Health Canada
Family Resource Centre Internet Guide

Mail Lists in Detail

The mail characteristics of mail lists are that they are:

  1. They have a carefully defined topic of interest;
  2. The have a list address to which you send correspondence;
  3. They have a listserver address to which you send commands;
  4. There is a listserver program which controls the operation of the lists;
  5. There is a list owner who is a person who manages the list;
  6. There are a number of important characteristics of lists that govern how they work; and
  7. There are different commands which you can send to the listserver to find out information and to control your status in the list.

Lets look at the last two in detail.

What kind of mail lists are there?

In general mail list can have the following kinds of features:

  1. Lists can be Open or Closed

  2. Lists can be Public or Private

  3. Lists can be Moderated or Unmoderated

  4. List can be Archived or not.

The owner of the list has determined which characteristics a particular list will have. When joining you should find out its features and work with them accordingly.

How do I work with mail lists?

Different listservers have slightly different capabilities and slightly different commands to you those features. In this example we will look at majordomo, one of the most popular and versatile listserver programs.

There are a number of basic commands that you need to know to work with a mail list. The important thing to bear in mind is that because majordomo is just a computer program, you have to be very particular and very exact in the commands that you send it. Any typo or glitch in the syntax of the command will make majordomo choke and your command won't be executed.

Some Basic Majordomo Commands.

subscribe <list> [<address>]
Subscribe yourself (or <address> if specified) to the named .
For example 'subscribe lobsters' to subscribe to the list 'lobsters'.

unsubscribe <list> [<address>]
Unsubscribe yourself (or <address> if specified) from the named
For example 'unsubscribe lobsters' to unsubscribe from the list 'lobsters'.

who <list>
Find out who is on the named <list>.
For example 'who lobsters' would tell you who is a member of the lobsters list.

info <list>
Retrieve the introductory information for the named <list>.
For example 'info lobsters' will tell you what the lobsters list is all about.

Gives you a listing of the lists administered by this Majordomo server.
Will send you a help file with a list of commands and what they do.

With this basic set of commands you can do all the important things you need to do with a mailing list. Just remember to follow the syntax of the commands exactly.

Also, if you have more than one Email address you need to be aware of which address you subscribed to a listserver with and if you want to unsubscribe from one you need to do it from that same address. The listserver won't know that two different addresses belong to the same person!

Now, lets go to Section 3 - Some Mail List Exercises.

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