The joy of mailing lists

Posted by Giles Turnbull

As you'll probably have noticed, I'm a big fan of broadcast-style mailing lists. My initial attempt at a personal weblog, gorjuss, became one, and my attempts at a "pro" weblog became luvly, the list you are reading right now.

It's hard to pin down exactly what I find so neat about mailing lists. It's the idea of *delivery* that I like. There's no faffing about with browsers, not even with feed readers. When the author has something to say, they post to the list and everyone who is interested gets a copy right away, to read online or offline, as they wish.

Since just about everyone who uses the internet makes use of some kind of mail account, subscribing to a list must be one of the most painless and easy ways of reading new and interesting content. You're going to be using your mail client *anyway* - so email about things you are interested in is unlikely to bother you.

As a publisher (as opposed to a reader) of broadcast mailing lists, I love the simplicity and immediacy of composing a post for a list, whether I do it in a text editor for later copy-and-pasting into a mail message, or directly into a new message for instant sending.

And as a user of email, I like the way broadcast lists *give* me stuff without making any demand on me to *give in return*. Unlike discussion lists, I don't have to think of something to say about each thread.

Whenever a weblog or site I like offers the chance to be read by email, I take that chance. I love having this stuff sent to me, it saves me having to (a) remember to go to each site, and (b) read through it when I get there.

So it would seem that my love of mailing lists is mainly down to my pathetic ability to remember anything, and sheer laziness.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to list the lists I like.

* Politech -

Declan's been churnin' em out for a long while now, but I like the way that his posts keep me up-to-date with some of the more serious net news items that I need to keep track of.

* Interesting People -

Dave Farber's list suffers from occasional duplication (some Politech posts re-appear here) but is another good source of (mainly American) internet and technology news. It doesn't actually mention many interesting people.

* Viridian -

This is by far one of the most fun broadcast lists around. Bruce Sterling's voice can be clearly heard in every mail, and his sarcastic commentary inserted into the news stories he dissects can be simultaneously hilarious and politically spot-on. The Viridian ideal is a modern environmentalism, an approach to saving the planet without necessarily having to hug trees. This list has been an inspiration to me.

* David Strom's Web Informant -

Regular intelligent essays about topical web issues.

* Red Rock Eater -

Phil Agre's regular links round-up is essential reading. Again, it's very US-centric but there's so much good stuff in there, you can't really ignore it. Much of the links are about American politics and policy, or the (threat of) war and the alarming financial scandals. But Agre keeps the last section of the mail for "Everything else", where he puts an entertaining and diverse collection of URLs.

* TidBits -

Mac news and reviews. Completely fabulous, and completely free.

* Info-Mac digest -

Recently gone quiet due to some technical problem, but working again now I gather. It's Mac-related discussion, but edited and compiled into a digest to make it more like a newsletter. Extremely useful.

* Snowmail -

I've practically given up buying newspapers these days, and rely on the radio and the net for all my news. I really like getting this daily heads-up from the Channel 4 news team. It's advert-free (although you could argue it *is* an advert), costs nothing, and keeps me informed. Sometimes, it makes me want to watch the programme, although I rarely get round to actually doing so. The best thing about it is the way Jon Snow (or whoever's writing it that day) is allowed to add some personal commentary on the issues in the headlines. Often very funny.

* RISKS digest -

Entertaining reading about the potential for cock-ups everywhere you look.

* Cybergeography Research Bulletin -

Good source of purty pictures. I bought Martin Dodge's book, but I still haven't read it yet.

* NeatNew and ExLibris -

Entertaining digest of URLs of interest to librarians, and the rest of us.

* Research Buzz -

Another URLs digest.

* Internet Scout Report


And another.

* Yahoo Picks -

And another. I like to see lots of new sites, I need them for my PA column.

* FIPR Alert -

News and announcements from the Foundation of Information Policy Research. If it's about privacy and security, these people are usually on top of it and send out posts before most online news media have picked up the story.

* BoingBoing -

The weblog, by email.

* Interconnected -

One of the best Brit weblogs, delivered to my inbox daily. Love it.

* GoogleBlog -

Another weblog, by email.

* Aaron Swartz weblog -

Spotting a theme here? What makes me grin is that Aaron uses a special software widget to covert his RSS feed into a mailing list. Old tech -> new tech -> old tech once more.

What are your fave broadcast mailing lists? If I get a bunch of recommendations, I'll post 'em back here.

Co-incidentally, Jakob's been writing about mailing lists this week:

I wonder: does Jakob like mailing lists?

Posted to the luvly mailing list on Mon, 30 Sep 2002 23:06:07 +0100 . Contact: giles at gorjuss dot com.