[Groop] The Life of a Mailing List

E C mightyhero at mail.com
Wed Dec 17 17:05:06 PST 2003


The life of a mailing list, from 1994. 

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 & 2 to lighten up; more bandwidth is wasted complaining
   about off-topic threads than is used for the threads themselves;
   everyone gets annoyed). 


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 partici-
   pants 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). 

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