Emails and Listservs

Most online communication for this course will take place via two listservs (AKA mailing lists):

  • [cs3157] the class-wide listserv. You must subscribe to this listserv to participate in this course. You may use this listserv for questions directed toward the entire class.

  • [CS3157-TA] the TA listserv. You should use this listserv for question directed toward teaching staff.

Since the class-wide cs3157 listserv receives a high volume of email, we use subject tags (in brackets) to help with email searches and filters. Important announcements will be tagged with “[ANN]”.

Who and what to email

Please send your question to the class-wide listserv if possible. This allows other students to read, discuss, and follow up on emails in that thread.

If you would like post a question anonymously, please email the TA listserv with your questions. If it is relevant for the whole class we may answer it publicly without identifying information.

Under no circumstances should you ask the same question to multiple TAs in separate emails. If you are caught doing this, TAs will no longer respond to your emails. If you want to ask a question addressed to more than one TA, you should email the TA listserv.

Always remember to include your UNI, especially if you are asking about grading, server accounts, or some other administrative issue. Please make sure to sign your emails with your UNI if you are sending email from a non-UNI address, e.g.,

Listserv etiquette

  • Choose a email subject that reflects its contents. For example, “[LAB3][part2] Writing helper functions” is better than “[LAB3][part2] Help” or just “[LAB3][part2]”.

    • No need to write “[cs3157]” or “[CS3157-TA]”. These subject tags will be automatically added to emails sent to each listserv.
  • Do not write or reply to emails tagged [ANN]. The “[ANN]” tag bypasses many students’ email filters, and is reserved for teaching staff for emails that require the entire class’s attention. Repeat offenders will banned from sending emails to the listserv.

  • Read others’ emails before sending your own; TAs will ignore questions that have already been answered in ANNs and other threads.

  • Ask specific, detailed questions; TAs will ignore lazy questions (e.g., “why does this not work?”).

    • Before sending an email, you should ask yourself, “Might another student find this question useful? Might they be in the same situation? Might they be able to helpfully answer my question?” If the answer to these is no, then consider rephrasing your question.

    • If your question to the listserv or the TAs goes unanswered for a few days, check if you asked a lazy question. If you think that isn’t the case, please bump your email.

  • Do not send your code. If you must include a code snippet, reduce it to the minimal amount to illustrate your point.

  • Please help each other out, but do not give away answers. Try to, like a TA might, suggest ideas or strategies that were helpful for you when figuring out the problem.

  • Do not hijack a thread, i.e., reply to a thread with an unrelated topic. Start a new thread.

    • Sometimes a thread discussion moves to a different topic. Change the subject in this case.
  • You are of course encouraged to ask questions and post interesting things that are beyond the scope of the course. You should add “[OT]” to your subject to signal that this thread is off-topic, to help students who only want to focus on directly relevant course materials.

Subscribing to the cs3157 listserv

Subscribe at

  • Sign up with your Columbia email. For example:

  • Please specify your Full Name (uni). For example: John Hui (jzh2106)

  • You must reply to the confirmation email (which might end up in your Spam folder)

  • You should receive an email whose subject is “Welcome to the “Cs3157” mailing list”. This email contains your password for accessing archives of past posts.

You should now be able to send and receive mail to and from the listserv at

Remember that it is your responsibility to read all ANNs sent to cs3157.

Viewing the mailing list archive

You can access any email sent to the listserv this semester via the listserv archive, which is available at

You’ll need your listserv password to access the archive. If you’ve forgotten your password, you can request a reminder at

The archive is useful if you think you may have missed an email that was sent before you joined the listserv. After you join the listserv, you can use Gmail’s search features to look through your mail. We recommend not deleting cs3157 emails; instead, label them appropriately and archive them (which keeps them around and searchable, but clears them from your inbox).

Gmail filters for cs3157

We highly recommend setting up Gmail filters to keep your inbox organized and stay on top of the cs3157 listserv. You can use them to automatically label or archive (skip the inbox) emails that match a given query.

To set up a filter, open Gmail and search your emails with a query such as:

to:( subject:(-ANN)

This query will match all emails from that do NOT have the [ANN] subject tag.

Now click the sliders icon in the search box on the left (it will say “Show search options” if you hover you cursor over it), and select “Create Filter”. You may instruct the filter to archive all emails matching your query by checking “Skip the inbox”, and to automatically apply a label by checking “Apply the label” and choosing or creating a label.

Note that [ANN] emails are required reading, so you should make sure your filters help draw your attention to these emails. For example, you may want to keep [ANN] emails arriving in your inbox, or applying another label just for [ANN] emails that you check regularly.

Sometimes the teaching staff will use other subject tags such as:

  • [OH]: information about office hours
  • [OT]: off-topic discussions
  • [LABN]: related to a specific lab (e.g., LAB1)
  • [MIDTERM1]: related to midterm 1
  • [MIDTERM2]: related to midterm 2
  • [FINAL]: related to the final exam

You can modify your filter query to match on multiple subject tags. For example, if you want to search for all cs3157 listserv emails except [ANN]s and [OH]s, you should search for:

to:( subject:(-ANN -OH)

This filter query might be helpful if you want to also make sure that [OH] emails don’t skip your inbox, so that you are notified of last-minute changes to office hours.

Last updated: 2022-08-31