On mailing lists

I find it a bit strange that people here like broadcasting their messages by putting everyone in To: or Cc:. I _know_ they've heard of mailing lists. Everyone knows about mailing lists. Heck, even my parents have a mailing list for their advertising photography company.

By mailing list, I mean a managed mailing list through something like Yahoo Groups or Google Groups instead of an ad-hoc list of e-mail addresses. Have you considered them before? I'm sure you've been on a few, as they're a very popular and effective tool. Just in case, let me cover the basics.

Mailing lists

  • increase the community feel of a group because it's easier to network and chat outside meetings
  • distribute speaking tips and other resources easily
  • allow people to organize their mail into folders without having to create rules for each person who posts or manually move new messages
  • allow people to change their e-mail addresses or disable delivery
  • make communication a whole lot easier: remember one address instead of fifty!

Many people don't fully take advantage of mailing lists because of sour experiences in open lists without a good community feel. They might not know, for example, that you can restrict membership and even access to message archives. In addition, they may also have been turned off by low signal-to-noise ratio mailing lists flooded with jokes and one-liners. Each community varies in its tolerance of things like that, and social conventions are generally followed when established. Netiquette is easier to enforce in mailing lists because the clearly-defined space of a mailing list makes it easier to set social policies.

A good mailing list is an awesome community-builder. My project went from scattered users to a thriving, enthusiastic community spread around the world because we set up a mailing list where people could share their ideas and code. It's so easy to set up a mailing list on Google Groups or Yahoo Groups that seeing the old style of distributing messages makes me wonder if people have particular reasons _not_ to use mailing lists...

E-Mail to Ari Caylakyan

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