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.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

    £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

    QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

    £35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

    Property Finance Partner

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on