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How email lists work ...


Robin Hilborn
Dec. 2003

An Internet email list is a free forum for discussion which happens by email. (They're also known as mailing lists, listservs and lists.) On an adoption email list, people discuss adoption issues, provide support to one another and exchange information ... just ask a question: someone is likely to know the answer.

Anyone who has joined a list can email ("post") a message to the list's server, which forwards it to everyone. Any member can reply to your message, so that you can draw on the experience and knowledge of all on the list. You can send messages any time, and choose between getting replies one at a time, or grouped in a daily digest.

Email lists are "owned" by volunteers, often adoptive parents. Owners watch the flow of discussion and occasionally interject comments, but usually don't approve or reject posts. Keep in mind that lists are not like magazines edited by professionals; you may find useful information, or you may get uninformed (not to say inaccurate) commentary.

Let's take as an example my personal choice for Canadian topics ... Canadians-adopting, You would post messages to

This list is a Yahoo group. To talk to the owner of a Yahoo group, send email to the list-name plus "-owner". The owner of canadians-adopting is

To subscribe, you could send email to the list-name plus "-subscribe", for example, But rather than sending email, you would usually join by signing up at the list's web site (which is easier).

How do you find a list's web site? See the four directories at "Directories of email lists",, where you can look up lists on adoption and any other topic.

If you're looking for an email list about adoption in a particular country, see "Country-specific Resources", I've improved on the usual presentation by showing the number of members per list, so you can judge how popular it is. Watch out, though! If you join a list like Adoptive Parents China (12,442 members) you'll get over 100 messages a day!

Robin Hilborn is editor of Family Helper magazine and webmaster of Family Helper web site. See his biography.

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Contact: Robin Hilborn,
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Copyright 2009 Robin R. Hilborn
Updated Aug. 7, 2006

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