What is a Discussion Group?
from Net Atlantic
Discussion groups are services where email messages sent to the list are forwarded to everyone that is subscribed to the list. By subscribing to a mailing list you are able to have discussions with a wide number of people on various topics. You can also just sit back and read what other people have posted. In practice a mailing list is just like a small discussion group except that you use email to make your contributions and hear what others are saying.
The advantage of a discussion group is that they tend to have fewer posts than newsgroups do, along with a narrower focus and more specific topics. This means that you don't need to wade through numerous posts that you don't care about. Mailing lists are also able to focus in on fairly specific topics. If, for example, you are only interested in discussions about Mormon history you can pick a list where feminism and politics aren't discussed.
Active discussion group can fill up your mailbox. If this is the case, be sure to use an email filter (sometimes called rules) to sort your incoming email into different folders to read at your convenience.
Most lists have fairly clear instructions on how to use them. Most mailing lists also have digest options that mail the day's messages as one large message instead of several small messages. Quite a few also have archives you can read using your web browser rather than subscribing to the list.
Discussion Group Participation
To join a mailing list you simply mail a message to a list's server. This message contains some specific information that a computer uses to subscribe you to the mailing list.
Make sure that you do not send a single message to several lists (this is called cross-posting). The only way to subscribe is to follow the instructions that follow the description of each mailing list. If you have difficulty with a particular list then write a message to the list owner. If you are unfamiliar with how your email program works, you might wish to learn how to use it before attempting to subscribe to any of these mailing lists.
After you are a member of a particular list, you should read the messages for a few days to get a feel for what types of discussions are appropriate for the list. Most people don't appreciate topics that vary from the theme of the list (off-topic posts). Several lists were actually created because the members didn't like the topics that kept coming up on other lists. Some lists carry on more technical discussions and prefer that general questions not be posted. You should respect the theme of the lists you are subscribed to.
Also remember that most lists are driven by what people post. If you don't see a topic that you like, then start one up yourself. There are generally about 15 - 20 "lurkers" for every person who posts. It doesn't make much sense to complain about the content of a list if you don't contribute anything to the it. So please contribute. Make sure your posts are at least reasonably thought out. Please include enough quotes to what you are referring to so that people can understand what you are saying. It is, however, considered bad form to quote more than is needed. When you do this many people don't even bother to read what you write. This also can be inconvenient for those people with a mail box that is limited in size. It's annoying to people trying to read the lists as well. And lastly, never send commercial email advertisements to a discussion group. This is considered very bad etiquette.