Mailing a List from the Desktop
By John Makulowich
Many of us have considered starting a mailing list, where we could moderate the distribution of e-mail to colleagues or friends on professional pursuits or hobbies. Those who have taken it a step further realize the heavy overhead involved in time and effort, if not money.
Well, for those who still harbor dreams of creating a mailing list, there is a nice program that allows you to do it from your desktop, provided you have a PPP connection to your service provider. The program, written by Rob Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org), is SVList, now in version 2.1 and available for $30. For details, you can visit http://www.cadvision.com/softventures/.
An edited version of a recent interview with Stevens appears.
JM: Tell me why you created the program.
STEVENS: I was marketing my installation utility (SVInstal) via the shareware channel with good results. I needed a program to help me distribute updates to my customers. To this end I wrote a program (SVMail) that was an auto-reply mailer. My customers could send an e-mail with a code in the subject and SVMail would send them the newest SVInstal. I was telling a fellow developer about this program one day and he said 'Gee, it would not take much to make that into a list server.' Well he was wrong. It took quite a lot to make it a list server. Anyway, the bottom line is that I did not start out with building a list server in mind, but when I got it up and running I found a brisk demand.
My intended audience was the nontechnical person that did not have access to a server on which to run majordomo or some 'real' list server. SVList would allow a person to run a basic list with just a regular e-mail account. My emphasis was on simple operation rather than feature rich. Interestingly I found that a lot of my customers were actually Internet service providers and technical types who needed more capability. I released version 2 to address these needs. It is still primarily a lightweight list server. It runs great with a few hundred list members, I recommend a maximum list size of about 2,000 members. (I have one customer running 10,000). I have had people ask if it can do 200,000 - wow, how would you keep track of 200,000 members. I tell them no.
JM: Do you see this as a viable means of avoiding spam?
STEVENS: I feel very strongly about the scourge of the Internet ... 'bulk mail' or junk e-mail. SVList is not a bulk mailer, I even designed it not to appeal to bulk mailers. The underlying concept with SVList is that you 'ask' to be sent e-mail - i.e. join a mailing list. I don't think it would be used to generate spam. I don't see that it offers a means of 'avoiding spam.'
JM: What do you see as the most productive uses for the software?
STEVENS: If productive means providing a useful avenue for information exchange then I would think running mailing lists for special interest groups. I have customers running hobby-related and business-related lists. SVList has a newsletter mode for one-way communication. I use that myself to keep my registered users up to date on the latest version, beta tests. I have some retail customers that use it for sale flyers and such. Again, I emphasize that it would not be useful for spamming. If you have a small to medium customer base it works great.
John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at email@example.com; his home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/.
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