Electric Dreams

In Cyberspace I

 E-mail and Mail Lists

Richard Catlett Wilkerson


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  Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1997 January). DreamSharing In Cyberspace I - Email and Mail Lists. Electric Dreams 4(1). Retrieved July 26, 2000 on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

In a recent speech in San Francisco, Bill Clinton gave a clear directive from his developing information and technology plan; all USA K-12 schools will be connected to the Net by the year 2000. Now what are our children going to find when they type in an Internet search for "dreams?" ASD is addressing this and other Net presence issue at several levels. The first is online access. See for example the ASD homepage project on the Web article in this issue by Jayne Gackenbach. We are also offering ongoing education to ASD members through this newsletter and direct, hands-on learning at our next convention in Berkeley.

However, I feel we can't be content with just putting information online. Bill Gates, in The Road Ahead, tells the story of trying to lure his friend Warren Buffett online by telling him about all the information he could access. But it wasn't until Buffett found out he could play bridge with his friends all over the globe that he became involved. The Internet is not going to be used like we used to use encyclopedias. When a child if offered the choice of looking up information or interacting with a group that shares his or her interests, what do you think is going be the child's choice? The Internet is more like an open street market or a collection of symposiums than a repository of data. To educate people online about dreams and dreaming an interactive community is needed.

There are several ways to create and sustain this community. The ASD homepage, for example, now has a bulletin board where discussions can take place between all segments of the online global community. The interface between the ASD newsletter and your personal areas of dream concern will become more interactive. Topics discussed and brought up during the conferences will be continued, deepened and expand with continual dialogue during the year.

Another way to foster online community is through Mail List discussion groups that focus on a particular subject. Some Mail List are for making group decisions and implementing plans, such as the asd-dream96 discussion group which focuses on the use of Internet at the 1996 convention. Some Mail Lists are short lived, like dream sharing groups that join or form a list for the length of a week or two to discuss a few dreams and then disband. Other Mail Lists are more like distribution lists that put out periodicals and take in articles. But the vast amount of Mail Lists on Internet are for discussing topics of special interest.

Unlike postal mail lists, these Net Mail Lists are both useful and available only if you subscribe by sending in an e-mail request. Net Mail Lists are a simple way to communicate with a group of people with a common interest through e-mail. On Net Mail Lists, one subscribes and unsubscribes at will. A special common e-mail address is used by the subscriber and all mail sent to that address will end up in everyones' e-mail box that is subscribed to the group.

An image. Normal E-mail is like a circle of individuals. With e-mail, the message is like a ball that someone makes and tosses to someone else in the circle. Each person in the circle is an Internet e-mail address. Now imagine we add a Magician to the group who duplicates the message balls s/he receives. The Magician is the Mail List address. In this instance, let's say this person is the list name address for the Mail List discussion group called "Dreaming in Later Life." Every time you throw this Mail List Magician a ball, s/he will duplicate the ball and throw it to everyone that is signed up on the "Dreaming in Later Life" discussion list. The overall effect is that a group discussion over days, weeks or months can take place between individuals located all over the globe.

Discussion Lists are really easy to join. But first...

One can join an discussion list by simple sending in a request to the automated List Server address that is associated with the Mail List. Do NOT send the request to the Mail List address. What would happen if you sent a request to the List Magician in the imaginary circle? That's right, everyone on the list would get a copy of your message that you wanted to subscribe, and you are more than likely to get more than one reply back from other subscribers about how happy they are that you are filling up their mail boxes with your request.

So how to subscribe? Well, as mentioned, there is another address. In our imaginary Net-Circle there is a Robot Server standing next to our List Magician. If you send a note to the Robot Server, it will do as you say and send messages back only to you that it is doing what you asked. You can join the list, get off the mail list, find out who is on the list and accomplish lots of other tasks depending on the Mail List Robot begin used. Note that one Mail List Robot may be helping several lists. So the Internet contains many Mail List Robots (Mail list Administrative addresses) and each one may have dozens or hundreds of Mail Lists that it serves.

There are several kinds of Robot Mail List Servers and each one wants you to sign up a little differently. The major Robot is called a LISTSERV. Let's go right to an example of how to subscribe to a mail list controlled by this Robot server.

In this example I'm going to join the Phil-Lit Mail List, an active and usually intelligent symposium on Philosophy and Literature. Feel free to try this out yourself . In the e-mail [To:] I'm putting the name of the robot listserv. In the [Subject:] I'm putting "sub to phil-lit" though it really doesn't matter what goes there as the listserv only reads what is in the body of the e-mail. I like to put in the [Subject:] what action I'm doing anyway so if I send it to the wrong address and it comes back I have a quick idea of what I was doing (in this case trying to subscribe to phil-lit). In the [Body] of the e-mail, I put one line that tells the automated listserv what to do and who is doing it. (They are not case sensitive, so I can use capitals or lower case)

Body of e-mail:

Within a few minutes I will get a couple of e-mail notes back telling me that my subscription has been accepted (or is being reviewed if the list is moderated) and another note that tells how much time and what resources were used in processing the request. I delete the resource note but I always, always, save the subscription acceptance note (The "Welcome" letter) as it usually contains all the important information about how to get on and off the list as well as other important information.
As members of the group send in notes, they will now be automatically sent to your e-mail box.

Now, how to send a message to this intelligent group? I simply send the message to the List Address PHIL-LIT@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU. Notice that the @TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU is the same address as the listserv, but that the LISTSERV@ has now been replaced with the name of the specific list PHIL-LIT@

In my example I'm going to pretend I got a message sent to me (and the whole phil-lit group) from Bob Jordon that said he was wondering if there had been any recent reviews of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams.
In my e-mail [To:] I put the List Address, PHIL-LIT@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU and in the [Subject:] I might say "Regarding updated reviews on Freud and dreams" and in the [Body] of the e-mail I might say, " Hi, Bob Jordan - I wanted to mention some recent updates on Freud's _The Interpretation of Dreams_ that can be found in the March 1994 v4n1 issue of the ASD _Dreaming_ Journal...."

Now I could have sent this message directly to Bob Jordon if he had included his e-mail address (which is usually automatically sent with the message) but in this case I felt the information was useful beyond his personal needs and sent it to the whole mail list. Note also that all e-mail is written in ASCII, which means you can use the letters and numbers on your keyboard, but no bold, italics , underlining nor font scaling. Thus you can make underlines look like _this_ and italics look like *this* and bold looks like THIS. Netiquette dictates that you only use capitals on the net for shouting, embolding or commands to robots whose feelings won't be hurt.

"Don't waste Bandwidth." This often quoted phrase simple means to respect the Internet as a limited resource and avoid sending messages that are unnecessary for everyone to see like , "Yes, I agree with you completely!''

After a few days on the Phil-lit mail list I notice a lot of e-mail that I have to open, read and decide to keep, delete or reply to. Multiply this task times the number of mail lists I'm subscribed to and you will see how very quickly the mail list chores can easily get out of hand. One solution with Listserv is the digest option that puts all messages for the day into one e-mail package. To set my option to digest I send an e-mail to the robot listsev address and say in the body of the e- mail to "set phil-lit digest"

Subject: set to digest format
Body of e-mail:

Not all mail lists have this option. Listserv usually does. To find out if your mail list does have this and other options, you can send for an information and reference file. Usually the address is given in the "Welcome" file. The phil-lit reference file is available by sending an e-mail again to the listserv and saying in the body of the e-mail "info refcard".

Subject: Get reference file
Body of e-mail:

The reference list will contain all the commands I can use with the Listserv, including how to retrieve old messages and have sent to my e-mail address, how to keep my e-mail address off the public list, who is on the list and other useful tasks.

After a couple of weeks I find that I am way to busy to read even the digest form of Phil-lit and I want to leave the mail list. Since I saved my "Welcome" letter this is no problem. All I have to do is send the following message to the Listserv:

Body of e-mail:

In a few minutes you will get a reply that indicates you have been un-subscribed.

Each of the Mail List programs have slightly different keyword commands and options. Besides the LISTSERV we discussed, there are also listproc, mailbase, mailserv, and majordomo.
For a complete list of basic commands for each of these you can send an e-mail to:

To: LISTSERV@ubvm.cc.buffalo.edu
Subject: Get mail list info
In body put:

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." Samuel Johnson

But how did I find the phil-lit list in the first place? I haven't seen anyone with a complete list of Mail Lists, but there are several places that do claim to have them. Here are some ways to find them.

1. Word of mouth and announcements on other lists you are already subscribed to.

2. Internet Yellow Pages -- there are some great books you can buy in most bookstores that tell you where all of the neat stuff is on the Internet.

3. The LIST GLOBAL or LIST GLOBAL / STRING command. Once I know the address of one Listserver - like our phil-lit server - I can send a command that tells the server to e-mail me all its lists or just the lists I'm looking for by doing an alphabetic search.

Subject : Get all lists

4. The new- list mail list - Really more like a daily newsletter that give announcements of new lists that get registered with the service. To: LISTSERV@VM1.NODAK.EDU
Subject: Sub to New Lists
subscribe new-list YOUR NAME

5. Big List of Mail Lists on all Servers - or so they say. It *is* a large list! To: listserv@vm1.nodak.edu
Subject : Get Mail List Lists

6. If you have Web access, I suggest you begin you search at the list of lists center on Yahoo Mail List Directory

7. Or another Web approach is a Search machine for Mail Lists

Most Online services such as AOL and Compuserve have ways to make signing on and off mail list easier. (Though its hard to imagine something easier than sending an e-mail). There are also commercial products available that perform mail list tasks such as the windows based infoMagnet, an interesting shareware program (free to try out - pay if you like) that will organize the mail list tasks for you and perform searches through many newsgroups. Windows based. Download via web or ask for free disk:

Finally, there is one outstanding collection of mail lists by the Spoon Collective that involve philosophy I highly recommend for thinking and idea people.


Clinton, Bill (1995) October Speech at Fairmont: San Francisco, CA. [Actually, its not just Internet that this administrations plans to connect schools too, but an even faster network now in development]

-------- (1993). A New Direction to Build Economic Strength

Cochran Interactive (1995). Exploring the Internet: E-mail

Crispen, Patrick (1995). ROADMAP. (Guide to Internet). send e-mail To: LISTSERV@UA1VM.UA.EDU Body: GET MAP PACKAGE F=MAIL

Enzer, Matisse (1995). Glossary of Internet Terms. Matisse Enzer & Internet Literacy Consultants(tm):

Gaffin, Adam (Oct, 1995). EFF's Guide to the Internet. Electronic Frontier Foundation

Gates, Bill (1995). The Road Ahead. With Nathan Myhrvold and Perter Rinearson. New York, NY: Viking Penguin.

Glossary of Net Terms

Kabacoff, Rob (1995). Internet Users' Guide to Subscription Mailing Lists. Nova Southeastern University: Inter-Links(tm) (No Longer An Active Link)

Kehoe, Brendan P. (1995). Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide. Second Ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Krol, Ed (1987). The Hitchhikers Guide to the Internet. krol@uxc.cso.uiuc.edu

List of Net Guides: Guides and Tutorials

Levy, Steven (1995). Bill's new vision. (Bill Gates) Newsweek, Nov. 27. pp 54-57.

Milles, James (1995). Discussion lists: mail server commands. Mills Mail List Information File. Saint Louis University Law Library. Version 1.26.

Thomas, Eric (1995). LISTSERV Guide for General Users. EARN Association.
This includes thorough instructions for subscribing to, participating in, and unsubscribing from mailing lists. Email by sending
In Body : GET LSVGUIDE MEMO (plain text).

Next Month :Using Web Sites for DreamSharing.
Please feel free to contibute to this theme with your own articles,notes or comments,