Listservs - Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Listserv?
Often called Mailing Lists, Lisitservs are discussion groups in which
members communicate with each other via e-mail. When a user
subscribes to a listserv, they join an electronic mailing list in
which every submission sent to the list is forwarded to all other
What is the difference between Listservs and Newsgroups?
Most users being introduced to listservs tend to confuse them with
newsgroups. The main difference is that newsgroups store their messages in a
central locaton where the user can visit as they please. With
listservs, however, all postings are immediately sent directly to you
via e-mail. This is a double-edged sword in that while you do not
have to go through the trouble of visiting the site of the newsgroup,
you also can get bombarded by a tremendous number of messages many of
which may not be pertinent to your interests or needs.
What are the advantages of mailing lists?
The main advantage to mailing lists is that just about anyone can set
one up. While the procedure is somewhat challenging technically, it
does not require the creator of the list to justify the need for its
existence to the internet community. As a result, there are mailing
lists for many highly esoteric subjects which would probably not merit
their own internet newsgroups. In other words, there is a reasonably
good chance that someone somewhere is running a mialing list that is
related to your interests.
How does it work?
All administrative functions for the listserv are carried out by a
list server. The list server processes requests for individuals who
wish to be added or removed from the list as well as requests for various
documents and archived materials. When a message is posted to the
group, it is first sent to the list server. It is the list server
that then forwards the message via e-mail to all subscribed members.
How do I subscribe to a list?
To subscribe to a list, send a message to the listserv address and add
the following line in the body (not in the 'Subject' line) of your
SUB name-of-the-list your-name
Where 'your-name' means your full name--not your e-mail name.
How can I tell if I've subscribed?
When you subscribe to a list, your name and e-mail address are added
to the list server. Shortly thereafter you will receive a standard
letter of welcome confirming your subscription to the list and telling
you a little bit about it. From that time forward, all messages sent
to the list will also get sent to your mailbox. You are not required
to send any messages to the list although you are welcome to do so.
Always bear in mind, however, that any message you send will be mailed
to every single individual on the list. For this reason, it it
usually prudent to refrain from posting to the group until you have
followed along with the postings and gotten a general feel for the
environment. Also, be aware that since the e-mail of those posting to
the list is included in the message, you always have the option of
contacting a member individually.
How do I post to a list?
If you have any comments or questions or you would simply like to join
in an ongoing discussion, you may post to the listserv at any point.
However, it is very important that you note the following:
The location to which you send messages you wish to post to the
list is different from the address you use to subscribe and
unsubscribe to the list.
The posting itself is very straight forward. You simply send the
message as you would any e-mal address, but with the name of the
list-address instead of a certain user in the 'address' field.
To unsubscribe to a list, send a message to the listserv address and
add the following line in the body (not in the 'Subject' line) of your
How do I unsubscribe?