Frequently Asked Questions

Johnny Electronic Mailing List

A First attempt

A couple of brief notes on this document:
The writer of the FAQ is
The maintainer and archivist of the Johnny mailing list is R.J. Green.
C. Carrigan converted this document to HTML.

If you wish to subscribe to the Johnny mailing List, please read the entire FAQ before doing so. It should help you immensely.


1) Overview

2) Mailserver

3) Seminars

4) Email pointers

Appendix A) Some resources for books available on-line
Appendix B) Common Email Acronyms
Appendix C) Smiley's
Appendix D) Newsgroups available that might be of interest to Johnnies

1) Overview

Q 1.1: What is the Johnny mailing list?

A: The Johnny mailing list is an electronic forum where St. Johns's alumnican continue their association with each other, renew or maintain theirconnection with St. John's College, and participate in the seriousand sustained conversation that characterizes the study of liberal artsat St. John's.

Presently the mailing list is being used to conduct "seminar-like" conversations using a self-appointed leader on specific readings. Thecurrent format has been to suggest a number of readings, take an informalpoll, and then propose a reading for discussion. This mechanism is fairlynew, any suggestions you might have on how to administer, determine readings, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

Another source of conversation has been to discuss articles from the Reporter and St. John's Review. If some topic has peaked your interestand you want to share/converse with your fellow St. Johns's alumni, theJohnny mailing list is an appropriate place.

2) Mailserver

Q 2.1: What is a mailserver ?

A: The Johnny mailing list uses a technology often referred to as a "mailserver". A computer program serves as a clearing house where youcan send email messages. The program then sends that message to everyone onits list. The Johnny mailing list consists of St. Johns's alumni who have decided that they want to be included on this list. The following terms are often used in associated with mailserver:

To request to be on the mailing list, stolen from the use of subscribe in association with magazines and newspapers.

One who is on the mailing list.
A collection of messages that have been consolidated to cover a certain time period.

Q 2.2: How can I get on the Johnny list?

A: You can subscribe to the mailing list by sending a message containing only thetext:


to the Internet address:

This procedure will add you to the alumni mailing list, which means thatyou'll automatically receive as e-mail copies of the public messages posted by other alumni to the mailing list.

The program knows from the message you send it what your email addressis. You can change your email address and other information in thelist [see Q 2.4]. The Your Name field can be any text string you want to use to identify yourself to others on the list.

Q 2.3: How can I send a message to subscribers of the list?

A: If you want to send a public message to all alumni who are subscribed to the list, send it to:

Q 2.4: What services does the mail server provide?

A: Some other services you can get from the mailserver:

Service Text to include in an email message

  help:  				HELP
  file describing the Johnny list: 	INFO JOHNNY
  other lists on this server:  		LISTS
  receive mail in a digest:  		SET JOHNNY MAIL DIGEST
  not to receive your own messages:  	SET JOHNNY MAIL NOACK
  make your address private:  		SET JOHNNY CONCEAL YES 
  unsubscribe:  			UNSUBSCRIBE JOHNNY
  to subscribe:  			SUBSCRIBE JOHNNY Your name
  to see who is subscribed: 		REVIEW JOHNNY 

To use these services from the mailserver, place the TEXT f or the serviceyou'd like in the body of a message (the subject of your mail message is ignored) and send it to:



index pub/johnny

in the text of the message. You'll get a list of the availablefiles. To get one, send a message to with:

get pub/johnny filename

in the text of the message. If you have files that you think shouldbe available via this service send them to Rich Green at rjg@lyman.Stanford.EDUand I will put them in the proper place.

Q 2.6: What's the difference between sending mail to johnny@lyman.stanford.eduversus johnny

A: Rich Green responds with:

lyman is just an alias for d31rz0. So there's no difference exceptthat lyman is easier to remember.

Our lab has four machines: d31rz0, d31rz1, d31rz2,and d31rz3. They are aliased; lyman, balmer, paschen, brackett whichare the different series in the spectrum of atomic hydrogen.

Q 2.7: I seem to receive a mail delivery from the johnny mail list server at therate of one per day in the form of a digest of several topics. I waspuzzled to find one day that topic 3 had a response to topic 2 in the verysame digest. Are there other more direct ways of receiving mail from the mail list?

A: Yes, the mail can be sent in digest form, letters are collected for a period of time and then mailed in a digest, or you can receive the maildirectly.

To see your current settings send:


In the body of a message to

3) Seminars

Q: How are email seminars conducted?

A: The process of conducting a seminar through e-mail is still in its infancy.The method so far appears to be:

a) Agree to be the mediator
b) Suggest a list of readings or reading
c) Prepare an opening question
d) Observe the results

Normally readings are suggested by someone who is willing to be a moderator, i.e. someone willing to ask an opening question.

The person who wants to be a moderator lets others know by posting a mail message with a suggested reading and a proposal for a seminar. Persons respond either to the list or to the person directly indicating whether they want to participate in a seminar on the reading suggested.If enough (some?) interest is shown an opening question is posted and the seminar begins.

Seminars tend to slowly have fewer and fewer postings about the particular topic. I am not aware of any official way to end a seminar. A proposalis for the mediator to send an email message declaring the seminar over, unfortunately ( or fortunately) there is no way to prevent a person fromposting about any topic they please, so a topic could continue to be discussed long after the seminar is "over". So far this does not seem to be a problem.

Currently we have been sticking to a "single" seminar at a time. Whetherthis is in fact necessary is an open topic for discussion.

[FAQ note: any suggestions, rules of order, appropriate methods that subscribers might have are heartily welcomed. This brief description isnot the "rules", it is just my perception of the way seminars have been conducted in the past - DGS]

4) Email pointers

Q 4.1: How is email different from a conversation?

A: [Please note this message was originally posted in digest #29, topic 8] Let me point out some basic points about email which I hope will help everyone in their pursuit towards a meaningful electronic conversation about important topics. I will often try to use analogies to a "real" seminar, but please bear with me since these analogies will not always be consistent or appropriate.

Who is talking:

An email message comes to me with an address that identifies from what computer account the message came. In a real seminar I would see a face, hear a name, and in a short period of time come to know some relevant and irrelevant facts about the speaker. Those visual and audio clues are missing in email which makes a short introduction important. Email is very good for hiding your identity, it is not good at explaining your identity. [Question, how important is identity in a seminar?]

Hostility in email:

Email is misunderstood quite frequently, and persons can be offended by what the author might believe is an innocent remark. Be very wary of responding to e-mail in the "heat" of passion. Take time to compose and think through your thoughts before replying. I believe the conversation so far has been extremely civil for email, but already I've noted a tone in which frustration is clearly below the surface. It is important to use humor and symbols :) ;) :-( to alleviate the tension, and still problems will occur.

To whom are you speaking:

I recommend the use of a formal salutation in email. Many persons who communicate through News or email often drop the salutation. I believe the salutation can help set a tone to a message, in the same way that we addressed each other formally in a real seminar.

What are you speaking about:

Following a series of messages through email can be quite difficult, even when the subject matter is trivial. This is probably the most difficult aspect of email communication [ I remember having difficulty with this in real seminars as well ;) ]. I recommend quoting extensively, and using partial quotes [enough to identify clearly the thread, but not the entire previous message].


Time seems to be a big concern in the current seminar. I would like to mention that unlike a conversation in person, email is asynchronous. It may take weeks for someone to respond to your question or thought, not days or moments. With some of my Internet correspondence I hear back within minutes or hours, with others months. How to deal with these different time frames and still pursue an intelligent conversation appears to be an important question. I do not have an answer, but I recommend for now patience on all the participants part [especially myself!].


My memories of real seminars are long ago and probably bear little resemblance to the truth. I would point out the following: not all persons speaking at a seminar were as "prepared" as others thought appropriate and some seminars were characterized by dominance by one or two speakers. These problems have to do more with "seminars" than email, but I raise them here because these problems can lead to hurt, mistrust, and anger. The reading is important, but so is the conversation, and somehow we must learn the balance.

Q 4.2: What are these funny characters :) ?

A: As a short cut for various phrases, the email community has developedsome code in the form of symbols to communicate. The term for these symbols is "smileys" since the predominate symbol is the smile face":)". At the end of this FAQ is a reference to a document listing all known smiley faces. Smileys are often used to insert humor, and possible to show the author's frame of mind.

Q 4.3: What are all these acronyms IMHO, BTW, etc ?

A: In email many common phrases have been replaced with acronyms. This may happen since many persons in the computer field are poor typists. A good wayto introduce an acronym is to give the definition in parentheses on a firsttime use. If the acronym has been used commonly in the group, then you can drop the initial definition. An example:

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) it is no longer necessary to refer to Plato in full, the abbreviation P. can be used since Plato is the most quoted author in this group. [BTW (By The Way) this is a sarcastic reference, I actually think using P. would be confusing, please always refer to Plato by name, you've only saved three keystrokes ;)]

Generally acronyms can be misleading, since IMHO often is read as IMNSHO (In My Not So Humble Opinion), but as in all fields that require communication they are often used and eventually become a part of the language. Email just seems to use them more often, and less circumspectly than academic or technical publications.

Appendix A

Some resources for books available on-line:

Books On-line, Listed by Author
NCSU Gopher Listing by Author
Christian Resources on the Internet
Electronic texts.
Jeff's English Project
Online Books FAQ of 6/1/93
Project Bartleby
Shakespeare Homepage

Appendix B

Common Email Acronyms

AKA - Also Known As
BTW - By The Way
FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
IMHO - In My Humble Opinion

Appendix C

Smiley's document:

There is a document maintained on the Internet of all "published" smiley's and their definitions. The document is available from me ( The document is rather large, so I have not included it here.

Appendix D

Newsgroups available that might be of interest to Johnnies:

News is another form of communication available on the Internet and provided by some commercial on-line services. Rather than sending mail to an individual, you send mail to an interest group. There are a number of publicly available news reader programs. If you have access to news then you might be interested in some of the following news groups: