Mailing List FAQs

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General Questions

  1. What is a "Listserv"?
  2. OK - then what is a "Mailing List"?
  3. Do I really need a Mailing List?

User (Subscriber) Questions

  1. How do I join a Mailing List?
  2. How do I quit a Mailing List?
  3. How do I send messages to a Mailing List?
  4. Why don't I see messages I send to a Mailing List?
  5. What are Subscriber Options and how do I change mine?
  6. Why do I need a password?
  7. How can I get more information about Mailing Lists?
  8. How can I see old messages?
  9. What about the privacy of my messages?
  10. Which VCU Mailing Lists am I a subscriber member?

List Owner Questions

  1. How do I set up a Mailing List?
  2. What's involved in "owning" a Mailing List?
  3. How do I configure my Mailing List?
  4. What are the Keywords in a Mailing List?
  5. How do I let people know about my Mailing List?
  6. How can I learn more about owning a Mailing List?

General Question

What is a "Listserv"?

The term "Listserv" is usually used as a synonym for "Mailing List" although it is actually the software that allows a computer to create and manage Mailing Lists. LISTSERV® is actually a registered trademark licensed to L-Soft International, Inc.and is the Mailing List software in use at VCU.

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OK - then what is a "Mailing List"?

A Mailing List is a list of people's names and email addresses that are used to send certain messages or announcements to many people at once. These people are expected to have a common interest which is served by the Mailing List. Each list is managed by a "List Owner" who sets policies as to who can join (subscribe to) the list, who can send messages (post) to the list, whether the messages are moderated, and the general theme of discussion for the list.

At VCU, Mailing Lists are used by organizations, departments, and instructors for their individual classes. While some lists are used just for making announcements, most of them are discussion lists where various topics are covered pertaining to the general "theme" of the list.

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Do I really need a Mailing List?

If you are simply sending messages to a group of people - even on a daily basis - you do not necessarily need a Mailing List. This kind of "bulk" mailing can be better handled by creating an email "alias" which contains all the email addresses. (Note: In Eudora, this is called a "nickname" and in Pine, an "Address Book entry.")

However, if several people are going to be sent to this same group of people (like a discussion group) or you want to allow individuals to decide whether or not they want to receive your messages, then you might want to consider creating a Mailing List.

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User (Subscriber) Questions

How do I join a Mailing List?

To join a VCU Mailing List, you must "Subscribe" to it (Note:Owners must subscribe to their mailing lists in order to receive postings from it). This is done by sending email to "listserv@lists.vcu.edu" with a single line in the body of the message saying:

SUBSCRIBE listname your-name

where listname is the name of the mailing list, and your-name is your full name as you want it to appear to the other list members. (NOTE: When you send email to "listserv@lists.vcu.edu" do not include any signature lines in your message as this will result in error messages being returned to you and may eventually cause you to be "disconnected" from the listserv system.)

An alternative way of subscribing to VCU Mailing Lists is to use the Listserv Commands Web script developed by OIT.

After you have submitted your subscription, you will receive a message either rejecting your subscription (some lists are restricted - contact the owner), asking you to confirm your request, or stating that your subscription has been entered and giving you information on how to use the Mailing List system. You should keep this last message since it also tells you how to leave the list.

After your subscription has been accepted, you may want to review and change your Subscriber Options which control how you interface with the Mailing List.

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How do I quit a Mailing List?

You quit (signoff or un-subscribe) a Mailing List by sending a message to "listserv@lists.vcu.edu" with a line in the message body saying:

SIGNOFF listname

where listname is the name of the Mailing List. This message must be sent from the same email address you used in subscribing to the list.

You can also use the Listserv Command Web script to sign off a Mailing List.

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How do I send messages to a Mailing List?

To send (post) a message to a VCU Mailing List, simply send an email message to "listname@lists.vcu.edu" where listname is the name of the Mailing List. (Note: You may see a different host name in the email address when you receive messages from the Mailing List. You still should use "lists.vcu.edu" when you send messages to guarantee they will be posted properly.)

If the Mailing List owner has restricted posting to members of the list, you must send your posting from the same email address you used in subscribing to the list.

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Why don't I see messages I send to a Mailing List?

All Mailing Lists are set up with "default" Subscriber Options - one of which is that subscribers to a Mailing List do not receive copies of their own postings. Please read the next answer to see how to change this.

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What are Subscriber Options and how do I change mine?

Subscriber Options are flags in your subscription record that are set to control your interface with the Mailing List. The options, which can be reviewed by a "Query" command are "set" if just the option name is shown or "un-set" (turned off) if the option name is preceded with "NO" (e.g. ACK or NOACK). The options used at VCU are:

 

ACK Receive a brief message acknowledging your posting.
REPRO Receive a copy of your own posting.
MAIL Receive postings from the list. If you are going to be unable to read your email for a while and are concerned about the number of messages you will have to read later, you can turn this option off to stop receipt of messages without signing off from the list. Remember to turn it back on when you want to receive messages again.
DIGEST If the list owner has enabled digests, you can set this option to receive only one message for the digest period (usually each day) that contains all of the messages sent that day rather than receiving each message. You must have MAIL set for this option to work.
INDEX If the list owner has established an "archive" (notebook) and has enabled digests, you can set this option to receive a list of messages posted for the digest cycle rather than the individual messages. This can be used in place of the NOMAIL option if you are not able to read your email for a while. Its advantage is that you at least know the subjects of messages posted during that period and can retrieve the ones of interest.

 

The easiest way to review and change your options is to use the Listserv Command Web script provided by OIT.

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Why do I need a password?

A normal subscriber to a Mailing List does not need a password unless s/he wants to change subscription options and the list has been configured by the owner with the maximum security level.

A Mailing List owner needs a password in order to change the way the list is configured and for a few other little-used procedures.

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How can I get more information about Mailing Lists?

The OIT Listserv Commands Web script has a section on obtaining information. This information is sent to you by email and some of the documents are quite large.

L-Soft International also has documentation available via The Web for either downloading or on-line reading.

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How can I see old messages?

Mailing Lists distribute their messages by email with the storage of those messages occurring in your mailbox. If you turn off receipt of messages or delete messages from your mailbox, there is normally no way of retrieving them. However- some Mailing Lists are configured to "archive" all messages sent to them. In this case, there are methods of retrieving messages you either have never received or have deleted.

The normal way of retrieving messages from the archive is to send commands to the listserv. At this point, these commands are not included in the OIT Listserv Commands Web script and their format is beyond the scope of this document. You should refer to the documentation described above for details.

Some Mailing Lists have also created a Web Interface to their archives, allowing you to search for and view documents on-line.

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What about the privacy of my messages?

To put it simply, do not expect your postings to a Mailing List to be private! If you are posting to an "open" list, you have no control over who belongs to the list and, therefore, receives your posting. Even with a "restricted" list, you have no control over what other members of the list do with your posting after they receive it. Finally, if the list has established a Web-accessible archive, everyone on the Internet can search for and review your posting.

One other thing. When you post to a Mailing List you become, in the eyes of the law, a "publisher" and therefore fall under the control of all the laws which cover publishing (copyright, libel, pornography/obscenity, etc.).

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Which VCU Mailing Lists am I a subscriber member?

To see which mailing lists you are a subscribed member, you need to log into the VCU listserv server.   At this point, the VCU listserv system does not support CAS so you will need to create and register a unique VCU listserv password.  

To create and register your unique VCU listserv server password, simply

  1. Go to URL: http://lists.vcu.edu
  2. Select Option: Get Password
  3. Enter your Email address and new password twice.
  4. You will be sent an email with instructions on how to complete the password registration process.

To log in with your registered  VCU listserv password, simply

  1. Go to URL:  http://lists.vcu.edu
  2. Select Option: Log In
  3. Log in with your VCU email address and special listserv password you have created.
  4. Click "Subscriber's Corner" to see which mailing lists you are a member.

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List Owner Questions

How do I set up a Mailing List?

A Mailing List at VCU must support a valid "University-related" activity. It may not be used for any illegal activities or for any non-University-approved commercial activities.

Faculty and staff may request the creation of a Mailing List by completing and submitting the Mailing List Request Form.

Student organizations must follow the procedures set up by Student Affairs on their Web page Electronic Communications Guidelines for Student Organizations to request a Mailing List for their organization.

Mailing Lists for professional organizations or other non-University groups must be requested by the head of the requesting department and will be submitted to the CIO of Technology Services, for approval.

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What's involved in "owning" a Mailing List?

For most Mailing Lists there is very little activity involved in being an owner once the initial setup of the list is accomplished. You will normally receive an additional email about the operation of the list, but most of the messages do not require a response.

However, if you decide to restrict subscriptions to the list and/or decide to moderate the list, there will be extra work involved. Restricting subscriptions will mean that you either have to approve (via email) all subscriptions to the list or, at the highest level of restriction, will actually have to subscribe and sign-off individual users by means of listserv commands. If the list is "moderated", either you as the owner or whoever you designate as "Editor" or "Moderator(s)" will have to approve (via email) each message sent to the list.

There can also be additional duties involved in saving files, creating welcome and farewell screens, etc., depending on how sophisticated you want your list to be.

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How do I configure my Mailing List?

When your Mailing List has been approved, you will be given the URL for a Web form to fill out that will provide the initial configuration for your list. This configuration uses basic Keywords. Later, if you want to change some of the original configuration Keywords or add some more advanced Keywords, you will have to "GET" the list "header" via email, make the appropriate changes and email it back to the listserv (you will need a "personal password" to do this). The easiest way to GET your list header is to use the Listserv Commands Web Script provided by OIT.

Remember - when you GET your list header, you "lock" your Mailing List, preventing people from subscribing, until you either PUT your list header back or UNLOCK the list.

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What are the Keywords for a Mailing List?

The list and values of Keywords go beyond the scope of this FAQ. Refer to the Mailing List Owner'sdocumentation.

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How do I let people know about my Mailing List?

A Mailing List is usually aimed at a specific group of people - an organization, department, class, etc. If you know who this group is, you can let them know about the list at a meeting, via email, on the telephone, or by any other means of communication. If the group has a Web page, you can advertise the list and link to the Listserv Web Interface.

Finally, if you designate your list as "World-Wide" (Confidential= No), it will be included in CataList, the official catalog of LISTSERV lists. Note: this is not recommended for classes, University Departments, or local organizations.

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How can I learn more about owning a Mailing List?

The OIT Listserv Commands Web script has a section on obtaining information. This information is sent to you by email, and some of the documents are quite large.

L-Soft International also has a "Quick Start" and a full Mailing List Owner's Manual available via the Web for either downloading or on-line reading.

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