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An email list for Boston area activists
by Charlie Welch, act-ma co-founder  (updated 10/14)

In 1996, act-ma was born as an email list for promoting local events in the broad "peace and justice" community of greater Boston. It was an attempt to popularize the use of the already well-developed email list technology in support of progressive activists. Currently, about five messages per day are posted to the list, and now the list has an associated web page where all announcements are stored and available for review. act-ma is moderated by a group of about five volunteers who take turns screening the messages to ensure that they fit the stated guidelines.

Act-ma has the strength—and weakness—of not being affiliated with any major organization. Being independent, it has built up a wide base of users and carries announcements from a variety of organizations in the area. But because no strong ongoing organization has adopted act-ma, it has grown more slowly than it would have otherwise.

Act-ma was an attempt to promote activism in Massachusetts, and has evolved through several incarnations. act-ma actually started as a conference/bulletin board within Peacenet, which was the largest and most active subset of the Institute for Global Communications (IGC). "Beginning in 1987, the IGC played a formative role in bringing advanced communications technologies to grassroots organizations worldwide working for peace, human rights, environmental sustainability, women's rights, conflict resolution and worker rights." The original act-ma conference, which was actually named act.usa.ma, was one of several regionally-oriented conferences with a similar name structure. It was limited to registered IGC subscribers but it built up a core of users and helped spark interest in a more general-purpose email list. In the fall of 1996, a series of meetings sponsored by the Latin America and Caribbean Solidarity Association (LACASA) explored ways of using the Internet. The act-ma email list was formed as act-ma@igc.org.

In 1999, IGC refocused its efforts and passed its several hundred email lists to a commercial service called Topica. At that point, the list became act-ma@igc.topica.com. TecsChange was actually the first of several organizations that put out an email announcement on the list.

In early 2007 we moved the list to its own website because of a number of technical problems with the Topica mailing list.  The listings from 1999 to early 2007 are still available at the old Topica Listings Site.

In general the list has grown over the years, it reached a peak at the start of the Iraq war, but because of problems with the Topica Web Site shrank in 2007. 

Date # of users
12/96 100
11/97 200
6/98 250
11/99 350
12/00 450
 10/02 650
4/03 800
3/07 575
2/09 657
6/14 850+ 
10/14 764 *

              * An automatic cleanup of dead email addresses was responsible for the change.

The Act-MA website has also added a links page that lists other local event calendars and the radio page that lists local progressive radio shows..

Act-ma has become an important resource for progressives in the greater-Boston area. We encourage you to use the list and tell your friends about it. Help make this resource more useful for everyone.

The Rule19 Calendar and a number of the local progressive radio shows regular monitor Act-MA and use the information for their own announcements.