Dec 122017
Listserv info for Bitnet.
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Listserv info for Bitnet.
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Contents of the LISTFAQ.TXT file

Revised LISTSERV System Reference Library, Release 1.7c
Copyright (c) Eric Thomas 1992
Last update: April 19th, 1992

* Frequently asked questions about LISTSERV *

Thank you for having ordered this document instead of posting your
question to a mailing list. This is a good start - now you will learn how
to find the answer to your questions by yourself. There is no file with
frequently asked questions and answers, because nobody has had time to
prepare one, and it would become obsolete pretty fast unless it was
regularly updated. There is, however, a process which allows you to find
up-to-date answers to frequently asked questions: the database functions
of LISTSERV. Most of the questions about LISTSERV you might ever have to
ask have been answered already on the LISTSERV discussion list
(LSTSRV-L), which held about 6,500 messages at the time this document was
written. You can search this database on any of the following hosts:

BITNET nodeid Internet hostname
------------- -----------------
SEARN SEARN.SUNET.SE (Stockholm, Sweden)

Before you start shaking your head and wondering where on earth I got
such a silly idea for a FAQ file, let me give you an example. Let's say
you want to find out the exact syntax of netwide unsubscription requests.
Here are the results of an actual search:

> search netwide in lstsrv-l
--> Database LSTSRV-L, 195 hits.

> index
Item # Date Time Recs Subject
------ ---- ---- ---- -------
002062 88/02/07 20:43 75 Global deletion feature
006466 92/04/17 09:27 14 Re: Netwide deletion

That's right, one hundred and ninety five messages are related to your
question, and the first one dates back to 1988. That first message
contains a description of the facility, complete with syntax and a sample
job file. It is now obsolete in some respects, but still mostly
applicable, and it probably does answer your question. You will probably
object that this is a rather generic question, and that yours is, quite
to the contrary, very specific indeed: you got an "Internal error number
2013" while posting to a list, and want to know what to do about it.
Fine, let's try it...

> search 2013 in lstsrv-l
--> Database LSTSRV-L, 11 hits.

> index
Item # Date Time Recs Subject
------ ---- ---- ---- -------
003838 89/09/13 11:09 19 Database error
006018 91/11/21 15:27 42 Error processing file

A search like that takes at most 5 minutes when you are familiar with the
database functions, and gives you a comprehensive answer if there is one.
You will not have to thank 20 people individually for having taken the
time to answer you by private mail. You will not irritate the subscribers
of the list, who want to talk about more interesting things than the
syntax of netwide deletions. You will not embarass yourself by having
asked a question that invariably comes up once a week, or one whose
answer should have been "obvious" if it hadn't been so late of you hadn't
had a cold or... People often apologize for having asked such questions,
which further adds to the traffic on the mailing list, but I have yet to
see someone apologizing to a computer for having wasted its time on a
database search.

No matter how you look at it, you win. The only cost to you is time -
both to learn how to use the database functions, and to perform the
actual search if the network is slow or if you are not yet familiar with
the database system. But the more you try it, the more efficient you will
become and the less you will be slowed down by network delays: you will
soon be able to find the information you want in 2-3 "batch" searches,
which you can send and forget about until the answer comes back. Granted,
you will not get the answer until the network has delivered the file, but
the same is true with any question posted to the list via mail - it's the
same destination, after all. A well-trained "searcher" with a couple
EXEC's/COM files/scripts to assist in sending requests via mail and good
connectivity to one of the archive sites can easily obtain an answer from
the computer in less time than a human being could type a new one, unless
of course the answer is very short (like "No, this cannot be done").

But there is much more to the database functions than a system to answer
questions about LISTSERV, which in itself might not be worth the learning
investment. Answering questions about LISTSERV is but one of the
countless uses you can put your searching knowledge to. LSTSRV-L is but
one mailing list out of the 3,000+ there are on BITNET - and it's up to
you to explore the others as well. A well-trained searcher can obtain the
answer to almost any question about any academic topic in some 15
minutes, by tapping the archives of one of these mailing lists - find the
right list with LIST GLOBAL or with the LISTS database, then find the
answer as usual. There are lists about the biology of bees and camels,
about the best type of bacteria to use in brewing beer, about holography,
early music, boats, all kinds of social and scientific subjects, and, of
course, about anything closely or remotely related to computers. All this
wealth of information is available through a SINGLE interface, so what
are you doing reading this when you could be learning about it now?


- Send an INFO DATABASE to LISTSERV for a copy of the database manual. Do
not worry too much about the date - there have been so little changes
since the original version that the documentation did not need to be

- Release notes (descriptions of the changes from one release of LISTSERV
to the next one) are available from [email protected] as 'Vnnt RELNOTE'
(for instance, V17B RELNOTES describes the changes introduced in 1.7b).
You can also find this sort of information via the database, but it
will be scattered across a number of separate messages over a rather
long period of time; if you want to know "What's new?", these files and
the archives of the LSTSRV-M list (also at SEARN) are the best place to

- You may want to subscribe to the LDBASE-L list and read the archives,
if you have BITNET connectivity and your system runs VM or VMS.

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