Newsgroups are great for groups of people interested in a specific topic about which they’d like to share points of views. Trouble is, you need to use specific software to view them and the browser settings can be dicey.
The alternative is mailing lists. Here, too, people interested in a particular topic can share views, but there’s no special software needed to read messages.
On the downside, finding mailing lists about specific topics can be difficult and confusing. They aren’t presented as are newsgroups, which list topics in a neat, alphabetical format.
Mailing lists do require special server software, but you don’t have to worry about that as a subscriber. That’s the list manager’s problem.
A number of list management programs have risen to various levels of popularity. Some are free, some cost a fair amount of money. The most popular are Majordomo, LISTSERV and ListProc. My personal preference is Majordomo. It has made list setup relatively easy, and list management is a breeze.
Once the list is set up, the list manager can be as involved or uninvolved in handling messages as he or she wishes to be. That’s because mailing list software is “smart.” It can be configured to screen out e-mail from an e-mail address that isn’t authorized to send messages. It can process subscribe and unsubscribe messages, and it can send out messages in several different ways. The most often used choices are moderated, individual messages and digests.
Moderated lists require that someone, usually the list manager, review all messages before sending them out to the list’s subscribers. In the early days, mailing lists required a good deal of work to manage. The list manager moderated the list and added or canceled subscribe and unsubscribe requests individually.
Today, the subscribe and unsubscribe requests are handled by the administrative functionality of the software, so the moderator can devote himself to reviewing messages to be sent to subscribers.
Often times, you can choose whether you want messages sent by the list to come to you individually or in digest format. How many individual messages you might get in a day will determine which is better for you.
If you get them individually and they’re few in number, that probably will work. But if your e-mail in-box is stacked to the rafters by incoming messages, you’ll do well to opt for the digest option. The digest, sometimes edited by the list manager, is a conglomeration of all relevant e-mails sent to the list by subscribers. It arrives in one e-mail message. I prefer digest because I can skim through all of the messages at one time rather than plowing through an unending chain of individual messages.
At many sites today, mailing lists have become very quick and easy to subscribe to. You enter your e-mail address, click “Submit” and you’re all set, but you don’t get to choose between individual e-mails or digests, and many of the messages you receive will be ads from that site.
Regardless, mailing lists are easy to read, provide good information and if you get tired of the material, just send the list an e-mail with the word “unsubscribe” written in the Subject: box.
Article – Copyright 2000 James H. Hyde. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA