A listserv (e-mai list server) service is an easy, convenient way to set up an ongoing information exchange among a group of people. The service is entirely automated-you monitor when and how you wish. Basically, you publish a list server address (on your web site, in a rag sheet or trade publication, by word of mouth, or any way you want), and you state the topic or theme of the server. If someone is interested in that topic or theme, they send an e-mail message to the list server's majordomo (a fancy word for gatekeeper, or manager-but this is the computer working for you!), with a subject (Re:) of "Subscribe". The majordomo receives the message, and adds that person to the list. Now, that person will automatically receive any messages which are sent to the list, for as long as s/he remains subscribed to the list. If s/he ever loses interest and decides s/he wants to stop the service, s/he just sends an e-mail message to the majordomo with a subject of "Unsubscribe" -and, you guessed it! S/he now gets removed from the list. The list of subscribers can get as big or as small as there are interested people. Some listserv locations are very active, some are not.
A listserv is an excellent way to make sure everyone gets the same information and the same feedback. Some ways you can use a listserv:
A chat room is live, on-line, real-time "talking" with others who are also signed on to the Internet at the same time you're "talking". A list server sends messages using your e-mail software. You won't miss out on something just because you couldn't sign on for a day or two-all the messages will be patiently waiting for you to read and respond to at YOUR convenience. Likewise, the other members of the list don't have to all be signed on at the same time in order to exchange messages.
As the owner of the list, YOU get to decide just how much supervision and intervention you want to provide. If you want a very formal, strict stick-to-the-topic approach, then you can provide a "welcome" message to new subscribers stating the guidelines for the service. Or, you could be very laid back and let the "conversation" flow as it will. As the owner, you have access to everyone's e-mail address, so you can always send a private message to a subscriber if there is a problem, or the subscriber does not conform to the standards you've developed for the list.