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 members.

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 message:
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.

How do I unsubscribe?

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 message:
SIGNOFF name-of-the-list

For some more information, check out Tim Broeker's 'Guide to Internet Mailing Lists'.