Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(August 2000)

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Subject: Re: comments?
From: Chuq Von Rospach <chuqui @ plaidworks . com>
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 11:38:37 -0700
To: "Anthony J. Albert" <albert @ polaris . umpi . maine . edu>, List-Managers @ GreatCircle . COM
In-reply-to: <39A4E693.21326.360FE4@localhost>
References: <39A4E693.21326.360FE4@localhost>

At 9:10 AM -0400 8/24/00, Anthony J. Albert wrote:

>Newsgroups are superior, in some aspects, to mailing lists, for
>discussion purposes.  But out of the two dozen or so mailing lists
>that I'm on, the first dozen are announcement only, and only about
>six of the rest, I'd judge, would be suitable for conversion to

e-mail is a technology designed for one to one communication. It's 
great for that.

The problem is that you can overwhelm a user's email easily -- email 
doesn't scale all that well to volume. Yes, there are tools to make 
it more manageable, but not all users are skilled in them, and not 
all want to be -- and everyone has different limits where they start 

mail lists exist because, basically, back when all this started, 
email was pretty much the only interactive technology, and when all 
you have are hammers, everything starts looking like a nail. it works 
-- but it doesn't scale. Hence the various things people have tried 
to do to make email scalable, including digests (which, admittedly, 
is a hack, but it's a hack that WORKS).

I view mail lists as trying to have a discussion with people using 
beepers. It works, but it's really intrusive, and it doesn't take too 
many people or too many messages to get to the point where it's 
driving you crazy. And if you look at the history of development of 
MLM and how lists are managed, that seems to be a fairly good 
analogy, because busy lists tend to get split or have constant fights 
over content/volume. mail lists are great for relatively small, 
relatively quiet content groups, and the bigger they get, the busier 
they get, the more problems they have, and the more the list and 
admin have to focus and/or manage and/or split the content.

newsgroups are better at many to many discussions, but have other 
flaws. Or perhaps I ought to tweak that a bit. NNTP is a great 
technology. USENET is a horribly flawed implementation of that 
technology. But that's a different list...

But as far as email's concerned, the further you get away from that 
one to one conversation, the more you torque the technology into 
things it wasn't really designed for. email is like a telephone or 
beeper -- it is, inherently, a personal, push, invasive technology, 
because when I send you e-mail, there's a good chance it's going to 
interrupt what you're doing, to a lesser or greater extent. 
newsgroups are more passive -- you go TO them, when YOU want. email 
comes and invades your space. That's why there's a lot less tolerance 
of spam and junk email than there is over on usenet, just like 
there's a lot less tolerance of telemarketers jumping you at dinner 
than there is guys standing outside the mall...

That's why, ultimately, I think discussion content is going to move 
away from email. Because email has to get back to the 
telephone/beeper paradigm, and discussion content shows up in a way 
other, more passive, ways.

Chuq Von Rospach - Plaidworks Consulting (
Apple Mail List Gnome (

And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
and say 'Man, what are you doing here?'"

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