Listservs

Zen and the Art of the Internet

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 Listservs
 
On BITNET there's an automated system for maintaining discussion lists
called the listserv.  Rather than have an already harried and
overworked human take care of additions and removals from a list, a
program performs these and other tasks by responding to a set of
user-driven commands.
 
Areas of interest are wide and varied---ETHICS-L deals with ethics in
computing, while ADND-L has to do with a role-playing game.  A full
list of the available BITNET lists can be obtained by writing to
LISTSERV@BITNIC.BITNET with a body containing the command
 
list global
 
However, be sparing in your use of this---see if it's already on your
system somewhere.  The reply is quite large.
 
The most fundamental command is subscribe.  It will tell the
listserv to add the sender to a specific list.  The usage is
 
subscribe foo-l Your Real Name
 
It will respond with a message either saying that you've been added to
the list, or that the request has been passed on to the system on
which the list is actually maintained.
 
The mate to subscribe is, naturally, unsubscribe.  It will remove a
given address from a BITNET list.  It, along with all other listserv
commands, can be abbreviated---subscribe as sub, unsubscribe as
unsub, etc.  For a full list of the available listserv commands,
write to LISTSERV@BITNIC.BITNET, giving it the command help.
 
As an aside, there have been implementations of the listserv system
for non-BITNET hosts (more specifically, Unix systems).  One of the
most complete is available on cs.bu.edu in the
directory pub/listserv.
 
``I made this letter longer than usual because
I lack the time to make it shorter.''
Pascal, Provincial Letters XVI
 
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