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E-mail lists: Lurk, Speak up, Jump right in
By smbea (mabelle@msc.net.ph)

Chatting isn't the only way you can meet and talk to people. You can use your email client as a tool for discussion and meeting people with diverse backgrounds and beliefs. You can also be able to reach and communicate with people who have the same interests or concerns as you. All through email. Such a forum for discussion is called an electronic discussion list or simply mailing list.

An electronic discussion list is a specialized system through which people conduct discussions and exchange messages with each other on a topic of common interest. These lists resemble bulletin boards but these come in the form of email. To be able to participate in a mailing list, you will have to join that list first by subscribing to that list. By subscribing, you have to send an email to the list owner or the list server by either placing a subscribe <list name> <first name> <last name> on the body of the message; or by sending a blank email to the list server. Unless you join a list, whatever you send to that list will be ignored and will bounce back.

Why join a list? Membership in a mailing list which shares your interest may be useful for obtaining needed information quickly. Being on a list enables you to share ideas, get help, and network with colleagues. If you are new to computers, the PC-Newbie mailing list is an excellent mailing list for you. You can send an email to majordomo@lists.sonic.net with the command subscribe pc- newbie in the body of the message. Here, everything from icons to booting up problems to soundcard and printer installation to drivers are exchanged. All you have to do is ask and tell the people on the list what your problem is and you'll get replies right away.

Another reason for joining mailing lists is that it can be a good place to collaborate on projects. Two such mailing lists in the Philippines is the Community mailing list and the Linux99 mailing list. The first one is a mailing list for people involved with the creation of a Philippine community engine Web site as well as the Web site commemorating the fifth year anniversary of Internet in the country. Anybody who has an idea and would like to participate could join in the list by sending an email to the list owner, Miguel Paraz, at map@iphil.net. The Linux99 mailing list, on the other hand, is a mailing list for people who are into Linux. Currently, these people are preparing for the Linux Open Source Conference to be held this coming June. If you are a linux buff, you can join the list by sending an email to Majordomo@lists.iphil.net with the command subscribe linux99 in the body of your message.

Lists are often moderated, meaning there are list moderators who first check the contents of the email that will be sent out to the rest of the group. Moderators often have a certain set of rules that they send out to people who subscribe to their lists. This often prevents flames and heated arguments within a particular list. They also maintain the right to remove a person from their list if the person ignores or does not follow the list rules.

Other lists are restricted, which means that only certain individuals can join the list and every subscription request will have to be approved by the list owner or moderator first. An example of a restricted list would be a mailing list strictly for Russians.

Lists could also be unmoderated. There are no moderators and flaming is a free-for-all kind of thing. You could spend your time here fighting and exchanging hot words with the others and you won't be booted out. Unmoderated lists are usually not for the faint-at-heart, since no one really moderates what goes on in the list and the only option for those who can't stand flamings is to unsubscribe to that list.

There are also lists that are strictly for announcements. Subscribers cannot send to that list, rather only the list owner could send announcements. An example of this kind of list is the Original Philippine News List (Balita-L) where subscribers get news feeds about what's happening in the Philippines.

There are many levels of mailing list participation. Some subscribers are very active. They frequently post messages and reply to the messages of others. Other subscribers are "lurkers". They read messages, are well informed about the issues of the mailing list they're on, and may even benefit professionally from their subscription, but they do not post messages or reply to messages. Most of us are somewhere in between.

Your level of participation is up to you. However, it's a good idea if you spend some time lurking before you post a message to the entire group. That way, you'll gain an understanding of the current issues under discussion, as well as the unique "netiquette" of your particular mailing list.

Within a day or two after joining a mailing list, you will start getting emails from the people in that mailing list. Most mailing lists are active so don't be surprised if you get more than 50 emails in just one day. Because of this, it's a good idea if you join mailing lists sparingly. Join only those which really interest you. Also, you should also check your email regularly so you don't overstuff your mailbox

In the past, LISTSERV was the most popular form of discussion list. Thousands of mailing lists are run through LISTSERV. Here, subscribers can send mail to this special program to be automatically distributed by LISTSERV to each person on the list. This is certainly a convenient way to communicate without human intervention.

Mailing lists allow many types of communication to occur in every direction. Imagine one thousand people signed up in a list. Every opinion is read and shared by everyone. Every person in that list who has an opinion on the current topic could send in his or her opinion to the list. The result would be a dynamic exchange of information and opinions. And they all didn't have to be in the same room at the same time to be able to communicate!

To find a particular list that interests you, you can send an email to listserv@vm1.nodak.edu with LIST GLOBAL <Your Interest> in the body of the message. This usually only takes a little under two minutes. Once you have a list of related lists of your interests, you only have to follow the instructions on how to subscribe to that list.

Aside from LISTSERV, web-based mailing lists are also available. Such Web-based mailing lists are ONELIST and e-Groups. Just like Web-base e-mail services, these Web-based mailing lists are free services. To find other discussion groups, you can also go to the Liszt Directory of E-Mail Discussion Groups, NeoSoft Publicly Available Mailing Lists or to the TILE.NET Reference to Internet Discussion Groups.

Click here for a run-down of Filipino mailing lists you might wanna try out for starters.

 


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