Internet Mailing Lists
What are mailing lists?
Mailing lists are e-mail based Internet
discussion groups about a particular topic (e.g., depression, anxiety, psychopharmacology,
practice management, computers, etc.). Professionals subscribe to the mailing list
discussion group and then regularly (daily, weekly) send and receive e-mail on that
particular subject. When a subscriber posts a message to a mailing list, all of the other
subscribers to the mailing list receive that single message. Anyone wishing to respond to
the message may send a reply to the list.
For example, when I have a question about the treatment of a particular disorder or the
use of a certain medication, I can post a message to the appropriate mailing list. My
message will be sent to a thousand or more of my list-mates, colleagues who are in solo
practice, in larger clinics, or on the faculty at various teaching institutions. In the
next day or two, a dozen or more helpful responses to my inquiry will be posted on the
mailing list or sent to me directly. These curbstone consults can be
invaluable to the therapist working with a difficult treatment issue in private practice.
How are mailing lists managed?
Mailing lists are managed by a moderator or
list owner, someone with professional experience in the subject matter of the list. The
moderator keeps the discussion between subscribers on topic by reviewing and
selecting messages before they are sent to the other subscribers on the list. The
moderator may also add an editorial comment about the content of messages or start new
When subscribers receive mailing list messages, they are not organized by discussion
topic. Therefore, there may be a number of topics (also known as threads) being discussed
at the same time. It is easier for other list-members to follow a discussion if the sender
of a message provides some context for his/her post. For example, it is helpful if the
message sender uses the same subject heading as the original post or quotes relevant
material from the original message so that everyone understands the context of his/her
reply or comment. Once a person subscribes to a mailing list, its probably wise to
lurk or listen in for awhile before joining the discussion.
When you subscribe to mailing lists, the person or computer at the subscription address
will add your e-mail address to the mailing list and send you a welcome message. The
welcome message will give you instructions on how to use the mailing list, how to post a
message to the posting address, and how to remove your name from the list. These
instructions should be saved so you will have immediate information on how to get off a
list if it does not fit your needs. Lists vary in quality and amount of activity so you
may have to try out a list or two before you find lists that are most helpful to your
Tips for Using Mailing Lists
I wholeheartedly recommend that you try out
this remarkable tool! Subscribe to at least one or two professional mailing lists,
lurk for awhile to understand how each list works, and then join in on the
discussion. I am confident that the power of the Internet will become readily apparent as
you begin to share and receive valuable information from your colleagues.
John L. Miller, M.D.
and the Law