H is for How to Make a Listserv

  1. Navigate to http://lists.virginia.edu.
  2. (If you’re not signed in) Sign in using Netbadge using this unusually tiny button, tucked right over in the left-hand corner, completely going against every modern notion of where to find a login button.Screenshot 2014-04-03 16.39.09
  3. Wait. Yes, I actually feel the need to add this step because most people would think they’ve done something wrong if they’re forced to wait 10-15 seconds. Nope. Not with lists.virginia.edu. That wait time is actually a feature!
  4. Okay whoa, we’re finally in. Take a look around. You’re presented with a bunch of categories in the center of the screen, the lists that you’re subscribed to on the left, and a tabbed menu at the top. So many options. What to choose. Why is this front page not simpler. Oh gosh.
  5. Ah, “Create List.” There it is. Click that tiny menu item.Screenshot 2014-04-03 16.43.17
  6. And…wait fifteen to twenty seconds. Again.
  7. Enter your listserv name in the “List name:” box. And make sure not to put the @virginia.edu at the end. Oh, and be sure to follow the guidelines in the yellow box because if you don’t, you “might cause problems” (yes, even the designers of this awesome piece of software are unsure when there will be problems…)Screenshot 2014-04-03 16.49.14
  8. Now, choose your list type. Do you want public_discussion_archives, public_discussion_no-archives, notification_archives, notification_no_archives, contact_address_archives, contact_address_no_archives, members_only_archives, members_only_no_archives, or A-S_Dean_Admin? The differences between these types of listservs are so obvious, you’d be a fool to ask for help. And that’s why SYMPA, the mailing list service we use, has planned ahead for this and provided little to no help on the differences! Ha ha, only an idiot would need help here! The SYMPA designers must’ve thought, “Why waste so much time writing explanations on which listserv type to choose?” Well, I want to help, because I don’t think any of these make sense by their name alone:
    1. First, the no_archive options: these options don’t keep a past record of every email that’s been sent on the listserv on UVa’s servers (at least, that’s my understanding). This is helpful for people who join a listserv late and want to read back the past emails that have been sent out through the listserv, but in most cases, you want to choose the ‘no_archive’ option for whatever list type you decide on. People will still always have copies of emails in their inbox, especially with Gmail – and it’s nearly unlimited space – being the default email service now.
    2. Public_discussion: imagine a free-for-all listserv, where anyone can email out the members of the listserv, and anyone from the group can respond back. Once you’re a part of this listserv, there’s unrestricted discussion. No moderators, no administrators, no parents, no rules. The thing to consider here is that anyone can email your listserv, even if they’re not added to the listserv group, so be cautious, unless you want anyone and everyone to be able to contact you and your group members.
    3. Notification: you know how you’re signed up for Target and Amazon newsletters, a couple of band’s weekly email list, and that one Kickstarter product’s newsletter that you bought, but still haven’t received because of “unexpected manufacturing difficulties pushing the product timeline back by a year and a half?” Those are “notification” type listservs. Anyone can freely subscribe to it, and you won’t be alerted when they join. However, only a select few can send out emails to the group – if the non-select few want to email out on the listserv, they’ll have to get moderator approval first.
    4. Contact Address: If you’re in a group that wants to be contacted by anyone, this is your option. For example, say you were the leader of a group in StudCo that wanted to solicit responses from any student at UVa. Then, you’d pick Contact Address. This allows anyone to reach you and your group, so be cautious, and an administrator must add anyone on the receiving end of the group.
    5. Members Only: this is actually, surprisingly easy to understand just from the name alone. Only the people in the listserv group are able to send out emails to other members on the listserv. This is perfect for creating a group for your first year roommates, your pledge class, and other close group of friends. It allows you to email everyone out at once, and no one can email you all without approval – think of it like a Group Chat for email. This is likely the option you want to pick.
    6. Don’t pick A-S_Dean_Admin…this really shouldn’t be an option that students can access but hey SYMPA likes to have fun.
  9. Pick your subject, your topic, and your description. You know how you get emails from listservs and they have that “[listserv-subject]” right before the subject of the actual email? That’s what you’re picking when you pick your “Subject.” The topic is just a category your listserv falls into in order to better organize it on the homepage that we all hate. And the description will likely never be read by anyone, but is a necessary part of creating a listserv. Write something funny.Screenshot 2014-04-03 16.49.27
  10. Click “Submit your creation request.” And guess what you’ll have to do? No, really, guess.
  11. Wait fifteen to twenty seconds because COMPUTERS ARE HARD GUYS.
  12. To add people on the receiving end of listserv, you’re going to have to click through a couple of things. First, find your newly-created listserv on the left sidebar.Screenshot 2014-04-03 17.01.33
  13. Then, click on the name of your listserv to get to this administrative view. Click on “Admin.”Screenshot 2014-04-03 16.50.29
  14. Finally, click “Manage Subscribers.” (For any UVa Web Administrator reading this, if you eliminated the page refresh between clicking each nested menu item, that’d be pretty sick and make your oddly designed website at least 25% better)Screenshot 2014-04-03 17.01.46
  15. Now, you’re given a view to “easily” add subscribers. If you check the “quiet” option, then they won’t receive an email stating they’ve been added to that listserv. Whether you click this is up to you. In general, I think it’s helpful for people to know when they’ve been added to a new listserv, so I recommend leaving it unchecked.Screenshot 2014-04-03 16.59.21
  16. If you need to add a lot of people at once, click the Multiple Add option. Each email address should be on a new line, as seen below. You can add the person’s name next to their email address, or you can just leave it blank. Either is totally fine.Screenshot 2014-04-03 17.13.22
  17. Click “Add Subscribers,” and now you’ve got people to email!
  18. Finally, if you want to have a list of moderators or administrators on the listserv, you’ll have to go through a bunch of nested menus again — JOY!
  19. First, navigate to “Admin.” Then click on “Edit List Config.” (Okay, really, was it too much effort to write out the word “configuration?” )Screenshot 2014-04-03 17.15.51
  20. Next, click “List Definition.”Screenshot 2014-04-03 17.17.34
  21. Now, in this “List Definition” view, you can add people as “Owners,” which means they have full administrative access of the listserv, can add and remove subscribers, and can customize the listserv to their liking.Screenshot 2014-04-03 17.20.12
  22. Or you can add them as “Moderators,” meaning they only review and distribute messages on the listserv if you’ve made your listserv behave in a moderator fashion.Screenshot 2014-04-03 17.20.33
  23. And the final step to put all the finishing touches on your newly configured and defined listserv: click the “Update” button! Unless you do so,  none of your changes will be saved. Scroll all the way down to the bottom, hit the stupidly tiny button that says “Update,” and you’re good to go!Screenshot 2014-04-03 17.21.23
  24. Hey! Cool! You made your first listserv! Now, go draft an email about how awesome you are to all of your subscribers (and get UVa to improve the usability of their listserv system).
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