The World’s Listserve

Today my friend Wes directed me to a new project/website: The Listserve. The video on its website further explains what the header states pretty simply:

This is an e-mail lottery.
One person a day wins a chance to write to
the growing list of subscribers. It could be you.

The introductory video interviews several people, posing the question, “If you had the chance to speak to one million people, what would you say?” This is obviously a loaded question, and after some thought, responses include everything from “The Rangers are going to win the Stanley cup this year!” to “Take a nap.” The project will launch when there are ten thousand subscribers, but considering it has 4479 at the time of this writing and it launched in the last 24 hours, it shouldn’t take too long.

It is an intriguing idea, and it will hopefully be an opportunity to gain insight from other people from around the world. Although authors will have the chance to convey whatever sort of message they want, I hope that it will ultimately be used to express positive (or at least constructive) ideas and give people a sense of connectedness. I see it as an opportunity to bring out similarities among many people, rather than differences, and I hope subscribers are ready to open their eyes and see what other people have to offer.

Of course, seeing others struggle through the question presented in the video caused me to ponder as well. If I won the first lottery and was going to email over ten thousand people, what would I write? Would it be a simple note of encouragement? Would I tell a joke so people can start off their day with a smile? Or maybe I could urge everyone to offer five compliments that day to the people around them. These are the first few ideas I had because I could appreciate receiving that sort of thing in my inbox – something simple and uplifting. But if I do win, should I take the opportunity to do something more significant? If so, what could that be?

Another aspect of the project is that authors have the choice to make their email address known. This could lead to follow-up conversations, but will anyone be willing to expose their email address and/or identity to over ten thousand users? Hopefully there will be some sort of forum where people can interact based on the daily message. If there is not already one in the works, I would guess that a third-party forum site will be formed shortly if The Listserve is a success.

I am excited to read emails from other people, but I also wanted to take the time to think about what I would say before being influenced by others. Now, I challenge you to do the same. What would you say to one million people? Would you even want that sort of responsibility? Feel free to comment – I’d love to hear what you think!

Leave a comment


  1. Austin Larrowe

     /  April 11, 2012

    I would promote Feed by Seed and Agricultural Awareness. Although, I am not sure how I would present this promotion… I would have to think about it.

    • I thought about self-promotion, too, but I don’t have anything to promote to the general public. It could be an incredible opportunity for that, though.

      If you were to win the “lottery,” I could almost see it being structured like a TED Talk. Instead of just sending out a link with a request for support, you could talk about the idea behind it and how it got started. If people are moved by what it is accomplishing they could easily find out more and help you financially or get involved. Even if they didn’t support you directly, it would give them food for thought and increase their awareness of the issue you’re trying to combat.

      That said, I really hope it doesn’t become a daily promotion of somebody’s new business. Not that it shouldn’t be used for that at all, but hopefully there will be some variety.

  2. I think it would depend pretty definitely on what people before me had posted (including how late in the game I was selected). If I was the first to be picked it would probably be an introduction and maybe a link to some of my favorite resources (TED talks, sermons, books, etc.) or promotion of a project I had at the time like Austin was saying. I might use it for anti-trafficking awareness, but especially if I was picked after quite a few, I’d probably use it to respond to previous posts and make suggestions for this “little community” that has formed, because by that point I feel like something will have come up that might warrant addressing.

    • Anti-trafficking awareness and links to other resources are great ideas, because it will convey what your interests/passions are while allowing the readers to get into more detail if they are interested.

      I’m sure there will be things to address about the project itself as well, but I also hope that that would be a side note, not the primary message. And like I mentioned, I would hope there would be a forum of some sort to discuss the project itself.

  3. Kim Carlson

     /  April 24, 2012

    Intriguing concept! I would want to say something profound but I’m sure I would end up second guessing my post. In the end I would probably encourage others to get involved in their local community via non-profits or international movements such as Austin’s Feed by Seed. Encouraging others to be intentionally engaged in the community/world around them is key for me!

    • Most of the emails so far have been some sort of argument (in a rhetoric sort of way – thanks Heilker), but they have widely different. They’ve discussed everything from software development to feminine products, with the most recent author telling a piece of his story and encouraging people to get to know themselves and what makes them the way they are.

      Encouraging people to get more engaged with the communities around them would definitely fit in – I wouldn’t doubt if that’s a theme in the next couple of weeks.

      Did you subscribe to it?

  4. Tuan Nguyen

     /  April 29, 2012

    It is interesting to think about how you would communicate what you want to say with one million people. In that crowd there will be people who are fascinated by your idea; there will be people who hate you for what you say; and there will be people who just do not care. Then there is the issue of inadvertent discrimination by the choice of media used to communicate. How would you make sure that the most people will be given the same chance of hearing what you say?
    It is an intriguing idea, but as with many intriguing ideas, it carries a multitude of problems as well.

    • That’s a good point – but you can also look at it on the flip side. If you have something to say that might be valuable to others, then you have the chance to inspire someone or make someone think new thoughts. Today’s email’s subject was “To inspire at least one person” and I would imagine that’s what they were thinking.

      There have been emails that I just don’t really care about – for instance, the one about feminine products. However, others have been very insightful, and even if they don’t change my life I appreciate the bits of wisdom that they sometimes include. Just because every single one can’t be fantastic I don’t necessarily see as a problem – I just see the meaningful ones as opportunities to learn/think.

      I’m sure there will always be people who do not appreciate a particular email. I do wonder if those people who have included their email addresses have been flooded with responses (whether appreciative or critical), and I would have to think about whether to include mine.

  5. Anusha

     /  April 29, 2012

    When Wes told me about this I was so fascinated. I honestly have NO idea what I would say if chosen. There are so many things to be said. I think its an amazing idea and I really need to sign up for this!

    • Yeah, it’d be pretty intimidating. I also really wonder how many responses people who offered their email addresses have gotten, because I don’t know if I would want my inbox flooded for a couple days.

      You should sign up! It only takes a minute! 🙂

  6. Christine

     /  April 29, 2012

    Thanks to you and Wes for sharing this with everyone. As everyone commented already, what an interesting concept! Scary at the same time though, of course. But why exactly is it scary? I suppose maybe it’s because you probably won’t have another opportunity to do so and you want to make it count more so than the sheer number of people involved. As to what I would say if I had the chance? I’m not sure yet. I think it might be something referring to seeing the humanity in each of the people around you and being truly engaged in getting to know individuals. JJ offered a good example of that, and that is something I need to improve upon. As I was talking about with Brian, humans are made to want to be loved. And love includes sharing a part of yourself and investing time in one another. It can be uncomfortable at first but well worth the time in the end. I’ll stop my rambling here, but in the meantime I will be gaining the courage to sign up for The Listserve!


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