The following are ideas, submitted by fellow RootsWeb mailing list administrators, to aid you in running a successful, useful and harmonious mailing list. The ideas below aren't necessarily listed in order of importance. Please feel free to send in more ideas of your own to help round out the list.
- Remember that we were ALL new at one point.
- Be ready to repeat basic instructions over and over again because new subscribers come online every day. It is unreasonable to think that you only have to describe something once and that everyone will remember or understand or recall how to do everything correctly from that point on.
- Do not jump to conclusions about the intent of the person who has made a mistake. Assume that they are innocent until proven "guilty."
- Read all messages (and other people's responses to them) carefully - twice - before responding.
- Write your response, then set it aside for a bit before sending it. Maybe a bit of time will help to change the perspective a bit.
- Re-read replies or posts you write yourself before sending them. Be sure you are conveying your true meaning and that you are communicating positively.
- Remember how hard it can be to convey emotion in writing.
- Keep your tone light and friendly, especially when you are frustrated and/or trying to resolve a problem.
- Show patience.
- Write detailed FAQs, web pages and welcome messages.
- Be clear in stating your list's guidelines.'
- Call them guidelines, rather than "rules" so that you don't portray yourself as a dictator, but instead as a friend.
- Create pre-written e-mail messages that are ready to use when you are faced with problems like attachments sent to lists or HTML used in messages (as well as subscribe/unsubscribe problems).
- Customize the welcome message for your list. Be sure to include the following items in your welcome message:
- A note encouraging the new subscriber to keep a copy of the welcome message for future reference.
- An official description of the mailing list, its purpose and scope.
- Your name and e-mail address, identifying yourself as the list administrator and person responsible for maintaining the list.
- A set of quick instructions on how to subscribe to and unsubscribe from the list.
- A more detailed set of instructions for subscribing and unsubscribing,explaining how mailing lists work, etc.
- Instructions on how to post messages to the list.
- Instructions on how to order a copy of the list's welcome message:
Open a NEW e-mail message.
Send it to: EXAMPLE-Lemail@example.com
In the subject line type one word: archive
In the body type only this text: get welcome.txt
Turn OFF your signature file.
Send the message.
- The URL for the mailing list's corresponding web site (see below).
- A list of URLs (addresses) for web sites of interest like RootsWeb, John Fuller's site for mailing lists, etc. (see the list at the end of this page).
- A set of rules or guidelines on how you expect the list to work and how people should behave on the list.
- Reminders NOT to forward spam, virus alerts or attachments to the list, along with the reasons why this important and explaining the problems that they can cause for the list and the other subscribers.
- Create a companion web site for the mailing list. This web site should contain:
- a simple set of subscribe/unsubscribe instructions at the top of the page
- a copy of your official welcome message
- a statement of the list's purpose
- your name and e-mail address
- Use a specific signature file in all your posts to the list and to the subscribers. That signature file should contain:
- your name and e-mail address
- the name of the list
- very simple instructions for unsubscribing
- Example of a list administrator's signature file:
Your E-mail Address
Listname-Here-L Mailing List
To subscribe or unsubscribe from the list, send a NEW e-mail
message to: Listname-Here-Lfirstname.lastname@example.org
or Listname-Here-Demail@example.com (for digest mode)
with only one word in the body: subscribe
- Make frequent posts to your list, replying publicly regarding various list maintenance issues. This ensures that everyone remembers who the list administrator is and that the list administrator is paying attention. By repeating some of the maintenance issues to the entire list, readers will begin to remember and retain some of these things.
- Whenever there is a lull in the conversation, jump in with a friendly post of your own. Mention new web sites, new resources for your list's topic, or ask others to do so in order to generate conversation again.
- Make a monthly post to your list with a reminder of:
- the list's purpose
- the URL for the list's web site
- simple subscribe/unsubscribe instructions
- your name and e-mail address
- Welcome new people to your list. Encourage them to participate.
- Frequently remind long-time subscribers to re-introduce themselves.
- If you have a small list of subscribers, or if you have an e-mail software program that uses filters, create a personal welcome message that can be forwarded to new subscribers when they first join the list:
- At the bottom of your Tool Box/Utility Page, click on the link for "Customize Settings."
- Choose "Yes" for "Notify the list manager when someone subscribes?" and press the Submit button.
- Write a generic, personal message from you to new list subscribers. Save the message in your e-mail program so that you can use it repeatedly.
- As you get notices that new subscribers have joined your list, send a copy of your personal welcome message to them.
- If you have a small group of subscribers, you can send your message manually.
- If you have a large group of subscribers, look into using filters in your e-mail program (if they are an available option). Set up the filter to send your personal message in reply to each notice you receive informing you of a new subscriber. You can even set the filter up to delete the copies of the incoming notices and your outgoing messages once you are through with them.
- Don't allow other list subscribers to bully new subscribers who make mistakes. Step in with a polite, but firm, reminder that you are the list administrator. Re-state the purpose of your list.
- Do not chastise or berate anyone publicly. Talk with them privately about certain problems. Do not point out their errors in front of the rest of the people on the list by naming their names or by using any negatively-charged terminology. Instead, without using any names, use the problem as an example to discuss and educate everyone on the list.
- Take care of any problems on the list as soon as possible. Stepping in as the official list administrator often ensures that other list members won't take it upon themselves to try to fill your shoes. Promptness on your part can help to avoid problems, misconceptions or miscommunications.
- Remember that every mistake made is an opportunity to learn about something and then make the mailing list even better than it was before.
- Use the ten rotating taglines option for your list to post shorts bits of important information periodically to your list. The taglines are added to each message that is posted to your list. You can create ten taglines which are each used one at a time, rotating through the list with each message posted. If you do not have ten separate messages you would like to post in the rotating taglines, you should still fill up all ten spots to be sure that every message will have a tagline. You can repeat any of your current taglines - once, twice or up to ten times if you like. To create your taglines, see the link at the bottom of your Utilities page. Suggested ideas for taglines:
- Subscribe/unsubscribe instructions (see the signature file example above).
- Reminders about the purpose of the mailing list.
- Friendly reminders to get people to post to the mailing list every once in a while.
- URLs (addresses) for important web sites of interest to the mailing list subscribers.
- Microfilm roll numbers for the federal or state census for the state or county of interest to mailing list subscribers.
- Other small bits of research help or data of interest to the mailing list subscribers.
- Genealogy humor, poems or one-liners.
- Tips on netiquette to aid the new subscribers who join the list (i.e. no uppercase letters).