Information about the list

The following topics provide more background information about the list

Concern of the operation of the list

First. I would suggest addressing any issues directly with me. Second, you can join the Arlington List Governance list and post your concern or idea there! The Arlington List Administration list is for discussing the way the Arlington list is being run, for voicing concerns about the list, for suggesting new ideas, and so on. To subscribe to this list, visit and subscribe to the group. To post to the Administration list, send your message to You must first join before you will be allowed to post.


Globe Article about the list

Community ties grow on town's e-mail list

By David Desjardins, Globe Correspondent, 7/25/2002

ARLINGTON - When a Fordham Street house burned down on July 6, news of the tragedy sparked a community response. One resident, Jerri Newman, contacted the family who owned the house, asking what kind of help they needed. Another, Diane Gordon - whose own house had burned down a couple of years ago - talked about the aid her family received after the fire, and, along with still others, volunteered to help organize assistance.

Offers of aid in the wake of a neighbor's disaster are not all that unusual, but the nature of this particular response was. None of the people offering help knew the family who lost their home; in fact, many didn't even know one another. Their interactions took place mostly over the Internet. They are members of Arlington's e-mail list, a lively daily online conversation devoted to all things Arlington.

''It was very nice to get a call from those people,'' said Marianne Benson, whose family is in temporary housing until the house can be rebuilt. ''It's wonderful what they did.''

The list, a five-year-old institution in town, doesn't always concern itself with such serious matters. Topics for public consumption range from excitement over the imminent opening nearby of a Krispy Kreme donut shop to the pros and cons of closing one of the town's fire stations.

E-mail lists aimed at people with a common interest are all over the Internet; there are lists for devotees of almost anything one can think of: dog lovers, hikers, train enthusiasts. Arlington's list is uncommon in that, for a group whose members have only their place of residence in common, participation is extremely active. Postings to the list usually run over 100 each day.

''I've never participated in an e-mail list that's so local,'' said Jan Stetson, a technical writer who constructed the Web site, where people can get access to the list. '' A person says, `A tree fell in my yard, and I've cut it up: Does anyone want firewood?'''

Officials in the neighboring towns of Belmont, Lexington, and Winchester say they don't know of any comparable list in their communities. Even technology-savvy Cambridge has no links to an e-mail list from the town's official Web site.

''Arlington is frankly ahead of most other towns on this,'' said Bob Sprague, Arlington's webmaster, a frequent contributor to the list.

His opinion is echoed by many list subscribers. ''Arlington has a huge number of people who have made the leap of using e-mail as a way of life,'' said David Coletta, who manages the Arlington list. ''It's no coincidence that AT&T and RCN both used Arlington as a pilot community for rolling out cable modems. Many people here are in high-tech, and they have the money.''

The list is open to anyone who wants to subscribe. Messages come via e-mail either individually or in batches of as many as 30 messages at a time. Subscribers can read all posted messages, which include the sender's name and e-mail address, and can respond either individually or to the list itself.

Started in 1997 by Betsy Schwartz - using software made available at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, where she worked - the list is many things to many people: 550 subscribers by last count.

Some members are content simply to read other people's messages - ''lurkers'' is the term that list members use for these. Others write frequently on a universe of subjects: the frequent power losses of recent weeks, for which NSTAR has come under severe fire; the proposed closing of the Park Circle fire station (later defeated at Town Meeting); news about new restaurants; recommendations on local business establishments. Some submit messages of immediate interest: Travis J.I. Corcoran - known to list members as TJIC for his initials - for example, said, ''I sometimes send out news flashes (for example, an oil spill on Mass. Ave. which caused me to drop my bike during my cycle commute), because I know that others do read continuously and may be able to make use of alerts.''

Town officials also use the list on an informal basis. School Committee member Paul Schlichtman, Selectwoman Diane M. Mahon, and state Representative J. James Marzilli Jr. are all regular contributors, and Sprague, the town's webmaster, makes frequent use of the list to disseminate town-related information. The town's Web site contains a link to the list. Sprague is such a frequent poster that list manager Coletta said a lot of people write him and call him Bob.

Political discourse is also a regular component of the list. Corcoran, a seven-year Arlington resident, relishes the list's political debate because, he said, his ''libertarian/anarchist'' views are generally unrepresented there. On the other side of the political spectrum is Joe Tully, a Town Meeting member who describes himself as ''left of left'': ''I'm probably more active than I ever wanted to be. I can't let things go.'' Tully said he views the list as ''a quick and efficient microcosm of the Internet, as it relates to our town politics.''

A key element of the list's popularity seems to be its open atmosphere. Unlike many e-mail lists, the Arlington list is not moderated: members' submissions are uncensored.

Coletta - who works for eRoom Technology, in Cambridge, and said he spends a couple of hours a week of his personal time managing the list - describes himself as ''the benevolent dictator.'' There are pretty simple rules, he said: no personal attacks on other list members and no re-posting of private e-mail. When those rules are violated, Coletta said, he contacts the offending party. ''When I give someone a warning,'' he said, ''people have generally responded positively.''

Still, sometimes the conversation on the list gets heated; in some people's opinion, too hot. ''There's quite a free range of political debate on the e-mail list,'' said Sprague. ''Because it gets into such free-ranging discussion, it's probably best that the town not be formally connected with it.''

Stetson said the free expression found on the list is crucial. Another list she subscribed to, she said, changed dramatically after becoming a moderated forum: ''It became essentially useless. It didn't seem to be a free-flowing conversation. It ceased to have the immediacy - that you could throw out a question or problem and get back answers from a variety of quarters.''

When it comes to discussing the list's role in the community, most members point with pride to its grass-roots effort last year to help a young girl with cancer. It started when Sprague, who had learned that the granddaughter of a fellow town employee was in need of a bone-marrow transplant, posted a message about the girl's situation. Other list members responded, wanting to help.

One, Joe Tully, contacted the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and was told that people who wanted to be tested for a possible bone-marrow donation should go to the Boston facility. Another, Lori Uhland, decided that wasn't enough; she persuaded Dana-Farber to hold a bone-marrow drive in Arlington. Within a month, the drive was held at Town Hall, and 97 official donors were signed up.

The girl did receive a bone-marrow donation - though not, in the end, from any of the donors who signed up that day. Some of those donors, however, have continued in the program with Dana-Farber. ''It was most certainly the list's finest moment,'' said list member Jane Stein.

''It was amazing to see all these people reaching out and doing something for a stranger,'' Uhland said. ''People say that we're disconnected as a society because of people using computers so much, but in this case, the exact opposite was true: Computers brought individuals together and created a connection that is really strong.''

One subscriber, Linda Guttmann, organizes monthly dinners at which subscribers may put faces to names and enjoy conversation and a meal. Still, a surprising number of list members say they personally know few fellow subscribers. Coletta himself said he has attended only one list dinner: ''Not knowing the people is helpful in some ways,'' he said. ''I sort of assume that any of the people I meet in town could be list members. It tends to soften your daily interactions around town.''

Whether it be help in finding a lost cat or advice in caring for a sick relative, many list members say they've seen the list's benefits firsthand.

Said Stetson: ''There are so many positive things. ... There's as much free-floating helpfulness and good spirit as there is mean spirit and unhelpfulness.''

This story ran on page N1 of the Boston Globe on 7/25/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

How many posts per day?

There are currently about 80-100 posts per day. See also the stats page

How many subscribers?

As of October 1, 2012, there were about 5367 subscribers
As of July 1, 2006, there were about 2110 subscribers.
As of February 1, 2004, there were about 1,139 subscribers.
As of January 1, 2004, there were about 1,094 subscribers.
As of December 1, 2003, there were about 1,067 subscribers.
As of November 2, 2003, there were about 1,040 subscribers.
As of October 1, 2003, there were about 1,023 subscribers.
As of September 3, 2003, there were about 985 subscribers.
As of August 1, 2003, there were about 948 subscribers.
As of July 1, 2003, there were about 921 subscribers.
As of of March 1, 2003, there were about 794 subscribers.
As of February 4, 2003, there were about 767 subscribers.
As of January 5, 2003, there were about 740 subscribers.

Note: the number of subscribers is an estimate, because there are some people who are subscribed under multiple email addresses.

How to write interesting posts

The principles that guide these tips are simple: we want our e-mail list to be interesting, civil, and manageable. Interesting means posts that are on-topic and make for good reading. Civil means posts that treat list members with respect, though it doesn't rule out a good argument once in a while. Manageable means fewer e-mails are better than more if they say the same thing. We all have enough noise in our lives.

PLEASE EDIT YOUR POST. When you reply to a message, please don't quote the entire previous message. Please take an extra few seconds to edit the amount of quoted material down to the bare minimum so that your reply will make sense. This especially helps the digest version of the list, where one long reply thread might fill a whole digest message.

CONSIDER ASKING FOR REPLIES TO GO TO YOU. If you're asking for a contractor reference, for example, you might consider asking people to e-mail you directly and offering to summarize the results. When you do this, you provide a very helpful service to the entire list, because you consolidate all the useful info into one message which can be saved if it's of interest, or skipped if it's not.

ASK YOURSELF: WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE? Think about whether your message is of interest to the whole list, or just the person you're replying to. If it's just the person you're replying to, consider sending it just to that person rather than the whole list. Note that when you reply to a list message, by default your reply will go to the individual person; if you want it to go to the whole list, you'll need to edit the "To:" field of your reply. In any case, please note who your reply is going to and make it a conscious decision.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH. Did someone just say something that annoyed the $#@! out of you? Don't you just want to write back to the whole list and tell them what you really think of them? Well, go ahead and write it! Just don't send it for a few hours or a day. Re-read it before you send it. Rewrite it so it's civil. We'll all appreciate your efforts.

WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK. I'm happy to answer questions of style, form, etiquette, or even spelling :-).

List Dinners

List dinners are organized to help Arlingtonians meet one another and to enjoy a tasty meal in Arlington. We have business owners, homeowners, renters, longtime residents, public officials, etc., who attend each month. The dinners are open to anyone on the list who lives in Arlington or who is interested in being with a room full of Arlingtonians.

The dinners are usually planned for a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday starting at 7 p.m. Occasionally we meet on a Friday evening. We try to choose restaurants that are very vegetarian friendly. As for kids, when a post is sent to invite people to the dinners, it indicates whether or not it is a kid-friendly restaurant. We also do pot luck dinners at list member's homes. Occasionally we dine out of town to enjoy a cuisine that is not available in Arlington.

You are responsible for your own check. Sometimes appetizers are shared and the people who share them divide up their cost. We have name tags at each of the dinners, and you get a chance to meet those seated near you at the dinner. It is recommended to come more than once to get a chance to meet everyone at the dinners and to find those with whom you may have more in common.

If you have more questions or suggestions, you can send an e-mail to Linda Guttman at or Dick Smith at


Will you get more spam from being subscribed to the Arlington List? The short answer: probably not.

The longer answer: If you never post a message to the list, there is no way for anyone, whether a member of the list or not, to obtain your e-mail address, so there is no risk of getting spam as a result of your list membership. If you post a message to the list, it is possible, though very unlikely, that another member of the list will use your e-mail address to send you spam, or will forward your message to someone else who use your e-mail address to send you spam. The list archives are kept private, in part, to keep automated robots from harvesting the archives for email addresses to spam.

Note: If you join the cast of characters, a public web page, you expose your e-mail address to the public, and your e-mail address may be obtained for the purpose of sending you spam. Email addresses are obfuscated on this page, which reduces the chance of them being used for spam, but it's still possible. See also Cast of Characters


Can I get a virus from the list? No. It is absolutely impossible for a virus to be transmitted via a message sent through the Arlington list. This is because the Arlington list software delivers only plain text, and filters out attachments and scripts, which is how viruses are delivered.

However, you can get a virus from any individual with whom you correspond by e-mail. So if you correspond with an individual on the Arlington list, you may receive a virus from that person. And there are viruses which pretend to be from people who are in the address book of the infected person. So you may receive a virus which appears to be from someone you know from the Arlington list, but is really from someone whose address book contained that person. In the same way, other people can get a virus which appears to be from you but is really from someone with whom you've corresponded.

It is also possible to get a virus from a web site, so if you click on a link contained in an e-mail, and you visit the web site that the link points to, and that web site is malicious, you may get a virus that way.

The bottom line: if you subscribe to the Arlington list but never correspond with anyone on the list or post to the list, and you never click on any links in e-mails posted through the list, there is no way you can get a virus either from the list or from anyone on the list.

Everyone should take measures to prevent virus infection: running virus-scanning software is one good way to do this.

What is the list good for?

Here are just a few of the many good things that people use this list for.

  • Asking for recommendations for plumbers, electricians, masons, and the like.

  • Discussing town politics, current news and events, schools, and other Arlington-related issues.

  • Finding and providing housing in Arlington.

  • Selling or giving away used stuff.

  • Advertising concerts, plays, dances, etc., which either take place in Arlington, or involve Arlington residents.

  • Announcing breaking town news.

  • Finding other people in town who are interested in the same things you are.

The Arlington list covers a wide range of topics. You will almost certainly find that some topics interest you more than others. You should skip over or delete messages or topics that don't interest you. Doing so will probably make the list much more interesting and useful to you. Don't be surprised if some days nothing seems of interest -- topics you find more relevant will probably crop up again in a day or two!