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The Planet

March 1998, Volume 5, Number 2

How LISTSERV Can Make Your Life Better

by Drusha Mayhue, Sarah Fallon and Dave Simon

    E-mail is a fast and cheap way to correspond with friends and family and
    conduct business, so it's no surprise that it has become the communication tool
    of choice for Sierra Club members, activists and staff. Over the last two years
    Sierra Club volunteers and staff have been busy implementing a vision that
    takes full advantage of this burgeoning information technology. The Club uses
    cc:Mail -- an internal e-mail network -- but the cost limits access to about 800
    Club leaders and staff.

    LISTSERV technology, however, makes it possible for any member with a
    modem and an Internet mail account to participate in Club discussions and
    download documents. If you want to discuss fundraising ideas or outings with
    other members; if you need to exchange accurate, up-to-date information with
    other members; if you're a newsletter editor trying to plan a conference with
    80 other editors scattered across the country, the Club's LISTSERV technology
    provides the means. You can communicate with everyone on one list as easily
    as you can communicate with one person.

    Many of these lists (you can think of them as lists, chat groups or bulletin
    boards) are open to anyone, some are for members only and others are
    available only to the members of a committee, group or chapter. There are
    discussion lists for activists interested in sprawl or hormone disrupters; there
    are lists for members active in outings leadership, newsletter editing,
    fundraising and membership. New lists are being formed regularly. Chapters
    and groups are allowed up to 25 and five lists respectively for their own local
    issues and work teams.

    Additionally, there are many helpful documents such as model chapter bylaws,
    volunteer job descriptions and mountain bike guidelines that you can get via e-
    mail. You don't have to be signed up to a list to do this. For instructions, see


    While the LISTSERV can seem obtuse at first, the commands we've presented
    below should demystify it.

    What's Available?

    To see what discussion lists the Sierra Club has to offer, send the following e-

    A message will be returned to you with a list of lists grouped by type, such as
    Help, Conservation, Communication and Education, Membership and
    Development, and Outdoor Activities.

    To see what documents are available, send the following command e-mail

    The message returned to you will list available documents. Directions on
    downloading them will be at the bottom of the message.

    Retrieving Documents

    To get one of the documents available in the LISTSERV "vault" -- say, for
    example, instructions on using the LISTSERV -- send the following:

    This is the command This is the file name

Subscribing to a List

If you want to know more about one of the lists -- the list's mission, who is
eligible to join and how to subscribe -- send the following command e-mail.
We'll use CONS-SPST-HUMAN-RIGHTS-AND-ENV as the name of our sample list
devoted to a discussion of human rights and the environment.

This is the command This is the list name

If you want to subscribe to a list, follow the instructions you receive when you
send the INFO command above. In most cases, you'll sign yourself up by
sending the following:

      Subject: [this line is ignored and may be left blank]
      Message: SUB CONS-SPST-HUMAN-RIGHTS-AND-ENV Adam Werbach

This is the command This is the list name This is your name

In a few cases the list owner (as in, a real person and not a computer "robot")
will subscribe you to the list. If that's the case, you'll be asked to send a
message to the list owner.

Some lists are for Sierra Club members only and you will be asked to provide
your membership number to subscribe.

Once You've Subscribed to a List

Now that you've gone through all the trouble to subscribe to a list, you'll want
to send a message to it. To do that, send:

      Subject: Saro-Wiwa Rally?
      Message: Are San Franciscans on this list interested in going to a rally in front of the Shell building tomorrow morning?
      -- Adam Werbach

      (It's good form to sign your name.)

Actually Talking to People

Now that you know who posted the message, you can reply to the entire list by
using the Reply function of your mail program. But after you hit "reply"
remember to delete the text that looks like the lines below.

    Subject: Saro-Wiwa Rally?
    From: Human Rights and the Environment List <CONS-SPST-HUMAN-RIGHTS-AND-ENV@SIERRACLUB.ORG > at INTERNET
    Date: 1/20/98 5:33 PM

(LISTSERV writes you a little note so you remember.)

Be Careful!

If you want to reply only to the person who posted the message, do not use the
"reply" function but rather use the "forward" function to forward the message
to the poster's address.

If you'd rather receive one message per day containing all that day's messages
for your list (instead of getting a new e-mail message every time someone
responds to the list ), you can send the following command message:

      Subject: [this line is ignored and may be left blank]

Signing Off

Once you have won the conservation struggle that your list was set up for, or
no longer have the time to keep up with the issue and you want to get off the
list, send the following command message:

      Subject: [this line is ignored and may be left blank]

Becoming a Power User

If you are interested in learning more about LISTSERV and exploring its other
capabilities, get a list of commands by sending the following command

The commands can be a little cryptic, so you might also check out the very
readable manual available at:

Good luck in your use of the LISTSERV mail list system. If you have any
questions, please contact

Sierra Club, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441, USA. Telephone (415) 977-5500 (voice), (415) 977-5799 (FAX). 

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