Internet citizenship

Discussions on the Internet: mailing lists

Beyond simply speaking to one other person, e-mail is one of the ways that you can use the Internet to join different electronic communities. You can join a mailing list.

Mailing lists are simple. You contribute a message. It automatically goes to everyone on the list. Any replies also go to all the people on the list. All the messages get saved so that you can go back to them over time if you want to.

You may choose to contribute often, or not at all. You probably don't know everyone on the list. Over time, you will 'meet' the people that contribute regularly: that is, you will get to know them. These people, by the tenor and texture of their messages, will determine the mood and accepted behavior of the group.

Lists can be tremendously useful and interesting places. 'Link', for example, is a mailing list which discusses Internet policy in Australia. Most of the people contributing are experts in one field or another. Often, the stories that appear in Tuesdays Computer section in the Age are things that have been discussed in detail on Link over the previous week. For me, in my job, that is great!

Finding mailing lists

Teaching and research does not happen in isolation. The whole concept of a university is built on the idea of a community of scholars - talking, thinking and working together. The Internet can provide unparalleled opportunities for joining into scholarly debate on your research topic.

The National Library of Australia provides links to a Directory of Scholarly and Professional E-Conferences and Ozlists, a list of Australian electronic mailing lists.

Search or burrow through these to see if you can find a group of like-minded souls. If you do, you will have a resource that you can call upon for assistance, support and maybe even a job at the end of it all. If you don't have any luck, talk to your local librarian. They are experts at finding this sort of stuff.

Most mailing lists require you to 'subscribe'. This is a matter of adding you name to the list of recipients - there is no charge involved.

My mailing lists

The sort of lists that I read (or have read in the past) may give you some idea of the broad range that are available:

Some of these lists, like 'link', would have 20-50 messages a day. I don't read them all. Other, like 'inventive-teaching', I feel like I am talking to myself.

Mailing lists can be used to cover broad topics or very narrow topics. They might be world wide (like the Web standards one), or they might be just for your organisation (like the PC support group, which links techs within RMIT).