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Section 1 About Mailing Lists and LISTSERV

Section 1 About Mailing Lists and LISTSERV
The widespread use of electronic mail (email) has become an efficient, convenient, and economical way for people from all over the world to communicate. While traditional email is ideal for one-on-one interaction, email lists advance the concept a step further by disseminating a single message simultaneously to a group of people. Fast, global, and cost effective mass communication is easy with the use of email lists.
Figure 1-1 One-on-One Email Interaction
Figure 1-2 Email Lists Interaction
With email lists, companies and institutions can quickly and cost-effectively deliver thousands, even millions, of direct email messages simultaneously over the Internet. Furthermore, through database integration, messages can be personalized according to each recipient’s demographic information and preferences. Newsletters and announcements can be conveniently distributed by email to patrons, customers, distributors, and resellers. Email discussion groups can be used for interaction among co-workers in special projects and workgroups, or to keep lines of communications open between individuals scattered throughout the world working towards a common goal. Individuals can form non-commercial discussion forums on just about any imaginable topic of interest, from hobbies to health support groups. The possibilities of how email lists can be used for communication among groups of people are virtually endless. See the Case Studies page on L-Soft’s Web site for real-life examples:
1.1 What is LISTSERV?
LISTSERV is an email list management software program. Email list management software makes it easy to administer email lists, performing in seconds the functions that would otherwise have to be done manually, possibly taking many hours or days to complete. Introduced in 1986 on BITNET, LISTSERV was the first software program to automate the administration of email lists. It is the most time-tested and reliable email list management product on the market today.
In order to use LISTSERV, the software must be installed on a server with a dedicated connection to the Internet. LISTSERV is available for a variety of server operating systems.
Once LISTSERV is installed on a server and running, it can:
When a list is set up, an email address is created for the list, which is then used to send or “post” messages to the list. Once a message is sent, it is delivered to the central server where L-Soft’s LISTSERV (the mailing list management software) resides. The software then completes the operation by automatically distributing the message to all subscribers on the list, in the manner indicated by their subscription options.
Figure 1-3 Path of LISTSERV Message
1.2 File Server Functions
In addition to mailing lists, LISTSERV also acts as a file server – a program that manages collections of files and makes them available to users upon request. Among these files are the list archives we have already mentioned, but LISTSERV can store just about any kind of file: papers put up for discussion, agendas and minutes of upcoming meetings, survey results, programs, electronic magazine issues, etc. These files are organized in filelists (VM version) or catalogs (other versions), which are very much like directories on a PC. Each filelist or catalog contains a list of files, along with some descriptive text and two file access codes (or FACs) that define who is allowed to order a copy of the file and who is the person in charge of updating it (the file owner).
1.3 Who are the people involved?
There are five main classifications of people who can interact with LISTSERV. Each classification has a differing level of responsibility for its role and interaction with the software. Figure 1-4 below illustrates the hierarchy of these classifications. It also represents the relative number of people who fit into each classification.
Figure 1-4 People Who Can Interact with LISTSERV
The LISTSERV maintainer is the technical person in charge of the LISTSERV application on a particular server. The LISTSERV maintainer may not be in charge of the entire server, but should have privileged access to the computer and know where to get help if there is a problem with the hardware, software, or network connection. The LISTSERV maintainer:
Oversees the administration of dozens or even hundreds of different lists, but is usually not involved with the content of individual lists.
The list owner is the person formally in charge of the operation of a specific list. The list owner is usually knowledgeable in the field covered by the list. There can be more than one list owner for a list. The responsibility of the list owner is limited to the list itself, and does not include the computer running the list, its mail system, network lines, and other hardware specifics. List owners:
A list moderator may or may not be the list owner as well. There can be more than one list moderator for a list, and some lists have none. Moderators receive incoming messages sent to a moderated list and determine whether they should be distributed to the list. List moderators:
List subscribers are people who have requested and have been granted permission to join a particular mailing list. Subscribers:
Can set the way they receive list postings or change the name or email address associated with their subscription, within the configuration limits set by the list owner.
Non-subscribers include everyone not subscribed to a list. Non-subscribers:
1.4 Types of Mailing Lists
There are three main types or styles of mailing lists, each with its own advantages for specialized use.
One-Way Announcement Lists – The owner(s) and/or editor(s) of the list are the only people who are allowed to send messages to the subscribers. The communication flows one way – from the list administrators to the list subscribers. This type of list is primarily used for newsletters, product announcements, and dissemination of information that does not require feedback from the subscriber.
Two-Way Discussion Lists – The list administrators and the list subscribers are both permitted to post messages to the list. The communication flows two ways - between the administrators and the subscribers, and back and forth between different subscribers. This type of list is primarily used for discussion groups engaged in the exchange of ideas and information centered on a specific topic.
Moderated Lists – This type of discussion list has an editor or editors who review all incoming messages. The editor can then decide to allow the message to be sent to all the subscribers on the list or not allow the message to be posted to the list. Moderated lists can be used to control the discussion by keeping off topic, inflammatory, or otherwise inappropriate messages from the reaching subscribers.
In addition to the list types above, keep in mind that lists are established with guidelines and rules for who can subscribe. The most common types are:
Public or Open – These lists allow anyone to join or leave, ask questions, see who is on the list, search archived messages, and so on. Public lists usually attract a lot of subscribers, and tend to generate quite a lot of traffic.
Private or Closed – These lists exercise some measure of access control for subscriptions, posting, and archives. In many cases, people need to apply for membership to the list owner. Only people who are subscribed to the list may send messages and access archived postings, but there are many other possibilities. Private lists are usually smaller, more focused, and more specialized.
1.4.1 One-Way Announcement Lists
One-way announcement lists or newsletters are types of lists where subscribers only receive information and do not interact with the other list members. This type of list is most commonly used for delivering news and media publications, company newsletters and any other types of announcements. For example, the “LISTSERV at Work” newsletter (see is sent quarterly to keep the L-Soft community informed and up-to-date with the company's latest developments.
One-way lists are similar to print newspaper subscriptions. They often have large numbers of subscriptions and people sign on and off the list as they wish.
1.4.2 Two-Way Discussion Lists
Two-way discussion lists allow for interaction between group members. These open forums facilitate ongoing discussions among members. They are most commonly used for internal communication within an organization or group of people. For instance, many universities use secure "class lists" for interaction among students and teachers or to conduct remote teaching.
Unlike a one-way list, a discussion list not only allows, but also encourages interaction between members who are part of the group. Every member can write to the list, and in doing so, all members will receive a copy of the message. In this way, discussions can take place and views can be exchanged among a large number of people. Two-way discussion lists can be public or private depending on the way the list is configured. Public lists allow anyone to join and participate. Open public discussion lists tend to be large with many messages being posted (high volume). They can take up a lot of server space and they can be open to spamming, spoofing, and flaming if there are no security measures in place.
Closed or private two-way discussion groups can also be large and high volume, depending on the topic of the list, or they can be medium sized or very small. Subscriptions are monitored and are often subject to approval by a list administrator. Subscribers communicate amongst themselves on a specific topic. Incidents of spamming and flaming are generally low because only subscribers can post to the list, and their subscription request has been reviewed.
1.4.3 Moderated Lists
Similar to the two-way discussion list, a moderated list allows for the exchange of postings between subscribers and administrators, but an editor or moderator receives all incoming messages. The editor or moderator then decides to accept the message and post it to the list, or reject the message and not post it to the list. Lists can be set up with more than one moderator and they can take turns reviewing messages in a “round robin” fashion or all moderators can receive all messages.
Moderated lists can be of any size and subscriptions can be open or closed, depending on the type of list you want. Spamming and flaming are much less likely to happen on this type of list because all the postings are subject to approval by a person before they can be posted to the list.

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