscList. The four-step process has begun by gathering requirements from various campus groups regarding their needs and use cases for list communications. The team will then consolidate and validate these requirements with campus stakeholders and other interested parties. The last steps are to map the requirements to current communication packages owned by campus, and then to explore options to purchase software to meet requirements and address any gaps.

We plan to have a long-term strategy to share with the campus at the end of March. In the meantime, please email if you have questions or want to provide input.