INTERNET MAILING LISTS BASICS
Internet Mailings Lists For Your Hobbies and Interests
How Mailing Lists Work
Internet mailing lists work similar to the way traditional mailing lists do. If you are on a traditional mailing list, say with a department store, business, school, or other entity, you receive periodic mailings announcing sales, programs, and other upcoming events and notices. You either signed up for the list personally, or are on the traditional list because you have an account with the store or business. Internet mailing lists are similar in that you receive periodic mailings from the mailing list, and that you signed up to be on the mailing list. However, there are some differences. Here are the high points of Internet Mailing Lists:
- Subscription. With traditional mailing lists, you may receive mailings by virtue of your having an account with the entity who is doing the mailing. With Internet mailing lists, you must physically subscribe yourself to the list in order to receive the mailings (we'll tell you how later).
- Receiving the postings. With traditional mailing lists, the company sends you the mail, you read it, and do whatever with it when you're done. With Internet mailing lists. while you will probably still receive mail from the "List Owner," you will also receive email from any member of the mailing list who wishes to write something. This includes you!
- Sending. With traditional mailing lists, you don't get to put your two cents worth in. With Internet mailing lists, you do. Unless you have joined an "Announcement Only" type of list, you are free to send email to the mailing list as well.
- Mailing List Rules. All Internet Mailing Lists will have rules that their subscribers must follow. Each mailing list is run by a "List Administrator" or "List Owner." Basic rules are usually set by the domain on which the mailing list resides, but other rules are set by the List Owner. Some mailing lists will be pretty strict with what is and is not allowed to be posted. Other mailing lists will be looser, and you may find people sharing jokes and family stories along with email related to the topic of the list. Once your subscription has been accepted, most mailing lists will let you know by email, and may send a list of rules and other information pertinent to the mailing list.
Finding A Mailing List
Now that we have your attention and interest, your next question is probably "Where can I find a mailing list for my hobby or interest?" Here are some of the best choices for Internet mailing lists:
Yahoo.com is the largest host to Internet mailing lists. Go to their website and take a look for yourself. Once the main page is up, you'll see a list of topics to the left of the screen. Click on "Groups," which will take you another page where you can see the topics of Yahoo groups as well as a search engine for you to enter in a topic yourself. You'll see a listing of basic topics covering many subjects. You'll need to figure out what topic your interest falls into. For instance, if you are a kindergarten teacher and interested in mailing lists related to this age group, clicking on this topic title will bring up more sub-topics to select from. Or to save time, entering "Kindergarten" into the search box will bring up a listing of groups related to kindergarten. You can read a description of each group and decide which one you're interested in joining. If you don't already have a Yahoo account or email address, you will need to sign up for one, although you can elect to have your current email address be the one that group mail is sent to.
Not quite as large as Yahoo, Google is another source for Internet mailing lists. And like Yahoo, you'll find a listing of basic topics once you click on the "Groups" link at the top of the main page.
Point Arrow is home to many mailing lists. While not as large as Yahoo or Google, this one is growing. Check out their index of subjects and see if there's a mailing list that interests you.
Rootsweb is the largest source for genealogy-related mailing lists, if this is one of your interests. Armed with spam filters and virus detection software, you can be assured you won't get anything bad like this through one of their mailing lists.
You can also type in your interest (recipes, antiques, old cars, celebrity names, etc) into a search box and see what turns up. There are mailing lists hosted on other servers which are not as well-known as YahooGroups, etc.
How To Subscribe To a Mailing List
When you have found a few lists that look interesting, you may decide to subscribe so you can join in on the fun, too. You should find instructions for subscribing on the home page of the mailing list. For example, YahooGroups will give you easy-to-follow instructions on subscribing to all of their lists. Some mailing lists require approval of the List Administrator, and some will automatically subscribe you once you've put in your request. You should receive a welcome letter when your subscription is approved. Be sure to read it thoroughly. It should contain rules for the mailing lists, how to post and how to unsubscribe if you decide to do that.
Tips For Mailing List Members
If you are new to mailing lists, you'll probably only want to join one or two to start with. Get a feel for how busy the lists are, what the topics of conversations are, etc. Read the mail which comes through the list for a few days before jumping in with your questions or suggestions. Most mailing lists are archived in some way, especially those on Yahoo. Once you have signed up for the list, you have access to previous postings. Check out the archives first before asking your question, it could have been talked about just recently. Remember to read your "welcome" letter when it comes, for more information and a list of mailing list rules. Most lists will not tolerate rudeness or "flaming," and some will not want you to post that joke that your cousin Zelda just forwarded to you. By reading the list mail for a few days, you'll get a better idea of the mood of the list.
Mailing lists can open up a whole new world for you. Whatever your interest, there should be a mailing list for that interest. You can make new friends and learn something new. Have fun!