Discussion Groups: An Underused Resource
By John Makulowich
In the previous column, I offered an overview of discussion groups and then reviewed the basic commands for subscribing and for sending messages to groups that use the listserv mailing list manager software. According to L-Soft International Inc., the owner of Listserv, 12,704 public lists now use their program; total use, not including intranets, amounts to 55,063 lists.
To search the official catalog of listserv lists to identify a group that covers your interests, you should connect to this URL,<http://www.lsoft.com/lists/listref.html>. You will find the page for CataList, which is the catalog of listserv lists. Here you can review any of the public lists on the Internet and retrieve information on listserv host sites. The information is produced from the listserv database and is updated regularly.
For example, searching on the word "technology" I found 157 lists; <email@example.com>, The Technology Information Source on the World Wide Web, had 39,935 subscribers. A different search, using the term "executive" uncovered 48 lists; the largest was <firstname.lastname@example.org. muohio.edu>, Management & Executive Development Discussions, with 488 subscribers.
Using CataList, you can view lists by host site and by host country, those with 10,000 subscribers or more and those with 1,000 subscribers or more. You can also look at sites in alphabetical order and by country.
To dig deeper into discussion groups, you must retrieve the help files. Your first step is to send e-mail to the address, <email@example.com>.
In the text of the message (no subject is needed), type these commands on separate lines: help, info, info refcard. After the header in the mail message comes information for "help" and "info" that includes:
LISTSERV(R) version 1.8c - most commonly used commands
Info <topic|listname> Order documentation
Lists <Detail|Short|Global> Get a description of all lists
SUBscribe listname <full name> Subscribe to a list
SIGNOFF listname Sign off from a list
SIGNOFF * (NETWIDE From all lists on all servers
REView listname <options> Review a list
REFcard (LISTSERV REFCARD) Command reference card
FAQ (LISTFAQ MEMO) Frequently Asked Questions
PResent (LISTPRES MEMO) Presentation of LISTSERV for new users
GENintro (LISTSERV MEMO) General information about
KEYwords (LISTKEYW MEMO) Description of list header keywords
Important Note for Users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Browser
Microsoft released a security patch on its Web site <http://www.microsoft.com/ie/security/update.htm> to protect Internet Explorer 3.0 users from three recently reported security problems, that is, "Cybersnot," the MIT variation, and the University of Maryland issue. The problems can affect users of versions 2.0, 3.0 and 3.01 for the Windows 95 and Windows NT operating systems. They do not affect users of 3.0 and 3.0a for Windows 3.1 or any version of Internet Explorer for Macintosh. The company also said users are already immune to the recently reported Java security flaw affecting Netscape Navigator. At its Web site, Microsoft also posted a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the three security issues. For future security issues, Microsoft created an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, for customers to report new security issues with any Microsoft product.
John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. Send e-mail to <email@example.com>. The URL for his home page is <http://www.cais.com/makulow/> or <http://www.trainer.com/pub/journalism/>.