Information Services

Mail directory policy

This policy was agreed by the then Communications and Information Technology Committee (C&IT) after the following paper was consulted on to create a policy to clean up the Edinburgh staff email directory so that we would move to the situation where all staff had a single personal mail alias in the staff directory.


For many years there has been a confusion over the nature, function and certainly the use of the "Edinburgh email directory" (eddir).

  1. Eddir is not currently a definitive list of all university staff. It currently includes some students and other authorised users of university systems. EUCS proposes that this situation now change and that the name space become reserved for university staff, research postgraduates and other specific uses such as contact addresses for university functions.
  2. Eddir is currently used as a directory for lookup of mail addresses. It is not an authentic directory. An authentic directory is where you look up a person based on their real name and other attributes you know about them, e.g. their department or function, and the directory returns their email address. The best example of this is the standard telephone directory. You look up the person's name and distinguish between similar names by their addresses -- the end result is the telephone number for this person. However the current lookup mechanism for names will remain until such a directory service is implemented.

Use of mail names

EUCS proposes to move towards a position where the primary use of the name space is by members of staff of the university. There is currently a huge use of this name space for other purposes. These cannot just be removed at a stroke, as many people have published and are actively using these names and in many cases it would be wrong to remove them. Instead what we can do is slowly move towards the position we want. One major tool we have to help in the transition is that we can hide the display of many of the existing names from any directory listing. In this way, these existing names will still work, but as they cannot be looked up, they will slowly fall into disuse and can eventually be removed.

EUCS proposes the implementation of the following:

  • remove all junk and inappropriate names, e.g. mad.bloke@ed, archangel.gabriel@ed.
  • remove undeliverable addresses. These are names which point to delivery addresses which no longer exist.
  • remove names which do not get any incoming traffic for over one year.
  • hide names which are currently in use but are not the preferred name (see 5 below). Thus they will no longer be seen by a lookup on the directory, but will still work if someone is replying to an old email message which used them.
  • all existing undergraduate student names will be removed when they leave the university.
  • the procedure for the removal of staff names when they leave the university forms part of a general leavers policy
  • screen the addition of new entries into this name space so that they are known to be legitimate and not inappropriate.
  • wherever possible, entries for staff will be internally linked with their staff-id and postgraduates with their matriculation number in order to facilitate a future directory service.

In this way, over time, we will get to a position where only legitimate names of the preferred form will be in this name space.

As well as staff names, currently the directory is used to hold:

  • the names of mailing lists e.g. novell@ed, sysmans@ed. It is proposed that these be hidden and that they remain in the name space where they already exist. In this way it is also clear to a sender that they are sending to a list. As a side effect, it will reduce spam to these lists.
  • names of functions or University-sanctioned organisations e.g. helpdesks or societies -- postmaster@ed, WEBCTHelp@ed, eusa@ed, Film-Society@ed. It is proposed that these should remain in the name space.
  • names of postgraduates. It is proposed that research postgraduates be included in the name space, but that taught postgraduates are held in the student name space i.e. One departmental CO indicated that they would prefer no students in the namespace, but others tacitly supported the current proposal.
  • names of associates and honoraries. Given that associates and honoraries are being given universal usernames in the same name space as University staff it is proposed that they will be included in the namespace as well.

It is proposed that the form of names will be:

  • upper and lowercase letters. (case independent matching will be done, as at present)
  • numbers 0-9
  • punctuation marks. Only dot ".", apostrophe "'" as in Frank.O'Brien@ed, and hyphen "-" as in James.Ponsonby-Smith@ed.
  • dot is used as the separator for people's initials and names.
  • hyphen is used as the separator for functional names e.g. philosophy-department@ed.
  • functional names may also comprise a single word, e.g. WEBCTHelp@ed.
  • existing names which use different punctuation, including the underscore '_' character, will be converted to having dots or hyphens instead.

It is proposed that the form of the names for people should be as was agreed by CPAC in June 1993, namely "given name and surname" or "given name and initials and surname" separated by dots. The order of these items can be appropriate to the person's actual name e.g., Concern has been expressed that some staff, for example female staff, may wish to use their initials rather than firstname. The authors think that this could be accommodated as an option in extremis but prefer the option of requesting that a name be hidden from lookup. This is already an option with the current eddir system but would need to be re-implemented in a full directory service. Other feedback requested that the end-user could choose to have their universal-username (login-name) as their preferred name, as that is a deliverable address for all users with an email service entitlement.

It is proposed that new users of the name space would have just one personal name and existing users of the name space would migrate towards having one preferred name. This is to make more of the name space available to people with similar names.

It is proposed that with very few exceptions, names point only to addresses within the university

It is proposed that, when a member of staff leaves the university, a school may choose to take over ownership of their mail addresses. This could be done prior to the member of staff leaving the university or during some grace period after they have left. This grace period would need to match whatever the university decides about the deletion of the underlying actual mail delivery account. This could be decided to be 0 days, 130? days or never, but this needs to be the subject for a future consultation. If the school takes this name over, it would remain in existence for as long as the new underlying mail delivery address remains active, after which a new grace period would operate and so on. That way a school could elect to keep an name in perpetuity, the name would be hidden after redirection and it could only be redirected to within university i.e. it would not follow the ex-member of staff. If no request is made to keep an name, that name would be deleted after the given grace period.