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.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future