||Forget The Web Join a Mailing List back to TTN home page
by Joe Harkins - Jun 16, 98
By now, almost everyone who hasn't spent the last few years in a cave has heard about the World Wide Web. It's a rare magazine ad or television program that doesn't invite, "Visit us at www.wherever.com." Computer users all over the planet are staring at a little hour-glass icon and wishing for a faster modem.
But there's a lot more to the Internet there than just the WWW, and there's no need to twiddle your mouse while waiting for a graphics-rich web page to download. Many people have discovered that "Email Discussion Groups" (also called "mailing lists") are excellent resources for travel planning; a lot less time consuming, too.
The concept is simple. A group of computer users with a common interest provide their names and email addresses to a host computer. Every email message sent to the host computer is automatically broadcast to everyone subscribed to the "mailing list," hence the name. Any subscriber may respond to that message, either with a public message bounced out to the entire group, or privately to an individual. Groups commonly have hundreds of members and some even have thousands.
According to Liszt, an excellent web site devoted to cataloging email discussion groups, there are almost 85,000 lists. Many are hosted on computers at various universities, which is not surprising since the concept of email discussion groups had its start when the Internet was built as a communication medium for scientists, the military and related defense contractors. Now that the Internet no longer focuses on that, the messaging software that served it, known of course as Listserv, has had its institutionally oriented digital sword beaten into a public plowshare.
Liszts search engine produced over one hundred lists devoted to the subject of travel but unfortunately, the field of email lists is changing so rapidly, even Liszt is having trouble staying current. As a result, the site has introduced Liszt Select, a user-supported system for confirming that a cataloged list is open, active and useful.
Most mailing lists are open to the public. Some only welcome subscribers with professional credentials. Stephanie da Silva's index of some 20,000 mailing lists focuses on what she calls PAML - Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists. Of the dozens her search engine catalogs under the word "travel," I recognize some that are clearly professional. However, her list is accurate in that they still are wide open to anyone who wishes to subscribe. They are often the best place to find a travel expert when you want one.
Many mailing lists that do not consider themselves travel related are actually highly useful. Before I went to China I discovered mailing lists dealing with that country by searching under subjects such as Chinese culture, Chinese art etc. On one of those lists I made a contact in Beijing that eventually led me to a narrow street, closed to vehicular traffic, where every store front for more than a quarter of a mile specialized in local art and art materials. Instead of touristy kitsch, I was able to buy the real thing for a fraction of hotel gift shop prices.
If scuba is your vacation sport, searching on that word will produce more than a dozen discussions, including a list frequented by experts in Turkey, and another in Prague. Similar rewards await searches under specific sport or destination names.
Vivian Neou's web site is another excellent source for extensive mailing list connections however the search engine on her site is intimidating, requiring users to understand "Boolean keyword expressions." At Catalist you'll find details of almost 18,000 discussion groups, many built with that companys commercial list server software. -30-
(note: The material that appears below may or may not have been published in your local newspaper depending on the available space in this week's edition.)
List of Lists of Lists:
Pitsco's Listserv Information
Cyber Pulse Lists
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