LISTSERV (R) at Work - Winter 2002 IssueL-Soft
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L-Soft Interviews a Valued Customer

Q & A with Pete Weiss, Senior Systems Engineer, Office of Administrative Systems, Penn State University.

Q. To start off, how about a little bit about yourself. How long have you been with Penn State? How did you get to the position that you are in now?

A. I started at Penn State as an undergraduate student in 1963, graduating four years later. I left Penn State for two years and returned as a graduate student but then started working there full time in 1970. After eight years I wanted to try sometime else, but returned one more time in 1981 where I have been ever since.

Q. What was your first experience with LISTSERV®? What did you think?

A. I don't think I had a typical introduction to LISTSERV -- instead of joining lists and getting a lot of "user" experiences, I leveraged a feature of LISTSERV called a DISTRIBUTE MAIL Job to gateway selected MVS Mainframe Bitnet e-mail messages to the Internet. Our e-mail system running on MVS did not support a MAILER or the Internet way back then -- but LISTSERV Distribute allowed us to craft a message within a message that our Bitnet/Internet gateway (a VM/CMS host) would then process.

After that, and experiencing "life" as a list subscriber, and then owner of some special purpose lists, some LISTSERV-related tasks were allowed to be delegated to me.

Q. How many lists does Penn State currently run, with approximately how many subscribers?



Number of Public Lists

Total Number of Lists

Public Membership Count

Total Membership Count






Q. Are your lists primarily used for classes or do they function in other ways as well?

A. Classes (about 200 lists are strictly for classes), faculty and/or staff dialogues, newsletters (central or department), student clubs, calendar announcements, production status of batch administrative "jobs," cellular e-mail messaging ("SMS")

Q. How has e-mail list communication changed the way things are done at Penn State?

A. I believe it has increased our ability to communicate (and get things done) more quickly; expanded our "reach" in corporate and mission communications; allowed us to better support our distant education customers; made individuals and work units more accessible.

In addition, it has given Penn State the ability to distribute news about the University via its Newswires to tens of thousands of readers located in all parts of the globe, including alumni and national reporters, as well as students, staff and faculty.

Q. You also co-own a several lists that are not Penn State specific. Can you tell us a little bit about these lists? And is it true that one of them just had its 10-year anniversary?

A. I co-operate some lists at Penn State and at other organizations that are not specific to Penn State, but may have Penn State subscribers, enhance our understanding, or promote best practice in particular areas.

SPAM-L@PEACH.EASE.LSOFT.COM -- an anti-spam discussion list

CARR-L@LISTSERV.LOUISVILLE.EDU -- computer assisted research and reporting

TVC-Alert@SHRSYS.HSLC.ORG -- weekday news bulletin, reports on industry events and Web-based resources for library and legal professionals.

One of the national lists that I assist in operating here at Penn State is FINAID-L, for Financial Aid Administrators of USA student aid, who ask and answer questions, concerns, or have issues relating to professional judgment. The list itself has spawned regional, subject specific, or organization specific lists (operated elsewhere) over the decade that we invented this particular discussion.

With nearly 4,000 subscribers who receive 20-50 mail messages per day, we keep a "sharp eye-out" for bounces (returned distributions) and based upon our experience, delete (or SET NOMAIL) the subscription, attempt to contact a cognizant system administrator (if possible via e-mail, but sometimes the old-fashioned way -- the telephone), or just allow LISTSERV's automatic Daily Error Monitor to do its thing. This proactive pursuit of e-mail and network anomalies is a benefit that we add for the good of all e-mail (and list) customers among our institutions.

Another list that we operate and manage here at Penn State (and is almost as old) is CPARK-L whose focus is (any) campus parking system issues. We don't cater just to universities but have municipal and international subscribers.

Q. Do you have any advice for others just starting out with LISTSERV®?

A. LISTSERV can be "simple" or beautifully complex. It is a piece of software that changes and enhances the methods by which people (and systems) interact.

Those individuals who acquire the technical skills in operating lists (and/or the LISTSERV software upon which the lists depend) can leverage that so that they are more "linked" professionally to the folks who require their services, giving a greater sense of satisfication in furthering the institution's missions and goals.

I've greatly expanded my horizons by being part of dynamic list communities either being a "lurker," active participant, and/or list operator.

Pete Weiss is a Senior Systems Engineer, Office of Administrative Systems, Penn State University.

Copyright 2002 L-Soft