Dear Squeak and Blat,
I'm interested in starting a computer-based discussion forum going among the music teachers in my school. I think I can do this by using individual email addresses, but is there a better way? Someone told me about a list service or something, but I am not sure what this means.
Getting away from using those cumbersome newsletters and memos, eh? That's good--probably will save a tree or two. There are three options for you besides sending everyone individual email messages: (1) LISTSERVs, (2) newsgroups, and (3) web-based forums. I'll handle the first two and then let Squeak try his hand at the third.
LISTSERVS. Listservs are designed to allow all members of a list of people to receive any message that another member sends. For instance, if I join a LISTSERV on trumpet valve oil, I will receive messages from everyone on the list about this subject. Each time I check my email, I would get the latest set of messages from this list. I could follow the "thread" of conversation and add my two cents worth about viscosity and sticking. Everyone sees my "post" and might reply to me about not chewing gum while I play. You get these messages whether you want them or not.
To join a list, you "subscribe." What this means is that you send a simple message to a host computer that maintains the list and acts as the mirror for all the messages. This host computer sits out on the net and reflects all the messages back to the members on the list. My message about valve oil goes first to the host computer and then to all those on the list. This host computer also allows you to "unsubscribe" whenever you are tired of the messages or the content of the list.
Now, Joe, if you wanted to be the host for a LISTSERV you would either need to set up LISTSERV software on your computer and leave your computer on all the time or have someone at your school do this for you on a central computer. The latter choice is probably best for you. Contact your system administrator or internet service provider for information on establishing a LISTSERV. By the way, you can moderate or manage this list yourself, too, if you wanted to have control over the content and who wants to join the group.
Good examples of LISTSERVs are those maintained by the College Music Society. Check out their homepage for information on joining a list that they sponsor! Listings of other music related LISTSERVs can be found at this student-run, University of California-Berkeley site.
NEWSGROUPS. Newsgroups are like lists but they do not work through your email. Instead, they are brought to your computer by way of a news reader program (or increasingly through news reading features build into your web browser) and a news server computer at your school or as part of your internet service provider's service to you. This host computer maintains and distributes the news to you. You choose when to read the messages and if you want to read certain messages at all. You really do not "join" a list with newsgroups, just read the group's exchanges and participate if you want.
News reader software is generally free to you as an academic. Good examples of news reader software for various computer platforms can be found on several servers on the internet. Point your browser to this shareware site as one example. Contact your system administrator at school or your service provider for information about how to have newsgroups served up to you. He or she might have some software for you already.
There are thousands of newsgroups on the Internet already running and you might find one that meets your needs. For some examples of newsgroups in music to join, you might use your web broswer to contact the Indiana University Music Library's Music Resources on the Internet site. If you do not find one that meets your needs, ask your system administrator at school or your service provider about how to start one of your own.
Enjoy these effective ways to get in touch and stay in touch with the information age!
Well Joe, I see you're anxious to start getting serious about using the Internet to create electronic collaboration between your colleagues in music. Great idea. Musicians make good conductors for electronic exchange (pun intended)! Consider the exciting possibilities for using electronic collaboration with your students as well! There's a paper I did about a year ago on these possibilities (down in New Orleans while partaking of French coffee and Beignets at the Cafe du Monde!). It's online if you would like to read it.
Blat left it up to me to talk about web forums as a third alternative. Leave it to Blat to give me the least popular one! But, when you see one work you'll think it beats LISTSERVS and Internet newsgroups hands down.
What I like is some web software called NetForums. This was developed by the folks in the medical school at the University of Wisconsin Madison. It is so great that even the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves (Go to the Fan Clubhouse and select Fan Forum) have this installed on their web sites.
Check out the NetForum web site. Here's how it works. Instead of using email or newsgroup servers, people post directly to a NetForum web page. They can create discussion topics, post messages to the topics, and reply to messages. Each topic or message added gets automatically incorporated into the web page.
What is really neat is that you can see everything nicely organized by topic and by messages and replies. It is all automatically archived so you can go back and read older postings on various topics. The NetForum administrator (you) can edit and delete messages and topics. NetForum has a web page with a list of a bunch of people using their software. The best way to see it work is to go check it out. Try it! I'm using for my fine arts web page. You can check that one out as well.
To use NetForum you will need to pay a small licensing fee of $50 (if only everyone would distribute such great software so cheap!). Then you need to talk to your web administrator about setting it up for you. The documentation is terrific and NetForum even has a LISTSERV (would you believe!) that you can subscribe to for people who are registered owners of NetForum.
While I have the podium (I can electronically conduct too!), let me add a few more 2 cents to Blat's comments. Two really great sites for finding any Internet software for Mac and Wintel machines are:
Macintosh Internet Watering Hole
Tucows Wintel Software Web Site
Check them out!
Also, if you'd like to try a LISTSERV and have a great place to talk about your uses of music technology, you can join the Association of Technology in Music Instruction's (ATMI) LISTSERV. Blat and I both follow that LISTSERV. To get the instructions for subscribing check out the ATMI Web Site.
All for now. Squeak.