Mailing Lists - Online Guide
Mailing lists are an excellent example of how an invention can be exploited and adapted by those who use it. Mailing lists used to be non-profit discussion groups, for people to discuss computer programming with like-minded friends, and, yes, to swap recipes. Now businesses have entered the world of mailing lists, and are using the technology to search for potential customers (with varying degrees of skill).
Mailing lists have a lot in common with other inventions. Alfred Nobel was horrified at the destructive ways in which his invention, dynamite, was used, but more horrified still must have been the man who invented the guillotine: legend has it that he designed it as a kitchen tool for chopping vegetables quickly. Still on a vaguely culinary note, some of us can remember the days when the Internet was something you accessed with a text-based browser, and a lot of the content involved recipes. This probably isn't because the early users of the Internet were all food fanatics; it's more likely to be because a recipe is a conveniently discrete chunk of information to share while testing new technologies. Things have changed a lot since then, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who was named the Greatest Briton of 2004 because he is widely seen as "the father of the World Wide Web", may share Alfred Nobel's surprise at the uses people have made of the invention he worked on.
If you're setting up a discussion group - for example, a support group for dyslexia sufferers, or a chat room for gardening enthusiasts - our pages on basic email mailing list use, types of consumer mailing list and free mailing list hosting should get you started, but feel free to browse around the site for more information and inspiration.
If you're a business user looking to maximize marketing through the use of mailing lists, this site will give advice on how to get hold of quality lists and how best to maximize their potential. Mass mailing is a tricky technique to get right; too little and you won't reach potential customers, too much and you will be labeled a spammer. Which brings us to the unforeseen downside of the Internet. Just as French children were once scared into silence at bedtime with threats of Madame Le Guillotine, so Internet users have come to fear the inbox-crippling spammer. Any business seriously aiming to build a customer base should avoid all spammer-like tactics, as this detracts from the credibility of your business and you could lose more customers than you gain. You may also find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Our pages on commercial and DIY mailing lists should help you stay out of trouble.
This site should be useful for anyone with an interest in using mailing lists. Armed with our information, you will be ready to communicate more easily with like-minded people, whether they be Nobel prize winners, French Revolution historians or lovers of finely-chopped vegetables.