Q. WHAT IS A MAILING LIST?
A. A mailing list (or email list or simply "list") is email that is shared between subscribers to a list that is devoted to a particular topic or interest. It might be a group of professionals talking about technical matters or people talking about a hobby or a lifestyle or just people chatting about whatever they want to talk about.
Q. HOW IS THIS DONE?
A. When you sign up or subscribe to a list, you are given an email address for sending mail. By sending a message to that address, it is distributed to all subscribers or members by software at the other end. You will get whatever anyone sends to the list. Then if you want to reply or respond to it, you do it just like regular email. You hit REPLY and it will go back to the list. The software at the other end does the distribution for you. It is all automatic.
Q. CAN I EMAIL ONLY ONE PERSON ON THE LIST?
A. Just about every list will include the email address of the sender but some lists require that you manually delete the to-the-list address and insert the person's email address if you want to send it just to them. Others give you the option. It depends on the list and the program you are running. Sending something to the entire list when you meant it as private is one of the harsh lessons of this technology. It has probably happened to everyone.
Q. CAN I KNOW WHO ELSE IS ON THE LIST?
A. Sometimes. Some lists might give you access to the subscriber list but most don't. It is up to the moderator or owner of the list. Otherwise, the only way to tell is to see who sends messages to the list.
Q. HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ON A LIST?
A. Some have only a few people, such as a few close friends who like to chit-chat, or the list may have over a thousand subscribers. Some are "public," meaning that the list can be found via Web sites and people can join merely by sending a request that is handled by the computer. Other lists are private and are known only to the subscribers, for example, a family with relatives around the world might all keep in touch through a mailing list. Everyone gets the same news.
Q. CAN I LEARN HOW MANY ARE ON THE LIST?
A. That is usually pretty easy. Some Web sites that list lists will give the number of current subscribers. The ACOR lists are a good example. Otherwise you can always ask the owner of the list. You will be given someone's email address for that.
Q. HOW DOES ONE FIND A LIST TO JOIN?
A. There are "lists of lists" or Web sites where one can look up a topic of interest and sign up right there. (Start with CataList.)Others have to be chased down via the Web site or group or person that owns the list. A good start is to go to Google and put in your topic with the words MAILING LIST.
Q. IS IT DIFFICULT TO JOIN A LIST?
A. Usually not. There are different methods but just try to follow the instructions as to where you send your message, what you put in the SUBJECT line or maybe in the TEXT/BODY and it should work.
Q. WHAT IS A MODERATED LIST?
A. This means there is someone who approves each message before it is forwarded to the list. This can sometimes slow down distribution because moderators don't work 24/7/365. But some moderated lists will give you an automated response to tell you that your message has been received, which is a nice courtesy.
Q. ISN'T A MODERATED LIST CENSORSHIP?
A. Some moderators merely watch that the post is relevant ("on topic") or not merely for advertising or if it is legally questionable, e.g., potentially libelous. Some moderators may kick you off the list if they don't like what you write. So, yes, there can be censorship. But some subscribers like it because it keeps the list focused. Others hate it and leave. Such is life with the lists.
Q. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I JOIN A LIST?
A. Usually you will get a little "welcome" note that is generated by the software. It will tell you how to leave the list (unsubscribe) or maybe the list offers a digest where all of the day's messages are in one long email (some people prefer that) and other features. From that point on, the list mail will start coming to your email in basket.
Q. DO THE OTHERS KNOW I'VE SUBSCRIBED?
A. No, that is rare. Usually only the owner/moderator knows, until you post. Until then, you are known as a "lurker," which is Net-slang for someone who reads but does not post.
Q. SO I'VE JOINED LIST. NOW WHAT?
A. It is suggested that you spend awhile reading the emails to get an idea what is happening. It is considered quite rude to join and start posting questions, for example. But it is okay to post something (if you want) that introduces yourself and why you've joined the list. Meanwhile, spend time reading and learning how the list works. Each is different and they go through phases. A list can go quiet for a week and then flare into activity, for example.
Q. IF I POST TO THE LIST, IS IT PRIVATE?
A. First, it goes to whoever subscribes and you can't control who is getting it. By subscribing, you agree it can go to them. Second, some lists archive their messages and these can be found on the Web. So if you are concerned about privacy, find if there is an archive before posting. We've tried to indicate on the P5 List of Lists which have archives but double check if you are concerned.
Q. CAN I JOIN A LIST ANONYMOUSLY?
A. Some accounts let you change names, e.g., AOL. If not, go get another account under another name with one of the free email services such as Yahoo or HotMail. No, this is not illegal. It is done all the time by people who want anonymity. TIP: When you do it, send some email to your regular account from the new account to see what it looks like, so you didn't make a mistake. If you did, maybe you can go back and change it. If not, go get another account and start over. The down side is that your mail is now in two locations but it might be worth the effort if you want the anonymity.
Q. IS IT DIFFICULT TO LEAVE A LIST?
A. Usually not. Just be sure to keep the instructions that are sent you when you join. It will tell you what command to send to unsubscribe. It is handy to just create a folder called LISTS and toss these into it, as you join them. Even if you unsubscribe, they are handy to keep around in case you want to return.
Q. WHAT IS A MESSAGE BOARD?
A. Messages to subscribers appear at a Web site and you can go to read them. They don't come to your mailbox. Otherwise, the protocols are pretty much the same.
Q. WHAT IS A NEWS GROUP?
A. A news group is part of the Usenet which was around long before the Internet became a fad. There are tens of thousands of news groups. The best thing is to see if your Internet provider offers Usenet, which is different than the Web. If so, there is usually a way to search Usenet by topic to find if there are any groups of interest. But be forewarned: Posting to a Usenet group can make you the target of a lot of junk mail, called "spam," not to mention hate mail. Usenet should be posted to only with experience and caution.
Q. WHAT IS A CHATTING?
A. This is when messages are sent live from one computer to another. Again, this takes some experience and caution. And remember, these conversations can be archived by anyone who is there.
Q. WHAT IF I HAVE ANOTHER QUESTION?
A. Send it to me and I'll see if I can help: firstname.lastname@example.org .