Getting Started: "Discussion Groups - Commands To Remember "

by Judith Maginnis Kuster - Mankato State University (

A very popular and important feature of the internet, discussion groups are a way people who share a common interest in a particular topic can communicate. Some of these forums are designed for scholarly discussion. Others are designed for parents or patients. You are a guest wherever you subscribe. Lurk for awhile to learn the level of discussion and follow the listowners directions for participation. Remember these are not all speech-pathology or audiology forums, so the discussion may not always be relevant to your interests. If it does not suit your needs, do not try to change it or criticize. Simply use your delete key for subject threads that are not of interest or cancel your subscription and try a different list (or form one yourself).

Programs that run discussion groups have different names. When sending a message to the program, think of it as talking to a computer. Although they are all cousins, the computers may understand a slightly different command language. The computer needs to be sent a very specific message or it cannot respond with anything except a standard error message. Don't worry about making the computer upset with your mistakes. Computers are very forgiving. They do not take offense when you cancel your subscription! They do not want you to say "please" or "thank you." Computers are more forgiving than some of the subscribers to the list. That is why it is very important to remember the difference between sending a message to the computer and sending a message to the listname (all the subscribers). The computer programs described below, with examples of discussion groups of interest to speech-language pathologists and audiologists, are LISTSERV, LISTPROC, MAILSERV, MAILBASE, COMSERVE and MAJORDOMO.


The most common type of discussion forum is a listserv. There are several places you can find the name and address of hundreds of current listservs. One way is to email to leaving the subject line blank and sending the message: list global. You will receive a list of several hundred listservs. You can also limit your request with the message: list global/your word, for example, list global/disability. Dartmouth maintains a keyword search site of more than 5900 entries of Bitnet and Internet interest groups at

Some of the listservs of special interest to speech-language pathologists and audiologists:

The following are examples of messages that ALWAYS need to go to the listserv address, NEVER to the listname:


These two systems use basically the same commands as listserv, except for calling the computer a different name.

Example of relevant discussion forum on mailserv:

Examples of relevant discussion forums on listproc:

Listserv, listproc and mailserv work basically the same way, differing primarily in what you call the computer. It is important to remember that the next three computers work differently. Many relevant discussion groups can be found on them, but people who are familiar only with listservs seem to have a terrible time canceling their subscriptions.


Mailbase is a system located in the United Kingdom. You are welcome to subscribe to these forums and join in the discussion. Although the computer is located on another continent, it often responds as quickly as one located next door, and there is no charge for connecting to the forums.

Examples of relevant discussion forums on mailbase:

Some of the important basic commands for mailbase:


Comserve, a service of the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship (CIOS), hosts a consortium of electronic resources established for students and professionals interested in the study of human communication. Membership is available for a fee and provides access to all of Comserve's resources. Included are discussion groups (called "hotlines") which may be joined with no membership fees. The most relevant discussion group hosted by Comserve is COMMDIS, designed to facilitate discussion on the topic of communication disorders. To subscribe, mail to the following message - subscribe commdis yourfirstname yourlastname The unsubscribing command is dropout commdis

Other discussion groups on comserve that may be of interest:


Growing in popularity are discussion forums hosted by computers you typically must address as majordomo (although some majordomos allow you to address them as listserv).

Examples of relevant discussion forums on majordomos :

Some of the basic commands for majordomo:

Liszt is a directory of nearly 41,000 e-mail discussion groups. Enter a word or partial word, and you'll get back a list of lists containing that word in their title or official description.

All of these discussion forums were functioning at the time this column was written. Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, by the time of printing, some may have been retired or changed addresses and other relevant forums may have been started. For anyone interested in keeping up-to-date with changes, many are announced on a discussion group called NEW-LIST@VM1.NODAK.EDU. You can subscribe to New-List by sending the following message to subscribe New-list firstname lastname. New discussion groups on Mailbase in the United Kingdom are announced on NEW-LISTS@MAILBASE.AC.UK. You can subscribe to New-lists by sending the following message to join new-lists firstname lastname.

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The above information was combined, updated, and adapted from:
Kuster, JM, Internet: Commands to Remember - part 1, ASHA , January 1996, p. 19
Kuster, JM, Internet Commands to Remember - part 2, ASHA, April 1996 Magazine, p. 22, 24.