Educational CyberPlayGround

What is a Mailing List?
by Gleason Sackmann


Estimating the size of the world's communications.

Email is about 3x the size of the web and accounts for more than half of the Internet, Email traffic is 69.6% spam. If there's 3x as much as email as there is web, there's 3x as much spam as there is email! 150 billion is an impossibly large number, and that's each day. If you printed one day of the world's emails out, the stack of paper would be 10,000 miles high. A month of them would reach to the moon. The average email is 75 kilobytes (except spam, which is about 5k and 69.6% of traffic), which means a day of email traffic is about 4 petabytes. There's 2.3 billion email users worldwide, and the average mailbox stores 8,024 messages. If we assume that most spam gets deleted, that puts the world's total volume of stored email at 1,400 petabytes. Put another way: globally, we store about one year of email history. <more>

THE Irish Roots of black rent, white rent "Blackmail" whitemail and buttock-mail.
“Blackmail” has its roots in the early 16th century, first used by English farmers living on the England/Scotland border. It derives from the Middle English word “male” which itself is thought to derive from the Old English word “mal”. In Old English “Mal” is described as thus:“lawsuit, terms, bargaining, agreement”.



8/14/14 Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet

Rich in applications for reaching out to the world. Goes by different names......

  • Mailing Lists
  • Discussion Lists/groups
  • Internet clubs
  • Electronic forums
  • E-mail conferences
  • Special Interest Groups (SIGS)


  • A way to share/seek information on a specific topic
  • People based anywhere in the world get together under a mailing list to focus on a common interest
  • Normally no costs for a participant

Who Uses Lists?

  • Anyone with a special need to participate in the global sharing of views, information, and findings, on certain subjects, whether for hobby, education, profession, or family
  • The more specific the topic, the more isolated a potential user might feel in its immediate surrounding, and the more likely to benefit from a mailing list.


  • Share and archive information
  • Training, distance education
  • Make announcements
  • Virtual coffee houses/club meetings
  • Deliver newsletters
  • Customer support
  • Develop community circles
  • Advocate for countless issues

Basic List Types

  • Announcement
  • Discussion
  • Public
  • Private
  • Unmoderated
  • Moderated

What Do You Need?

All you need is an email client. But to handle the flood of messages, you really need an email client that can:

  • create multiple mailboxes
  • sort messages into those boxes
  • filter into those boxes
  • sort by subject
  • or sort by date
  • or sort by author
  • search your mail by keyword(s)



  • BITNET, originally created to connect universities in the US, now connects hundreds of mainly academic/research institutions all over the world
  • Usenet newsgroups
  • Presently, lists exist for any imaginable topic

You Name It

Anything you are interested in - an example of a list like this might be NetHappenings™ which Karen Ellis runs now or you might check out CreoleTALK, Cul De Sac Online Curriculum.

Others might be, Pro juggling, African Violets, Medicine Ethics etc. there are as many as there are interested people in this world who want to talk about it.

List Administration

Lists are often managed manually or through a combination of manual and low tech tools. To ease the potentially overwhelming task of running a list, mailing list manager software, MLM, is often used to automate the process.

Mailing List Addresses

  • Administrative address: requests to be added to or be dropped from it, and other administrivia. Most often you receive automated replies
  • List address: postings / replies for distribution to entire list body
  • List owner's address: suggestions,
    comments on running the list
  • Subscriber's address: private contact

Who Does What!

  • List owner/moderator: administrative matters; rules the list; often remotely located, knowledgeable in the list's subject
  • List maintainer/postmaster: technical aspects; typically works for the host site
  • List subscriber: beneficiary

List Culture


  • aka smiley's and computer language examples
  • Group, sequence of characters which, when viewed sideways, depicts a face
  • Aka smileys :) a smile,
    :-) basic smile, ;-) wink, :-] blockhead, :-( frown,
    :-@ user is screaming, I-I user is asleep,
    (:I user is an egghead
Expressions / Acronyms

Email shorthand - Useful for everyday contacts

  • FAQ - frequently asked questions
  • BTW - by the way
  • FYI - for your information
  • CUL8R - see you later
  • OTH - on the other hand
  • TTYL - talk to you later
  • TIA - thanks in advance
Getting The Most Out Of Lists
  • Save your subscription reply
  • Check address/content before posting
  • Make Subject to picture your topic
  • Express ideas clearly
  • Summarize for the list

Do's and Don'ts!

  • Introduce / Identify yourself
  • Read the list's FAQ if available
  • Respect list policies
  • Tolerate other's faults
  • If crossposting, give proper credit
  • If global, abstain from local remarks
  • Lurk first, post later
  • Keep it on-topic
  • Take it off-line
  • Quote appropriately
  • Avoid flames
  • Keep it clean
  • DON'T USE ALL CAPS [shouting]
  • Don't post ads
  • The "old way vs net way" take away lesson:
    "never put anything in email that you don't wanted quoted in a newspaper" ~ Karen Ellis


When you reply

<snip> part of the previous email to remind everyone what the point was </snip>

and then add your own reply.

This makes email easier to download because it is smaller and it is also cleaner, easier to follow the thread and understand. This is especially useful for the people who are on digest getting email only once a day when there are several messages and replies in the digest.

Mailing List Managers

  • Software used to handle the list subscriptions and distribution of messages
  • Assists moderators in their job and give users agility and control when interacting with lists
  • most popular ones are: LISTSERV (Registered Trademark), Listproc, majordomo, ......

User Usability

A List atmosphere is imposed by both the MLM itself and the particular style its owner applies. Once a user is on a list and is familiar with its methods, you need to consider list options:

  • Mailing method (digest, no-mail, ....)
  • Archive delivery and search features
  • Access through methods other than e-mail (ftp,website,newsgroup...)

Basic List Commands

  • Joining/Subscribing
  • Leaving / Unsubscribing
  • Replying / posting
  • Basic List Options
  • Individual messages / Digest
  • Mail / Nomail
  • Own posts

Sending Commands

LISTSERV / listserv@host.domain
Listproc /listproc@host.domain
Majordomo majordomo@host.domain
  • Commands go to MLM by e-mail
  • Subject: line can be left blank
  • Disable any Signature file
  • The listname must be included
  • Several commands in single message
  • Listname-request address hints manual

Signing Up For A List

LISTSERV SUBscribe listname Firstname Lastname
Listproc Subscribe / JOIN listname Firstname Lastname
Majordomo subscribe listname [address]
  • Adds you to the list you specify by replacing listname with the name of the list you want to subscribe to
  • Replace Firstname Lastname with your real name
  • MLMs get your e-mail address from the
    From: field in your message

Once You Are On A List

Many lists will email you a subscription confirmation message that you must mail back to activate your membership. Once you do, you'll get a welcome message outlining the purpose of the list and the basic commands, including instructions for terminating your subscription. Keep This Message!

Leaving a List

Listproc UNSUBscribe / SIGNOFF listname
Majordomo UNSUBscribe listname [address]

  • Your name is not needed to signoff
  • Unsubscribe when a list does not meet your expectations; list owners are used to that and will not be disturbed.

Replying to Posts

LISTSERV / listserv@host.domain
Listproc / listproc@host.domain
Majordomo majordomo@host.domain
  • Use reply function of mail program
  • Reply may go publicly to entire list
  • Reply may go privately to list member
  • Preserve Subject: of original posting
  • Include excerpt from initial message

Posting New Messages

LISTSERV / listname@host.domain
Listproc / listname@host.domain
Majordomo listname@host.domain
  • E-mail to list address as regular mail
  • To a mail client, it makes no difference you are sending a posting to a list
  • Must provide Subject: description
  • List address composed as

Receive / Cancel Digest Postings

LISTSERV SET listname DIGests / NODIgests
Majordomo subscribe listname-digest & unsubscribe listname
  • Alternative to getting each individual message separately
  • MLM automatically delivers digests
  • Read as well as download time saving
  • Mailbox tidy

Suspend / Resume Mail Receipt

LISTSERV SET listname NOmail / Mail
Majordomo not available
  • Stops / suspends message delivery and keeps you on the list
  • Handy if you go away and don't want a full mailbox upon returning


Send a message to the ecartis account on the server (you can just reply to this message). In the subject field, enter "subscribe [listname]". Or, you can send a message to "[listname]-request" with a subject of "subscribe".

Send a message to the ecartis account on the server (you can just reply to this message). Enter "unsubscribe [listname]" in the subject field. You can also send a message to "[listname]-request" with a subject of "unsubscribe". While you should NOT send your unsubscribe command to the list itself, Ecartis will attempt to trap such erroneous postings and forward them to the list administrators for proper handling.


Send a message to the ecartis account on the server with a subject of "set [listname] digest". This will turn on digests, and you will receive a digest however often the server is configured to send them.


Send a message to the ecartis account on the server with a subject of "unset [listname] digest". This will turn off digest mode, and instead you will receive an eMail every time something is posted to the list.


Send a message to the ecartis account on the server with a subject of "set [listname] digest2". This will activate digest mode with normal posting. As each message is posted to the list it will be sent to you, and you will receive a digest as well. This flag should be used INSTEAD of digest, NOT IN ADDITION TO. To stop receiving digests in addition to normal posts, send a message to the ecartis account with a subject of "unset [listname] digest2". You will go back to receiving normal posts.

Send a message to the ecartis account on the server with a subject of "set [listname] vacation". You will remain subscribed to the list but will not receive any eMail as long as this flag is set. To come back from vacation, eMail the ecartis account with a subject of "unset [listname] vacation".