Electronic Discussion Groups
Your connection to the outside world via e-mail does not have to be a one-on-one situation. You can opt to join or subscribe to an electronic discussion group, also called a list. Thousands of these groups exist on the Internet; they are discussion fora comprised of people with a common interest (e.g., professional, leisure, research, and so forth). These groups range from being general in nature to having an extremely narrow and esoteric focus. A list with a broad appeal may have hundreds or even thousands of members, while a list that is very specific in nature and confined in terms of topic definition might only attract a small subscribership. Mail volume or number of daily postings can also vary widely. You need to consider this aspect if you have limited space on or infrequent access to your e-mail account. Your mailbox could overflow! Membership is generally free and one need not actively participate by posting regularly in most cases. "Lurkers" or those who read but do not post are usually welcome on lists also.
Later in the lessons, you will have an opportunity to subscribe to a discussion list. The process will be explained then at length, but suffice to say now that there are two addresses associated with most lists: the mechanics address and the discussion address. All matters dealing with nuts and bolts, the mechanics of belonging to the list, are directed to the address that is really just a computer, following commands. Your discussion contributions, on the other hand, are directed to the address whereby your comments are posted and joined by those of other members. Keeping this basic idea straight will help you manage your list subscription and stay out of embarrassing situations such as talking to people as if they were computers and vice versa. The other important idea to note is that a certain netiquette is involved when interacting on the Internet. You are well-advised to read your welcome messages thoroughly, save them in a safe place, and observe for a period of time before entering in the discussion.