Email Discussion Groups
I subscribe to (and participate in) several email lists focussed on square dancing and calling. I'm including information about them here for general information, as I find that not many people seem to be aware of their existence.
What are email discussion groups (aka mailing lists)?
In the early 1990s, I was involved in the local bulletin board community. Basically, the way that a bulletin board system (BBS) worked was that someone would set up their computer with special software running, connected to a telephone modem. A user would dial into the system via their own modem, log on, read any messages that had been posted, and possibly post their own in response. The messages were all public, so that anyone could read and respond to any message. In this way, widely separated people could participate in a public discussion of various topics, or could post announcements of upcoming events.
Flash forward to the advent of easy public access to the Internet. Similar mechanisms to the BBSes existed in the Usenet newsgroup system, but not everyone knew about those or had easy access to them. However, just about everyone with Internet access had access to Internet email. Some people in the past had tried to simulate the BBS experience by sending emails to large lists of people; however, replying to such long address lists isn't always easy. Fortunately, the Internet has a mechanism to make it easier: the mailing list manager, and mailing lists.
Basically, a mail list manager is a program running on an Internet-connected computer somewhere that maintains one or more lists of email addresses. Each list has a single email address associated with it, which the manager monitors automatically. When an email is sent to that address, the manager automatically forwards the email to all of the addresses in the list. The "Reply-To" address on the email is usually changed to the list's email address as well, so that when a member of the list replies to the email, the reply is sent back to the manager and is then forwarded to all of the list. This makes it easy to send announcements to an entire group of people at once, and to engage in public discussions with any number of people on the list -- because responses go back to the list automatically and are seen (and can be further responded to) by all of the people.
(Note that it is still possible to send a response privately to a single person, by typing that person's address in the TO: field of your reply in place of the list address that will automatically be filled in.)
Groups I participate in
This is a group started by Nate Bliss in the late 1990s, and which was taken over by Fred Bartow of the Adobe Squares when Nate passed away. It's hosted by Yahoo Groups, and is intended for announcements and discussions of square dance related events and topics relevant to Northern California.
Once subscribed, sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org causes it to go to the whole list of subscribers.
SD-CallersThis list has been around for years, hosted first at youngstown.oh.us and then dmshome.org, before eventually being taken over by Rich Reel at all8.com due to a system failure at the original host. It's intended for discussion of topics related to square dance calling, although you don't have to be a caller to subscribe. There are subscribers from all over the world, so discussions tend to involve a LOT of different points of view.
Once subscribed, sending an email to email@example.com causes it to go to the whole list of subscribers. (Note that Rich does not want to set replies to go back to the list, however, so to make a reply public you have to type firstname.lastname@example.org manually into your reply's address. Otherwise, only the person who wrote the original will receive the reply.)
Other groups I receive
ASDSCThis is an announcements list for people who are members of (or live in the area served by) the Sacramento-area dancers' association, the Associated Square Dancers of Superior California. It is hosted by Google Groups, and you can request a subscription from the group's page.
This is an announcements list for people who are members of (or live in the area served by) the North State Dancers' Association. (Not to be confused by the Northern California Square Dancers' Association [NCSDA] which serves the North and East Bay areas -- NSDA serves the northernmost counties in California.) It is hosted by Google Groups, and you can request a subscription from the group's page.