On Monday, May 21, 2001, at 11:21 AM, Nick Simicich wrote:
> Believe it or not, most subscribers prefer a focused list.
Nick is mostly correct, but -- I think it depends on the list.
When a list of mine develops a sense of community, I find it tends to
wander. I find that it's that wandering that develops the community
aspect, because that's where they're interacting as people, and not
merely discussing the narrow topic at hand.
So it depends on what kind of people you have on the list, and what they
want out of the list. I've found letting a list wander is a lot more
productive than playing topic-nazi; the list is pretty good at warning
me when it wanders too far or heads away from what the list-consensus is
willing to do. The only exception to that is -- the busier the list, the
narrower the focus. So when a list is grinding away at some on-topic
issue and generating traffic, I manage off the side-discussions. On a
list in between arguments, I let that stuff through more. It helps
people get to know each other over time, and I think it reduces the
flamability of a list, since they're less anonymous addresses to each
But that's only if the list shows an interest in developing some
community interest. If not, not. But I let the list define that.
> So, where do you draw the line?
where I try to draw it these days is whether what's being said is
relevant to the people on the list, not strictly whether it's on-topic.
The list lets me know when I guess wrong, and I try to remember that the
next time. And a virus warning might well be relevant, even on a hockey
list, especially if lots of list members are getting nailed -- but that
still doesn't mean any of the other stuff Nick worriesa bout magically
becomes relevant because some piece of it does. By managing to the
list's interests around the topic, it gives the list a lot more
flexibility to be what it decides to be, while limiting the need to be
hard-ass about it. It's more work, though, and it requires you to keep
in touch with the members a lot.
> Stay off the slippery slope. If your topic excludes it, just say no.
Life is a slippery slope. You can live life without risk, but it's a
pretty boring life. By adding some subjectivity and judgement and
self-policing into a list, it adds some risk of abuse, or at least
arguments when those judgements differ (but that's why I always reserve
the "because I said so" veto -- ultimately, I win if you push it that
far), but you get a lot more out of it as well.
sometimes it blows up in your face, too. But I think it's worth the
risk. I like the rewards.
Chuq Von Rospach, Internet Gnome <http://www.chuqui.com>
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"He doesn't have ulcers, but he's a carrier."