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Mail Reflectors

The way most people keep up to date on network news is through subscription to a number of mail reflectors. Mail reflectors are special electronic mailboxes which, when they receive a message, resend it to a list of other mailboxes. This in effect creates a discussion group on a particular topic. Each subscriber sees all the mail forwarded by the reflector, and if one wants to put his "two cents" in sends a message with the comments to the reflector....

The general format to subscribe to a mail list is to find the address reflector and append the string -REQUEST to the mailbox name (not the host name). For example, if you wanted to take part in the mailing list for NSFnet reflected by NSFNET@NNSC.NSF.NET, one sends a request to NSFNET-REQUEST@NNSC.NSF.NET. This may be a wonderful scheme, but the problem is that you must know the list exists in the first place. It is suggested that, if you are interested, you read the mail from one list (like NSFNET) and you will probably become familiar with the existence of others. A registration service for mail reflectors is provided by the NIC in the files NETINFO:INTEREST-GROUPS-1.TXT, NETINFO:INTEREST-GROUPS-2.TXT, and NETINFO:INTEREST-GROUPS3.TXT.

The NSFNET mail reflector is targeted at those people who have a day to day interest in the news of the NSFnet (the backbone, regional network, and Internet inter-connection site workers). The messages are reflected by a central location and are sent as separate messages to each subscriber. This creates hundreds of messages on the wide area networks where bandwidth is the scarcest.

There are two ways in which a campus could spread the news and not cause these messages to inundate the wide area networks. One is to re-reflect the message on the campus. That is, set up a reflector on a local machine which forwards the message to a campus distribution list. The other is to create an alias on a campus machine which places the messages into a notesfile on the topic. Campus users who want the information could access the notesfile and see the messages that have been sent since their last access. One might also elect to have the campus wide area network liaison screen the messages in either case and only forward those which are considered of merit. Either of these schemes allows one message to be sent to the campus, while allowing wide distribution within.

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