Communications for Justice - justcomm.org

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FAQ for all Justcomm Lists mostly on using lists and policies (including Cohousing-L)                 Fred's DTV notes
Cohousing-L specific (additional) FAQs                                                                                               N Mpls Transit
About Communications for Justice
What is a Listserv?
List of public lists organized by Justcomm.org
CorePlusList organizational structure
Less can be more ... the 'too much email' problem
ListPlusWeb Internet presence approach
List hosting services with Justcomm      No cost, no ads, (for accepted groups).
ISP with listserv hosting recommendation
Effective email use
Yahoo Groups critique
Web page template to facilitate repeated visits to selected web sites: Visits Visits (old)
Don't want to change addresses again? Get a permanent email address. Check out: E-mail Forwarding Aliases
Online Viewer for PDF, PostScript and MSWord files without downloading
I now recommned s.coop Making a shorter link for web references for use in email etc.

Communications for Justice (Justcomm) is a small unincorporated nonprofit organization based physically in Minnesota, USA and on the Internet that facilitates communications to promote justice. Justcomm's initial focus is the use of listserv's ( Mailing Lists ) to facilitate communications for justice. Specifically, thru listserv management, hosting, and passing on these skills. Good "lists" these days have a web component too and making the best use of both to promote justice is Justcomm's goal. Services are free to approved groups.

Justice

Justcomm has a very broad interpretation of the term justice. We believe ALL people have the right to reach their potential, be healthy, and a part of loving families. Families should be part of supportive and cooperative communities. People should live in healthy and sustainable environments with some beauty. The practical aspect of justice is economic justice. We believe that we can not achieve true justice until racial justice is achieved. Gender justice is also a part of our vision of justice. We recognize that competition is a powerful motivating force but that it must be constrained by democratic forces to promote the common good. Thru democratic governmental, political, non-governmental and faith organizations are the way we work toward justice. (working draft statement 2/17/04)

What is a Listserv?

An Internet email "listserv" aka "mailing list" or "egroup" is a discussion or announcement facility that delivers messages by email to groups of people. While listservs have various limitations, they have the great advantage of delivering information to people who use email regularly so that it comes to their attention promptly. (Rather than expecting people to "go" somewhere online (web site or newsgroup) periodically which requires much more of the participant.) Some very active discussions amongst highly motivated participants may be better served by web based discussion systems. I look forward to systems that allow participation either way (at the the option of the participant) without compromising the listserv features. Even very active discussions should have an email option including an "index" or "summary" mode that sends a short email that summarizes activity and reminds the subscriber to "go" browse the discussion. See my experiment Cohousing-L summary mode list and related FAQ item

Listservs with well organized, searchable archives (and summary mode) have some of the advantages of web based systems. Posting for non individual message mode subscribers does tend to be awkward (requires more effort to handle subject line and quoting). For more information see: About mailing lists (listserv's)

CorePlusList

Another focus of Justcomm is a model of small organization ("CorePlusList") which assumes a core group of people who are active in the organization but that the organization has a much larger, usually inactive group of supporters. A low frequency, low volume announcement list with optimally edited information keeps the supporters "in touch" and available so that when the organization needs exceptional support from them it can be efficiently done. The classic case would be the Neighborhood Peace organization which has a small core but has much of the neighborhood on the mailing list.

Less can be more ... the 'too much email' problem

The "low frequency, low volume ... with optimally edited information" ('optimal volume') aspect of a good announcement system stated above is very important. Without this many people would not have time or willingness to get ANY mailings. Another key aspect is the wisdom to know when it is appropriate to call for exceptional support. Assuring that mailings have optimal volume is a prime responsibility of the core group so as to allow busy people to stay in touch. The optimal volume of an announcement list is relative. It depends on the topic and how that topic ranks in constituent's priorities and the quality and nature of the information. Tho mailing lists accommodate a wide range of mail frequency, there is a minimum below which the list of addresses starts to become obsolete. Like a paper mailing list, only thru use do address changes get identified, updated or removed. A few mailings per year is a minimum.

ListPlusWeb

Justcomm is also developing a listserv/web site model ("ListPlusWeb" model) that makes optimal use of BOTH of the main parts of the Internet (email and the web) for small organizations. The goal is to distribute news of the organization and keep current information on the web site AND require minimal effort. Essentially the model makes the archives of the group's mailing list(s) a prominent, easy to find part of the group's web site. The main effort required is composing and sending "low frequency, low volume optimally edited information" by email to the listserv. Organizations can use Justcomm services without the implementing ListPlusWeb, but we encourage it's consideration. As an example see Hopework.org - a small Minnesota Folk School

Note that the notion of CorePlusList and ListPlusWeb work nicely together but how they apply to a specific organization varies.

List hosting services

Justcomm hosts lists for approved lists that meet our broad goals without charge out of our own accounts (at domains justcomm.org and cohousing.org). Some organizations choose to have their own domain and account. For details about having a list hosted at Justcomm.org , email Fred. Justcomm uses the Mailman listserv software to host mailing lists. Mailman is "open source" (like Linux) and currently under active further development tho version 2.16 is already very capable. For details about Mailman see: Mailman website.

Public lists organized by Justcomm.org

 List name        /= discussion or announcement
 Birdflu         d bird flu pandemic         Info page   Archives
 Cohousing-L     d Collaborative housing     Info Page   Archives  Web site: www.cohousing.org
 C-L-sum         a Weekly Cohousing-L summaryInfo Page   Archives  Web site: http://L.cohousing.org/c-l-sum.htm
 Muusja          a Metro UU Social Justice   Info Page   Archives  Web site: www.muusja.org
 Ecominds-a      a  " " ecology issues       Info page   Archives  Web site: www.muusja.org/ecominds
 FUSsa-talk      d First UU Social Action    Info Page   Archives  Web site: www.muusja.org/FUSsa
 Hopework-L      a Folk School               Info Page   Archives  Web site: www.hopework.org
 Nmplspax-a      a N Mpls Peace              Info Page   Archives  Web site: www.justcomm.org/nmplspax
 NMplsTransit    d N Mpls Transit            Info Page   Archives  Web site: www.justcomm.org/nmplstransit
 Pax-salon       a St Paul Peace Salon       Info Page   Archives  Web site: www.justcomm.org/pax-salon
 Mn-prog-events  a Progressive announcements Info Page   Archives  Web site: www.justcomm.org/mn-prog-events
 Wiki-L          d Coho wiki support         Info Page   Archives  Web site: http://wiki.cohousing.org/

ISP with listserv hosting recommendation

Tigertech.net is the ISP I highly recommend.

The Mailman listserv system that Justcomm uses has custom installed Mhonarc web archives and the Namazu search tool. It runs at Tigertech.net. To experience searchable archives of this facility, try browsing and searching the 25,000+ messages of the Cohousing-L archives or one of the other Justcomm lists (below).

If your organization needs an ISP (not just a list) I highly recommend Tigertech, I've never experienced such consistently prompt, helpful support (by email) anywhere else. My experience has been that they usually beat their prediction of a response within 2 hours on weekdays and 8 hours on weekends. Usually there is a comprehensible, useful reply the next time I check my mail. But Tigertech seems to be so well designed that unless you need something special it just runs well. I particularly like the web based administration facilities that allow me to do many functions that I dreaded waiting on the phone to get done by other ISPs. This includes creating Mailman lists (the Mailman package as installed other places rarely includes this yet unless you have Mailman admin (shell) access). Tigertech's basic $75/year package includes web pages, email forwarding aliases, popmail boxes, Mailman listservs among other things. Note that the Tigertech Web Hosting package does not provide dialup or other access to the net. Power for Tigertech is Environmentally friendly, carbon neutral

I am a bit embarrassed to be so effusive about Tigertech ( read my / Justcomm's reservations about "competition" in the Justice section - pretty strong words for a Scandinavian :) But I am just so impressed with Tigertech. And they seem like nice folks. They declined to let me invest in Tigertech. Tigertech does have a very strict policy to prevent Spam from being sent thru it's servers. These policies have seemed overly strict to me -- essentially they require a verifiable electronic affirmative indication of desire to subscribe. So for example addresses from a paper signup list do not suffice these people need to be "invited" by special email and respond and somehow typically a significant number of people fail to respond.

Tigertech does have a referral program that gives Justcomm (cohousing-L) a credit (typically $25 over a year) if you become a Tigertech customer after having used the following link to get more information about Tigertech.net              Back up to info about Communications for Justice

Effective email use

A carefully crafted email message communicates much more effectively than a hastily composed message. This is particularly true when communicating with multiple people. If one expects recipients to take time to read one's email, one should be prepared to take a bit of time in composing it.

Rule one is related to the 'too much email problem' discussed above. Delete quoted material from replies that is not needed. Delete headings and verbage of forwarded messages that distract from what you are trying to communicate.

Rule two. Craft the subject line carefully. Most people's email software displays the subject line much more often and more prominently than the body of the message. If the subject line conveys some notion of the contents of the body, recipients are much more likely to read the body of the message. The subject line is like a property in a very desirable location, location, location. Of course the more well written your message the better. And remember context and the recipient's point of view. If you assume things that the recipient is unaware of your chances of communicating clearly are much reduced. Once in a while I get a message that leaves a lot unsaid and I decide to treat it as a puzzle and try to figure out what they had in mind with the result that I spend much more time on the message than I would otherwise. But dont't count on this happening.

Critique of Yahoo Groups

Yahoo Groups is a free advertizing supported listserv service. Many organizations use Yahoo Groups. Yahoo Groups include other features such as (1) Info page (my term), 2) searchable archives, 3) calendar, 4) photo storage and 5) file storage. However, few groups use anything but the listserv features.

Anyone can (and does :) start a Yahoo Group at no charge and without requesting permission. Just click a link and follow directions. This is Yahoo Groups most attractive feature.

The Subscribers "My Groups" page is helpful to people who subscribe to multiple Yahoo groups.

The advertising is the biggest disadvantage in my opinion. The ads at the bottom of email messages distributed are easy to ignore. The ads in the archives are more annoying - particularly when you click on a message and get just an ad and a link to the message. (1/08: I have not seen this in a while; have they stopped doing this? I suspect that if they get enough complaints they back away from annoying new ways to deliver ads like when...) On at least one occasion Yahoo has tried to move ads to the top of email messages but has recinded this after a huge outcry in opposition.

List management problems. After starting a list there are ongoing tasks. Yahoo does not offer much support to list managers. In my experience, requests for assistance go unanswered. There are mutual support listserv's but they don't tend to be too helpful. Most Yahoo group list managers are not too experienced - people with more listserv experience often use other listserv's.

One specific problem is that Yahoo Groups does not notify the list manager by email when a post to a list is "rejected" which can happen for a variety of reasons.

Months can go by before a manager becomes aware of a rejected message that should have been distributed. Most managers do not routinely consult the web page ( >Management >Message Posts). This page lists rejects (mixed in with successful posts). It would be a big nuisance to visit this web page (for each list) in case there is something that needs attention. In addition, there is no way to review rejects to see if they should be distributed. But then there is no easy way to distribute wrongly rejected posts anyway. Tho one could advise the poster whose message was rejected of the reason for the rejection or to resend the message.

Dealing with rejects can be one of the most frequent list management tasks, tho it depends on on the nature of the list and subscribers. I suppose in a sense Yahoogroups makes this task easier but making it such that most managers don't do it for a Yahoogroup :)   For more about rejects, see What's a "rejected" posting ?

Mailman (the listserv used by Justcomm) offers much better facilities and notices for rejects.

For more information about Justcomm, send email to Fred H Olson: fholson [at] cohousing.org Fred's link page