by Art Edelstein
I've long believed that one of the best things about the Internet is its communications possibilities.
The medium is perfect for communicating over long distances very inexpensively. You can send a message to someone any time of day, and they can respond similarly. The cost is less than pennies, and the time it takes for the message to arrive can be measured in minutes, at most. The explosion in e-mail messages shows this to be true. With e-mail growing we now have a number of excellent software programs that deliver it.
Beyond personal e-mail, perhaps a message to a child in school in Colorado, or a business message across the country, there is another rapidly growing use of e-mail, the email list, or mail lists.
Mail lists, are similar in many ways to Newsgroups. Newsgroups are Internet areas where people of like interest gather. They operate like bulletin boards, where electronic messages are posted for the general public to read, and anyone can respond. When I started internetting there were a few thousand such newsgroups. Today there are perhaps 25,000!!!
An offshoot of sorts is the mail list. While people of similar interest gather here, it is not for public viewing, only those subscribed to the group get the messages. Messages arrive via e-mail and you respond via e-mail. You don't even need to have a web browser if all you do is email lists. But you do need Internet e-mail.
Anyone can subscribe to any mail list. Beyond just an interest in the topic, they can be valuable sources of information for professionals and students. Many connections can be made for beyond the list communications.
I've become a mail list junky of late. I belong to four mail lists. Every morning I go online, open my e-mail program, and download messages. Often my four lists produce over 100 messages. Yes, a lot to read, but many I simply delete by reading the subject line. I only read what interests me.
Why so many groups? I play several musical instruments and have joined those lists where these instruments are discussed. Also, I'm doing family genealogy and am on a group with that interest. While not every message I download is a gem, many are. I've learned lots, made several cyber buddies this way, and feel very connected to my interests.
Joining a mail list is not difficult. There are many, many lists and there is a very simple way to find them. Set your Web browser to: http://www.nova.edu/Inter-Links/listserv.html the mother of all mail lists. Here you will find several search engines for mail lists. If you know the name of one you can use that term, but if you don't you can search by subject. I used the search term "psychology" and received 40 potential lists (the default number.) Among the psychology mail lists are: AFFECTIVE-DISORDERS, PSYCHNURSES, PSYCHIATRIC-SOCIAL-WORKERS, and PSYCHIATRY-RESOURCES. Next I searched under "music" and received: MELODIC-ROCK-DIGEST, BLUES, COUNTRY-MUSIC, and lots more. Here's the listing under one list: "List Name 78-L@CORNELLC.CIT.CORNELL.EDU Subscription Address: LISTSERV@CORNELL.EDU Owner: Doug Elliot, email@example.com Description: 78-L is a discussion group devoted to music and recordings of the pre-LP era, such as early jazz and blues, big bands, show music, vaudeville, classical, as well as spoken word and other historical recordings. We also welcome discussion of recording history, discography, the collectors' market, and vintage phonographs. The group is not slanted toward any particular type of music or collector interest. The common element is that what we listen to was recorded at (or near) 78 rpm.
Here's information on Subscribing, Unsubscribing, and Posting to mail lists once you're found one of interest.
Subscribing: To subscribe to a list, send an e-mail message to the listserv address with one line in the body of the letter: SUB listname yourname where listname is the name of the list, and yourname is your full name (e.g. sub SAS-L John Smith).
Unsubscribing: To have your name removed from a listserv, send an e-mail message to the listserv address with one line in the body of the letter: SIGNOFF listname where listname is the name of the list (e.g. signoff SAS-L).
Posting: If you have an article (comments, questions, etc.) that you wish to distribute to all members of a list, send it as e-mail to the list address for that list. Please note that the list address is different from the listserv address.
A NOTE TO READERS: Recently I asked you to send me a list of two or three favorite web sites and why you like them. Well response is slow, we need several more to do a column of readers' favorites. Send your response to: firstname.lastname@example.org.