Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are email postboxes which will 'starburst' any messages sent to them. This means that they can be used as a very cheap and efficient way of keeping large groups of people informed and as a platform for discussion.

A discussion list may be based around a particular topic or geographic location or set up for an organisation. They may then be used for a select group of invited participants or made open to anyone. Individual topics within the list form "threads" in which developing themes may be explored. Maintaining a useful discussion, though, requires some work on behalf of all members.

Sending a message to a mailing list is as simple as sending a single email. The mailing list then sends your message out to however many people have signed up (or 'subscribed') to the mailing list (including you). This could be thousands of people but unless you are charged for being a member of the list, the cost of contacting everyone is one local phone call. Subscribing (by sending a message to the list administrator) to a mailing list means you'll get a dribble (or flood) of messages in your mailbox

Mailing lists may offer other services such as FAQs for beginners and digests of topics discussed for those who just want to keep informed about what's been decided. This keeps down the amount of unnecessary activity on the list and reduces time spent online. Increasingly, web archives are used to record discussion

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