Using electronic-mail discussion groups on the internet to enhance communication in specific commodity groups

Richard W. Van Vranken, Winfred P. Cowgill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The rapid evolution of electronic technologies is providing researchers, educators, and consumers increasingly fast access to information. On the Internet (Net), electronic mail is a rapid, efficient, and economical medium for communication. Mail list management software (Listserr, Almanac, Majordomo, and Liststar) now allows users with interests in specific topics to address production and marketing issues across state and international boundaries by posting messages to a discussion group (DG) at one electronic address. Replies from anyone interested in responding may be sent to the entire DG, constituting a discussion, or returned directly to the originator of the message. Three commodity-oriented, horticultural DGs Apple Crop, Veg- Prod and Direct-Mkt-established over the last 30 months now provide on-line forums for >600 subscribers from 46 states, 4 Canadian provinces, and 21 other countries. Twenty-seven percent to 31% of these DGs' subscribers responded to a survey evaluating the effectiveness of DGs as communication tools. Reposes showed that DGs were a valuable communication tool for reaching a broad resource pool rapidly and economically. Information requests, meeting announcements, and resource listings have dominated the activity of these DGs. Cooperative extension specialists and county agricultural agents represent most users (69%), followed by researchers (14%), farmers, and those with unlisted job descriptions (7% each). Ease of use, quickness (often within 24 hours), quality and quantity of replies, and the ability to glean timely information for files and newsletters were cited as the most important reasons for using these DGs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-324
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Horticulture


  • Almanac
  • Listserv
  • Major- domo
  • apple
  • computer
  • direct marketing
  • e-mail
  • network
  • vegetable


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