NET GAINS: Return to sender?

Like it or loath it, there seems to be no way of avoiding junk mail, even on the internet

I'm going out on a limb here, but I have a suspicion that junk mail, like airline food, is one of that select group of things about which people moan, but secretly rather like.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons I have a soft spot for Internet mailing lists. It really doesn't matter that you're corresponding with a computer, or that you are effectively receiving junk e-mail. It's just rather nice to know that somebody else wants to acknowledge that you're out there

If you haven't come across mailing lists before (and that's hardly surprising - they're not the most user-friendly aspect of the Internet), they are exactly what their name suggests. In effect, they are just newsletters that you receive by e-mail. The advantage, though, is that they cost the distributors virtually nothing in production and distribution, and that recipients only need an e-mail address rather than a web browser to use them. Suddenly, newsletters on any subject under the sun have become economically viable. And, as you'd expect, there are mailing lists that cover everything from Babylon 5 to cryogenics.

It's a pity, perhaps, that mailing lists have never really taken off in the way that, say, the web has. Perhaps it's something to do with the fact that they lack the gee-whizz attraction of web pages. But I think it's probably more to do with the fact that they are, in my experience, extremely user-unfriendly. Nobody has ever, to my knowledge, yet worked out a way of making them easy to use. The protocol involves sending commands by e-mail to the computer which hosts the mailing list you want, using a rather arcane set of commands. The computer then automatically sends you the newsletter whenever it comes out, which can be anything from several times a day to every week.

There are a number of sites on the web that hold indexes of mailing lists. They are fairly long, though, so it may take some time to work your way through them and pull out anything you find interesting. However, most hosts allow you to specify a subject area that you're interested in and you can pull up an index of appropriate subjects.

The first, and most frustrating, thing you'll find is that, like most things on the web, there is an extremely strong American bias. Bear in mind also that, when you subscribe to a list, you'll receive instructions about how to unsubscribe. It is fairly important to keep a note of how to do it; it's easy to find yourself being e-mailed with a list that isn't really to your taste only to find you have no idea how to remove yourself from it.

My experience is that mailing lists are only worth subscribing to if they deal with a subject that you really feel you should keep abreast of without the hassle of trawling through newsgroups every so often.

http://www.gold.ac.uk/guides/ c701.html

An accessible introduction to mailing lists with plenty of links to other related sites.

www.neosoft.com/internet/paml/

An index for a wide range of mailing lists.

email address: LISTSERV @ IUBVM.UCS.INDIANA.EDU

A particularly eclectic list of well-managed email sites. Email this address with the message: for a list of mailing lists dealing with subject xxxx

Send the message: for an index of user commands

SITE UNSEEN

www.ntk.net

Home page for "Need To Know", a kind of nerds' Private Eye, and my current favourite mailing list.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

    Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test