Mailing Lists - Listservs - E'mail Forums

Mailing lists (listservs) are forums where people join into conversations about topics that interest them. If you would like to discuss sports, business, health, oddball topics just to name a few broad lists there are people out there to talk with. If you are using electronic mail (e-mail) already, then your half way there. Mailing lists are completely e-mail based.

Finding a mailing list that appeals to you is as simple as searching through a Mailing List Directory. Search for a topic that interests you through the various directories listed below. Once you have found an interesting topic, follow the specific instructions to join the list.

Joining a mailing list is similar to subscribing to a magazine subscription. You send your subscription information to an automated responder (similar to mailing your address to the processing office). Once your information or "subscribe" message is received, the responder will reply with a Welcome message. The subscription message you send should look similar to the one below.

E'mail header Your address may start with majordomo, listproc, listserv, or mailbase, depending on the software used by the server.
< ---
The placements will stay the same, but the names of the group and the e'mail addresses will change.
Do not send or unsubscribe messages to the entire group! Always save the original Welcome message because it includes the instructions.
You should get a reply within a day. Depending on the group the reply will either ask for verification that you want to join and/or will be the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Print out the FAQ and save it. That information will tell you how to send posts to the group, what's appropriate and what is not (the rules), and how to unsubscribe. Included in that first e'mail you receive will be the list owner's e'mail address. When all else fails you can always write the list owner to ask for assistance. Be sure to keep your message brief and clear.

Sample Welcome/FAQ message

If this is your first List you may want to lurk for a while. Lurking is observing without participating in the conversation. This is important, so that you may learn who the main participators are, if the group is something that interests you, and the overall tone of the group.
Types of Lists
Membership Qualifications - Refers to who can join into the conversation.

Open - This is the most common of mailing lists. Anyone can join, participate, and call themselves a member. Final authority is given to the owner of the list, and they can remove you at will.
Closed - This list is open only to private members. You have to be approved by the list owner, who will more than likely verify your credentials, and advertise your joining (or seek approval from) the other members of the list.

Participation Qualifications - Refers to what you can converse about.

Moderated - Every message that is posted to the mailing list is verified by the owner of the list for it's appropriateness to keeping to the topic of the list.

Un-moderated - The majority of mailing lists are un-moderated. Participants are expected to adhere to the guidelines sent to them when they first joined. If they get noticeably out of line by sending inappropriate messages to the list (Spam - advertisement or Flames - derogatory messages about another member or group) then the list owner is expected to take action.
Don't be surprised if you do not receive any posts (e-mails) for a while. Some groups become active for short periods of time, and then become very quite.
Further Information
WebNovice Online -

Liszt Introduction to New Mailing Lists Users -

The Reporter's Guide to Internet Mailing Lists -

List Directory

The Site

The Bottom Line

CataList, the Catalog of Listserv Lists

A searchable list of more than 10,000 servers worldwide, all running on L-Soft's Listserv software. Country-specific sites and lists with more than 10,000 subscribers are useful filters. Search for a list based on topic, host site, host country, and number of subscribers.

Liszt Directory of E-Mail Discussion Groups

Hands down, the most comprehensive list of lists on the Net. Choose from over 2,100 selected mailing lists in 15 categories, or search the entire database of more than 67,000 entries. Liszt includes a handy Yahoo-like index, dubbed Liszt Select. Great FAQ, too.

Netscape In-Box Direct

Choose from dozens of e-mail-based newsletters, including offers from the New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News, and ZDNet's incomparable AnchorDesk. In-Box Direct content is more than simple HTML and includes graphics, video, audio, Java applets, and live hyperlinks--all of which work from your e-mail in-box. Cool.

Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists

Updated monthly and oriented toward Usenet resources, this collection contains nearly 2,000 entries, searchable by subject or in an A-to-Z list. Also available via FTP at If you're searching for a university- sponsored or related list, there's a good chance you'll find it here.
Yahoo's List of Mailing Lists

Continually updated links to mailing-list resources, including FAQs, lists of lists, and software vendors. Caution: Many of the links are outdated or not of general interest, but if you haven't had much luck using the other resources listed here, you might find it using Yahoo's service.

* PC Computing Magazine (311, April 1997) or


Created and Copyrighted © by Cynthia Hetherington, MLS
Sunday, August 16, 1998
Thursday, December 10, 1998 updated