Once you set up your list, yo
u get access to other Web pages to manage your list, to set up new subscribers, and to approve and post messages. While this sounds
somewhat similar to what I was used to at eGroups, the actual interface was somewhat clunky and there are numerous pages to wade thr
ough and to understand. Still, Lyris-oriented lists are powerful and the prices are reasonable, and I know many people who are happy
customers of both vendors.
L-Soft offers a hosting service for Listserv called Ease, in addition to selling the actual softw
are. I liked this interface better, even though it initially seemed more cumbersome. This is because of list serv”s long heritage a
s a command-line mailing list processor, meaning that prior to the Web, you sent the Listserv computer commands imbedded in the e-ma
il text, and Listserv would respond accordingly. L-Soft”s pricing is somewhat complex, but I figured it would come out to about $70
a month for my list, if I sent it during the weekends.
L-Soft”s Ease has transformed Listserv with a thin panache of a Web
interface, but it is thin enough that you still need to make use of the command syntax. For example, when you go to the Web configur
ation page, you are presented with a series of commands that looks like this:
Confidential= Yes Validate= Yes,Confirm Subs cription= By_Owner Notify= Yes Send= Editor,Hold,confirm Review= Owners Reply-To= Sender,ignore Renewal=No Auto-Delete=Yes,Full-Auto ,Delay(3),max(20),probe(30) Errors-To= Owners Digest=Yes,same,daily Sender= "David Strom''s Web Informant "
Each one of these command lines does something important, and to really understand them you need to carefully read the documentat
ion. Granted, once you set up your list to your satisfaction, you can probably forget about this syntax and these commands, and just
send your mailings out into the world.
However, since this was an evaluation based on personalities and corporations, rather
than actual technologies, I went another route, choosing to use Ezmlm and qmail, hosted on O”Reilly”s servers, for a combination
of reasons. First, I had real people who were experienced Unix and mailing list administrators with whom I could work, so I wouldn”
t be able to do anything stupid on my own — or so I hoped. Second, there wasn”t any Web interface, which I found strangely purifyi
ng, if that would be the right word, and I could focus on getting the mailing list content out. While having the Web interface is ni
ce, dealing with the various quirks in sending out each edition of Web Informant isn”t as obvious as just composing an e-mail messa
ge and sending it to the mailing server address. Finally, I like the folks at O”Reilly and welcomed the opportunity to work with th
So what do I recommend? I continue to use YahooGroups (as it now is called) for noncommercial purposes, such as to
support non-profit organizations or social clubs. It still has the easiest interface, and if you don”t mind the corporate intrusio
ns on your messages, it is fine. (Yahoo! has an option to pay to remove much of the advertisements, but they still tack on their own
bit in each message footer.) If, on the other hand, you want the best e-mail list processing service and can afford to pay for it,
I recommend Listserv and the Ease hosting option at L-Soft. And, if you are cost-conscious and don”t mind wading through some web p
ages to set things up, the folks at Dundee have a very reasonable offering.
If you can try out the administrative interfaces
before you become a customer, all the better: Everyone has their own particular opinions on what kind of interface makes the most se
nse to them. And if you are new to mailing lists and want a great book to get started, I recommend taking a look at Margaret Levine
Young and John Levine”s book called “Poor Richard”s Building Online Communities.” It covers lots of good information on how to set up mailing lists, including ex
planations of some of the more arcane command syntax for Listserv-, Majordomo-, and Listproc-based lists. The book goes into detail
about other community-building tools, including newsgroups, IRC, and the legal issues over running your own mailing lists.