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Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
Getting off a list
Getting off a list
A problem related to the foregoing has arisen in the "Research" discussion list mentioned in earlier commentaries. When users join, or "subscribe" to a list, they are sent information on how to proceed, including instructions for leaving or "unsubscribing". This information should ideally be stored in a folder separate from the mass of relatively ephemeral messages that will come from this discussion list and elsewhere. A fresh copy of the information can be requested at any time, but there is the catch that the instructions for making the request are given in the required information itself.
In the case of the "Research" list there should be no problem, even if the introductory material has not been retained, because instructions for leaving are appended to every message distributed to list members. Nevertheless, there has been a flood of messages to the list, some of them expressing considerable exasperation, asking "How do I get off the list?".
The trouble seems to have arisen mainly because the software used by AOL (America On-Line) members did not display the appended message. However, there is also a potential problem when e-mail addresses may exist in alternative forms, as is true for members of CompuServe, so that, for example, (AlexAndrew@compuserve.com) is equivalent to firstname.lastname@example.org. An address is stored by the Listserv facility in only one version, and a user will fail to be recognised, for the purpose of contributing to discussion or of unsubscribing, if the return address associated with his message differs from that under which he has been listed.
The problem can be overcome because CompuServe offer users the possibility of choosing how the return address will be shown with messages they send. The choice is made, and can be revised as necessary, by accessing the CompuServe facility GO MAILSET. However, the possibility of alternative forms of one address is a potentially troublesome aspect of the use of automatic mailing lists.
A topic that has received attention in the "Research" list is the proper form for references given in published papers, where the source is the Internet. The author and title of the item can be shown in the usual way, along with the URL address (usually beginning with http://).
An interesting reflection on the instability of the Internet is provided by a change made by the American Psychological Association in its instructions for authors. Originally, their recommended form contained the wording: "available from World Wide Web" followed by the URL address, but in view of the fluidity of the web, "available from" was replaced by "retrieved from", so as to avoid the suggestion of a guarantee of continued availability.