A Brief 'Net Primer

Mailing Lists

You can join a mailing list to discuss marketing, technical, or vendor-specific issues. Examples include:

and ten thousand others. A variety of resources in the library provide hardcopy listing of the maillists available (specific books listed in an appendix to this guide).

To find out what lists are available, either ask other net.surfers, use one of the search engines available through the world wide web or download the maillist list from an ftp site (ftp.mit.edu).

Typically, to join the discussion group, you send mail to an automated listserver, using the following format (or something similar). If this doesn't work, try sending the word "help" to the same address. An autoresponder will usually send you a help file.

subscribe scoodt-request@xenitec.on.ca <yourname>

Unsubscribing is the opposite of subscribing

unsubscribe scoodt-request@xenitec.on.ca <yourname>

Do not send administrative requests to the list itself. Your "unsub" message will go to hundreds or thousands of people. You will also receive an introduction to the list as soon as you're subscribed, detailing the administrative and procedural issues.

Save this message!

After you join a maillist, you should refrain from posting any messages for a while. Get to understand the flavor of the list, what is appropriate to discuss, what isn't.

When you do post for the first time, start off with something like:

"Hi, this is my first time posting. Maybe this has been covered before, but I have a question about...."

Be brief and to the point. Identify yourself and wait for a response.

You will get private email back from other list participants. Some will wish to continue private "threads", while others will want to know what your company does and whether any jobs are available. In all communication, keep in mind that you represent both yourself and the company, even if you're sending a private flame to some jerk.

He or she may just forward that message on to scott@corp.sun.com.


Don't set "return receipt requested on messages sent to mail lists. You'll get hundreds of return receipts back for each message.

Mail lists are global in nature. Don't use colloquilisms that people outside the US wouldn't understand. Be careful to phrase things in a way that doesn't favor one country over another.

Usenet Newsgroups

Usenet discussion groups are similar to bulletin board discussion groups. Information varies broadly, from the use of unix systems, to the flaming of barney. You get access to usenet through a "usenet browser" that allows you to read individual messages and any follow-up responses.

In addition, you can post your own thoughts on a given subject and enter a public dialog with other usenet readers. These are widely read, so be polite. Don't post anything that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the NY Times.


Usenet uses a hierarchy to allow easier browsing. Major sections, with examples, include:

An example of a business-focused newsgroup is biz.comp.hardware; an example of sports and recreation is rec.bicycles.misc.

Several books in the library offer specific listings of usenet newsgroups. In addition, your usenet browser will list all newsgroups available to you from your particular service (not all usenet hosts carry all groups).

When you choose the newsgroups you wish to browse, they may be grouped in a particular window in your browser. Then, each time you browse that particular newsgroup, the browser will keep track of the messages that you've read or skipped and only present new messages in follow-on sessions.

In addition, a variety of resources in the library list the various newsgroups available.

You typically have the choice of reading the messages in any of a variety of orders, including:

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