by Judith Maginnis Kuster - Minnesota State University, Mankato (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Anyone with Internet access can now create mailing lists on Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com) or Topica (http://www.topica.com). You can establish free mailing lists (as well as newsletters and chatrooms) in minutes by following simple instructions. Both add advertisements to each email unless you pay a fee. The ads are easy to ignore -- no more bothersome than newspaper ads. Some universities will not allow staff to develop these free services for university purposes, but may offer similar services through their campus servers.
Mailing lists can be professional or personal, short-term or long-term. They can be open to anyone or private and open by invitation only. All mailings can be archived, and archives can be open or available only to list members. I have developed short-term lists for nation-wide, state-wide and campus-wide committees, the most recent for an ASHA convention committee. I also have a private list for a course I am currently teaching. These lists and all archived messages are easily deleted when the task or course is completed.
My personal (and more permanent) lists include a family list for my children and their spouses, and a class reunion list to keep in touch with old friends. You can upload files (including pictures) which can be restricted to list members only, or open to anyone even if the list is private (check http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kuster/files/ -- you can view family photos but not family messages).
Consider the creative possibilities. Professors can develop private mailing lists for classes. Supervisors can post "case studies" (fictional or real, with identifying information removed) for discussion. Clinicians can create support opportunities for clients and their families, or share threatment ideas.
Professionals and consumers have already created numerous open mailing lists that may benefit clients. (There are over 250 groups about autism alone!) Before recommending a list to clients or their families, the clinician should subscribe, check the archives, and decide if the list is appropriate. Provide instruction in how to use mailing lists appropriately. Include how to subscribe in "digest form," especially if the list is active, so that messages are grouped into one or two emails each day rather than 30-100 individual messages.
Another option is to read the messages on the Web rather than receiving them via email. Provide a reminder that information and suggestions on many lists come from consumers who may have many excellent ideas about some situations, but not the medical or professional background to provide accurate treatment information.
Here are some examples of lists on Yahoo! Groups. Check for additional mailing lists and subscription information at http://groups.yahoo.com.
Judith Kuster is in the department of communication disorders at Minnesota State University , Mankato. Contact her by email at email@example.com.