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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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

    Sauce Recruitment: Financial Analyst -International TV Production

    £250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: 6 month contract (Initially)A global e...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Management Support Assistant

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Railway Museum, the largest of its ...

    Sauce Recruitment: FP&A Analyst -Home Entertainment

    £250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

    £40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project