Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Web Secret #106: LISTSERVs

Back to the future.

A long, long time ago - 1986 to be exact - one of the earliest social networking softwares was invented - the LISTSERV.

And 20 years later - when you talk about instant, simultaneous communication with like minded amigos or colleagues - there is nothing cheaper, faster, or better. Should I add free and easy to set up (provided you pick the right provider)?

For those of you who have forgotten, (or never knew in the first place,) a LISTSERV is an electronic discussion board. It consists of a mailing list program for communicating with other individuals who have subscribed to the same list. Using e-mail, you can participate in the listserv. When you submit a message to the server, your message is immediately relayed to all those on the listserv. The recipients can e-mail back and everyone sees the back and forth of these communications.

LISTSERVs can be powerful and effective tools for obtaining and relaying information. For example, interested in Alternative Medicine? You can join the Alternative Medicine Forum, read archived messages on a variety of topics, or post a new message with your questions.

Creating your own LISTSERV is a snap. I recommend YAHOO! Groups. It's easy to set up and use. Trust me, as someone who has created numerous LISTSERVs for a variety of groups, ease of use is important, or you will be flooded with e-mails and calls from clueless individuals unable to figure out how to sign up, post, or unsubscribe. True, your YAHOO! group is hosted on YAHOO! But guess what? Unless you are a large corporation, nobody cares.

For several years, an organization I know about hosted a LISTSERV on YAHOO! Then, they wanted to be cooler, so they spent several thousands of dollars on Lyris proprietary LISTSERV software. It's been a nightmare every step of the way. Hideously complicated to set up, very difficult to use, glitchy. Many users NEVER figure out how to sign up, and the LISTSERV administrator has to manually enroll them. It's ugly.

Meanwhile it took me exactly 5 minutes to create a brand new listserv for a local association on YAHOO! groups.

The LISTSERV, an oldie but goodie.

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