Some Basic Information About E-mail Lists

email list

E-mail discussion forums or "lists" make it possible to communicate easily with other people who share your interests. You do this by joining or "subscribing" to an e-mail list. To join, you send a subscription request via e-mail to the list's administrative address. (Often, the administrative address begins with LISTSERV@ or LISTPROC@ or MAJORDOMO@ or {listname}-SUBSCRIBE.) Once you join, whenever anyone sends a message to the list, you'll automatically receive a copy. And if you send a message to the list or reply to a message you get from the list, usually your message will be sent to everyone else on the mailing list as well. It's a wonderful way to exchange information quickly with lots of other people who share your interests.

Most email lists these days are managed with automated software. To subscribe to a list with a LISTSERV@ or LISTPROC@ administrative address, send the following e-mail message to that address: SUBSCRIBE {listname} {Your Name}, where {listname} is the name of the list and {Your Name} is your real name, not your e-mail username. E.g., SUBSCRIBE FEMINISTSF Nancy Smith. For lists with a MAJORDOMO@ or other administrative address, follow the instructions provided. (NOTE: Always put your subscription request in the body of the email message, not in the Subject header, unless instructed otherwise.) You can sometimes get more information about a list by sending the command INFO [listname] (e.g., INFO FEMINISTSF) to the address given for subscribing. Helpful information for beginners can be found at the LearnTheNet site. Also useful is Jim Milles's Discussion Lists: Mailing List Manager Commands, which covers common features of five listserving software programs, including the three mentioned above. If you encounter problems sending e-mail to a list, ask your service provider's computer support staff for help.

There are now many thousands of lists on topics ranging from Accounting to Zoology. Some lists cater to people in a particular city or region or who belong to a specific organization; others welcome members from all over the world.

If you're very new to e-mail lists and would like some more basic information, try Walt Howe's E-mail Discussion List Questions and/or IFLANET's Internet Mailing Lists Guides and Resources.

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