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List services bring together groups of people with a common interest or goal. Some have moderators who watch for appropriate content, others are unguided. If you subscribe to a list, you will recieve e-mail from everyone who sends a "letter" to the list. This means for some lists, you can receive hundreds of letters a day. If you have a comment, you may post your own message and it will be distributed to everyone on the list.
List services are important because they allow people to share their experiences and information. For example, you may be deciding on a new drug or protocol and want feedback from others who have tried it. Or you may just want to talk to someone who is going through some of the same things you are.
Because they are real communities, each list is very different. Some have worked up thier own set of rules for "posting" to the list. These rules are "netiquette" and you are usually given them when you sign up. You also get information on how to unsubscribe to the list, how to search it for old postings, how to follow a topic or "thread," how to send a message to just one list member and how to keep your name/e-mail address confidential.