The mailing list is a multi-function entity. On one hand, it tells people about upcoming dinners and changes in location for almost no cost. It supplements our publicity, and can be used to send out last-minute announcements with some hope that they are read. Another function of the mailing list is to send out the recipes, which saves people the trouble of transcribing the recipes themselves. Also, if they have the recipe in front of them, they are more likely to try it themselves. Finally, the mailing list is good publicity outside of Rice. At the time of this revision, the clear majority of the list was non-Rice. They read it for the recipes, but Vivek thought some of them were also interested in seeing what it's like to have a campus vegetarian club.
The mailing list is actually a series of lists. At the largest level, we have one combined list which can reach all of the subscribers. We then have a list which consists of just the Houston addresses. This list is useful for sending change-of-location announcements. Generally, we try to send everything in one message, but if we ever need to send out small updates, having a separate local list keeps things manageable.
The local list is then split up further, into separate lists for each college, and another list for everyone else. (Make sure you find out what college students are from when they sign up initially for the list.) These sublists are used to send out announcements to the college members when it's time for their college to handle veggie cutting. We have also tried having the grad students handle veggie cutting before, so if there's enough interest, that announcement can be sent over the separate grad student list.
People join our list in one of two ways - either at meetings, or by e-mail. At every dinner, we announce that we have a mailing list, and we have a sign-up sheet for people not already on the list. We also have a WWW page which has a form people can use to sign up for the list. We try to keep the list management duties simple, and most weeks, there are only about 3 or so people adding/dropping the list. We also try to limit the number of messages sent out over the lists in order to keep people from balking at a lot of useless messages.
The list is one-way only, and we keep it that way so that there isn't a large burden on the person running the list. There are other "real" mailing lists and newsgroups for people looking for a more active list, and if people join our list expecting something more active, you might want to let them know about the other resources so that they find what they really want.
The list is actually nothing more than an alias, which is maintained locally by someone (as opposed to be on some real listserv). As of this writing, the list is maintained in a ".mailrc" file and actual messages are sent with the list in the "bcc" field using standard "mail", also referred to as "Berkeley mail". The specific mail program used to send the messages will determine how the list is formatted. I have created a general form letter which is sent back in response to a subscription request. It serves as a welcome letter and tells the person a little about the list. It saves a lot of typing and answering the same questions.
Two final points about the list - it's good to work from some sort of form letter so that you don't miss anything important. Obviously, the location, time, and date of the next dinner should be included, but you might also want to thank the veggie cutters or the recipe transcriber, etc., etc. Also, the list has historically been an RVC-only list. We don't send things from other organizations or other people on this list unless the RVC has some (real) role in the event. This is to keep the list from being abused by others, and to keep the traffic on the list low.
The standard form letter used to welcome people is:
Hi, You've been added to the Rice Vegetarian Club's e-mail list. We're an on-campus organization that has a dinner and cooking demonstration almost every Saturday night. The e-mail list is used to present the recipe from the last meeting as well as for various administrative stuff. The e-mail list is split into two groups, one for Houston and the surrounding area, and one for non-Houston people. If your e-mail address is either from Rice or we get it from you at a Saturday dinner, you will be added to the local group. If your address seems non-local, you will be added to the non-Houston group. I can change you from one group to the other at your request. The logic behind splitting the groups is to inform local people about the locations and timings, etc. of the meetings. Likewise, we'd like to keep such administrativia out of the mailboxes of people who may in all likelihood never attend a meeting. Thanks for signing up, and please check out our WWW page if you get a chance, at http://www.rice.edu/rvc. Any questions, etc. regarding the mailing list should be addressed to me. Thanks, Vivek Pai (firstname.lastname@example.org)