BIO 256 - Computer Applications in Biology
Assignment 2 - Internet Mailing Lists
Electronic mail forms the basis of mailing lists (also called "listservs", after Listserv, one of the earliest, and still popular, pieces of software for managing them). Mailing lists are designed to facilitate the exchange of information on a specific topic. For example, a scientist might set up a mailing list for people interested in gene sequencing. These interested people will then subscribe to the list. Then, any message sent to the list is automatically sent to everyone who has subscribed to the list. This allows a discussion of gene sequencing by all interested parties.
In unmoderated lists, a message that you send to the list automatically goes to everyone on the list, and you receive a copy of everything that anyone sends to the list. In moderated lists, a moderator, usually but not always at the site that hosts the list, selects from among the messages sent to the list, often removing those that don't fit the topic, and sends the results to the subscribers.
Lists may have other features, such as the ability to receive "digests" (all the list mail for a certain period assembled into one message). Many lists now have interfaces through the World Wide Web, making it easier to change your settings or even subscribe and unsubscribe.
It's not even necessary to have access to computers with list manager software in order to have your own mailing list. Services on the Web, such as Yahoo Groups, allow you to easily create and manage your own email list. You pay nothing for the service; like much else on the web, revenue comes from advertising.
Although web interfaces make things easier, many lists still rely on commands sent to the list manager in the body of an email message. Most of these lists have three email addresses, and it is important to know what each one does.
You can imagine that it is crucial to choose the right address for different purposes. If you send a long message to the list manager (a computer program) instead of the list, it will send you back an error message for every line of your message it didn't understand (usually all of them). If you send an unsubscribe command to the list, dozens or hundreds of people will know that you weren't paying attention.
It is also important when you reply to a message on a list to look and see who the reply is going to. Some lists are set so that the reply goes to the list, and others are set to reply to the sender. Even I have made the mistake of sending a message to a list when it was intended for a specific member. There is a famous story of a job announcement appearing on a biology list, and a professor responding by mistake to the list (rather than the person sending the announcement) to express interest in the job, and ask for complete confidentiality, because he didn't want his current employer to know that he was applying.
To subscribe to a list, you ordinarily send a message to the list manager computer program. It may be LISTSERV or LISTPROC or MAJORDOMO or even something else, so that it has an email address in the form LISTPROC@csupomona.EDU. If you have a signature file, turn it off (if you don't know what a signature file is, don't worry about it), and don't use "styled text" (bold, colors, etc.) or graphics. The subject line should be left blank unless there are instructions to do otherwise.
The body of the message should have one line, in the form:
subscribe [list name] [your first name] [your last name]
subscribe cancer-l John Doe
To unsubscribe, send a message to the list manager program with the single line:
signoff [list name]
Instead of "signoff", some lists allow or expect "unsub" or "unsubscribe".
For your assignment, please carry out the following steps:
Summary of assignment