About mailing lists

One way that discussions are conducted on the Internet is using a
"mailing list" or "listserv". Mailing lists can also be used to
distribute announcements.  A file with the addresses of "subscribers" is
maintained and messages are easily sent to all subscribers.

Most mailing lists are implemented via special software called a
"listserv" or "mailing list manager" (MLM) which is unfortunately easily
confused with the term manager for the human "owner" - see below.
Listserv's have a way to "subscribe" , "unsubscribe" and modify
subscriptions usually via a web site. (Formerly it was common to send
commands by email to a second address.)

"Listserv" is actually the name of one specific MLM but like Kleenex is
widely used as a generic term and is used to refer both to the software
and to one discussion.

Discussion lists use an email address for the "list" which has the
special effect of forwarding copies of the message to all of the
"subscribers" to the list.  Thus all participants in the discussion have
the opportunity to read messages via their mailbox and send messages to
all participants. Since messages come to their inbox they see new
discussion when they check their mail unlike other ways of conducting
discussions which require participants to 'go to the discussion'.

With announcement lists only one or a few people are allowed to post
messages. A dedicated editor is often responsible for choosing items,
editing and posting announcements.

Mailing lists have a person known as the manager (or owner, admin or
even a "list mom" ) who helps with problems (commands don't always
work...). They are happy to assist you. Some lists have a moderator who
reviews messages before they are distributed.

In my opinion, well organized mailing lists have should have Web
browsable and searchable "archives" of messages that have been
distributed. Lists should have an associated "Info page" on the web that
includes information:

o How to subscribe / unsubscribe etc.
o Introduction to the topic
o Link to the archives
o Link to archive search capability
o List rules, etiquette, idiosyncrasies etc
o Address of the list manager

Like many functions on the Internet there is no fee associated with the
vast majority of mailing lists.

In the era of SPAM, good lists also require subscribers to confirm their
commands by replying to a coded confirmation message or use a password.
This prevents for example some third party from subscribing you without
your knowledge. Another thing discussion listservs do to reduce SPAM is
to only allow subscribers to post messages.

EXAMPLE of an announcement list:
Pax Conversational Salon in St Paul, Minnesota 

EXAMPLE of a discussion list:
Cohousing-L Info Page

Some discussion mailing lists send significant numbers of messages per day.
Most such mailing lists offer an optional "digest mode" which groups multiple
messages (usually those for one day) in one email message.  This reduces
the number of messages and makes it easier to manage your mail tho it does
introduce a delay in getting mail and complicate replying. Commands are
available to change mail mode. Mailing lists often offer a "no mail mode"
which can be used to temporarily stop getting mail (for vacations for
example) or to allow one to read messages via the web archives without
getting them by email. (A no mail mode "sub" allows one to post messages.)

See also Communications for Justice, my organization that manages lists
that promote justice..

Fred H. Olson  fholson at cohousing.org    Minneapolis,MN   55411
612-588-9532  Amateur radio: WB0YQM