Quiet-List 1997

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Re: Free expression on mailing list

On Wed, 17 Dec 1997 07:53:43 -0500, 
Sean C   <redhawk2@mindspring.com> wrote:

[some thoughtful comments about sensitivity and free-expression] 

>...That being said, I have never seen an Internet mailing list, especially 
>in new groups, where free expression *didn't* degenerate into personal 
>attacks and flame wars at some point. However, this seems to be part of the 
>"maturing" process of mailing-lists, and groups eventually settle into 
>relatively balanced discussion as they "grow up."
   This reminds me of the following article which I found on Vivian 
Neou's "List of Lists" web page (http://www.catalog.com/vivian).  And 
as someone who's seen hundreds of lists come and go, she should know 
what she's talking about.  As for myself, I'm hoping this list continues
to grow, although I know there are going to be "growing pains" to cope 
with.  The list will be one year old in May.  I'm pleased that there 
have been so few flare ups so far.  My hope is that things will take 
care of themselves if we just respect each other and remember that 
we're all basically on the same side.  I'm generally sympathetic with 
expressions of outrage over noise, because I know how frustrating it 
is to be scoffed at for sticking up for Quiet.  But I also believe 
that anger should be channeled in some positive way.  Once the anger 
subsides I expect to hear some ideas.

   While this article doesn't mention the issue of strong language, 
it contains some keen observations on the social development of 
mailing lists.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

             The Natural Life Cycle Of Mailing Lists

Kat Nagel (KatNagel@eznet.net) sent this terrific piece to the EARLY-M 
mailing list in December 1994. It is the best description of the social
development of a mailing list I've read.

Every list seems to go through the same cycle:

(1) Initial enthusiasm (people introduce themselves, and gush a lot 
    about how wonderful it is to find kindred souls).

(2) Evangelism (people moan about how few folks are posting to the 
    list, and brainstorm recruitment strategies).

(3) Growth (more and more people join, more and more lengthy threads
    develop, occasional off-topic threads pop up).

(4) Community (lots of threads, some more relevant than others; lots of
    information and advice is exchanged; experts help other experts as
    well as less experienced colleagues; friendships develop; people tease
    each other; newcomers are welcomed with generosity and patience;
    everyone -- newbie and expert alike -- feels comfortable asking
    questions, suggesting answers, and sharing opinions).

(5) Discomfort with diversity (the number of messages increases
    dramatically; not every thread is fascinating to every reader; people
    start complaining about the signal-to-noise ratio; person 1 threatens
    to quit if *other* people don't limit discussion to person 1's pet
    topic; person 2 agrees with person 1; person 3 tells 1 more bandwidth
    is wasted complaining about off-topic threads than is used for the 
    threads themselves; everyone gets annoyed).

Finally, either:

(6) Smug complacency and stagnation (the purists flame everyone who 
    asks an 'old' question or responds with humor to a serious 
    post; newbies are rebuffed; traffic drops to a doze-producing 
    level of a few minor issues; all interesting discussions happen 
    by private email and are limited to a few participants; the 
    purists spend lots of time self-righteously congratulating each 
    other on keeping off-topic threads off the list).


(7) Maturity (a few people quit in a huff; the rest of the participants
    stay near stage 4, with stage 5 popping up briefly every few weeks;
    many people wear out their second or third 'delete' key, but the 
    list lives contentedly ever after).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

   I can't claim to be without fault when it comes to strong language, 
but out of respect for everyone on the list I try to avoid it.  One 
thing I've observed is that it never conveys any real information, 
apart from the indication that someone or something is strongly 
disliked which, by itself, can be easily be stated in other ways.
I think it's much more important to emphasize one's *reasons* for 
holding such a strong negative opinion, but this rarely happens when 
foul language is used.

   David Staudacher - quiet@igc.org

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