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    A listserve is a membership of a number of people who simultaneously send messages to all members of the group. Usually, a listserve is based on some topic or commonality, such as interpersonal communication or a discussion of a college course. Because members of a listserve probably have something in common due to their shared interest in the theme of the listserve, many interesting factors can be explored. Although listserve messages are delivered by an e-mail system, there are many contrasting features of these two types of communication.

    The greeting of a listserve message is an important aspect that shows something about the writer, and there are many different ways that people choose to greet each other. Many listserve messages seem to jump directly into the content of the post, without taking time or space for a greeting. This is most common when the post is directed to the entire listserve community; however, one writer prefers to start with, "Hello all," when she addresses all the members. When a message is meant as a specific reply to a certain person, though, the message is often preceded by a word of salutation. This makes the message more personal and friendly. One writer of a post begins his message with, "Hi Jim".

    Another interesting aspect of the greeting of a listserve post is that people can reveal their confidence or lack thereof by what they say. For example, one woman writes, "I hope that this is appropriate for me to post to this listserv." It seems that she is not completely sure about what the standards are for a post to this listserve. This uncertainty could be spurned by the fact that many listserve members become annoyed when a message meant for one particular person or a message containing an irrelevant topic is introduced to the whole listserve. This can be seen in the fact that one message anouncing an upcoming conference related to the topic of the listserve was preceded by the following disclaimer: "Please forward (with standard x-post apologies)." Obviously, the listserve community, in general, is not tolerant to posts that are not beneficial to the total group.

    In view of this, it is necessary to ask, "What would be considered beneficial to everyone subscribed to a listserve?" Of course, general announcements on topics pertinent to the listserve are always welcomed. Also, continuous dialogues on themes of interest are allowed as long as the conversation does stray too far from the true subject matter.

    It is interesting to note that listserves, though commonly more formal than regular e-mail messages, can reveal different aspects of the writer's personality. For instance, a writer named Jim closes his messages with the quote, "How can I keep from singing?" Another writer ends with, "'But she won't understand, how anyone else could try to walk a line when they could fly...' If She Knew What She Wants sung by the Bangles." Yet another says, "This is my job and I love it. But my favorite thing to be is a kitty Cat!!!!" She then includes a sketch of a cat made from the letters on the keyboard. These personal notes do not relate to the content of the messages; however, there are ways for a writer to disclose his or her characteristics withough diverging from the topic.

    An example of this can be seen through a writer describing a way to forge e-mail by telnet. He cuts short his description with the following sentence, "Exactly how to do this is left for an exercise for the reader -- ie, kids don't try this at home." This writer reveals his humorous side while he posts his message. His personality can also be seen by the content of his message. In reply to someone asking about security problems on the Netscape e-mail system, this writer replies, "What you are saying is akin to saying in the context of regular postal snail-mail: 'there's a security problem with this envelope -- anyone can write a fake return address on it!'" Again, this writer reveals something about himself by what he writes. This time he divulges his loyalties to Netscape, as well as his clever creativity in composing the simile.

    Different characteristics of communication can also be shown through other things on listserves. Although there are far fewer symbols used on listserves than on e-mail, some writers do employ these cues. One writer closes his messages with, "enjoy ;-)". It seems that the infamous "smiley face" can be seen on all kinds of media.

    One would expect communication over listserve to be more formal than e-mail messages, and in fact, most is. However, there are some instances of misspelling and grammatical inconsistencies that make it seem less formal than what was previously thought. A woman writes, "I find this unacceptible..." and another poster types, "Synchronize is has a flat file database and it boggs down ever time some one makes changes to the scheduler." Obviously, not everyone catches or fixes his or her mistakes.

    Another example of grammatical inconsistency that renders listserve communication less formal comes from a man responding to the question about Netscape security. He says, "Spoke to a guy on the netscape stand..." By not including a subject in his sentence, it sounds more like a spoken, personal reply than a formal letter.

    There are, however, some posts that sound extremely formal. One reads, "To help frame what will undoubtedly be an interesting debate, I think it is valuable for librarians to read the International Publishers Association 'Position Paper on Libraries, Copyright and the Electronic Environment' (22 April 1996)." This sentence has a very academic sound to it.

    One of the most distinguishing features of listserve communication is that it allows a member to communicate with people he or she might never come into contact with otherwise. For example, a writer preparing a text about interpersonal communication asked for responses to a question about this issue, and he specifically wanted the replies of people from other countries and parts of the world. This task would be very hard to accomplish without the help of a listserve community to bring everyone together; therefore, the listserve can add a new dimension to the scope of communication. In conclusion, listserve communication has many of its own distinct aspects that make it a very interesting form of communication.

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This document was created April 26, 1998 and last modified on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 17:34:15.
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