Funny, though, I ran TIPSHEET for almost three years. At
the end, I wasn't able to keep up with 80 percent of the threads and just
barely able to stay ahead of the errors. When it died, I was greatly relieved
with not having that load of responsiblity any more. But, I also went through
a period of intense withdrawal. It was like the communication I experienced
through TIPSHEET was some kind of narcotic upon which I had become physically
and emotionally dependent.
I'm curious as to what you've found to be the 'critical mass' necessary to get good conversations going... My experience is 400-500 subscribers (I'm>up to 860+ as of today) I think it tends to depend more on the volume of lurkers to contributors. My rule of thumb as a Sysop and Forum on CompuServe and AOL, and now a list administrator is that you don't have critical mass until you have at least 5 to 9 active contributors. Depending on the lurker ratio this can mean as few at 25 to 50 lurkers on a focused list on up to 500 lurkers before you have this many contributors on an online service like AOL
Another part of the cycle for lists that have been running for a long time is the loss of either a respected moderator or member. There are often key contributors who keep the stories (oral history) and customs of the list. If the key person (or people) leave, the list often founders, possible never to recover.
I feel it is more the responsibility of the group users, moderators, and leaders to help all participants in PUBLIC online fora (regardless of the technology used) to understand that they ARE in public!
I'm not even sure who the list owner is anymore - I think we have a virtual list owner,
Are there some matters which even the listowner should bring to the list before acting?
How do I know? I have a better idea than you do of who subscribes to and leaves the group on a day-to-day basis because the notices get sent to me, and only a few people have signed off in the last few days and those have been replaced by new subscribers, as compared to this still young list's "glory days" of huge amounts of posting when people also *were leaving*.
Despite my flip last reaction I do take the matter of inflammatory dynamics seriously and I don't like to see anybody's input -- especially that of an active initiator -- inhibited by someone else. The realization that came to me last night when things looked like they were getting hot is that there really is nothing special I can do as listowner, on an open and unmoderated list, to keep things on what I see as a reasonable course, but I can make a difference as a participant to persuade and influence. So can anyone else.
You, as listowner, can make whatever rules you choose to make. You can consult first with the subscribers or not, take their views into consideration or not.
Actually, I don't think it matters what you unconsicously intended this group to be. You're not God or Dad (finally, she sees!) but you did supply a basin of potentiality, into which all members entered via their projections of what could legitimately be brought to shape, fill, give form to the potentiality.
Well, I suppose you could make a decent argument for group censorship, although, I don't have the power to censor anything myself. I'll just throw the idea out and see if it's validated/invalidated by the group. If the group decides to go into an all out flame war, it really wouldn't be any less interesting than not.
Is this, what is called, a moderated group? Then, in the interests of order, I propose that someone, or someones, take on the task of intercepting posts that would prove injurious to our little society. Perhaps a group could be formed with the group, with the explicit task of stopping inappropriate posts at the border, so to speak.
Perhaps we (or some of us) could start an e-list for listowners, subscription limited to listowners and invited professionals and other experts.
the modelling is very important - and coming from a listowner it is extremely important. I'm not sure I'm ready to be a listowner. But there's potential and I am certainly in a place where I can learn.
Every list with which I have been affiliated, and the two that I manage, have clearly stated 'intent' in the welcome note.
conditions should be spelled out clearly up front. And if they are violated, a list manager should take the approprite action.
I keep thinking back to that I article I read suggesting that the evolutionary prototype for small-group relations is the tribe, by which model the listowner no more owns the list or its character than the headman "owns" the tribe. Not a democracy exactly, but a kind of qualified meritocracy.
But it's still an interesting and unresolved question to me how much symbolic value there is to "listowner" itself, regardless of the person
May I suggest (strongly) that your co-owner be a woman?
I've met heavy-handed moderators before too. However, I've also participated in some conferences where *no* moderation occurred. All-in-all, I believe I'd rather have too little than too much moderation.
In fact, the listowner and consultant(s) might be maintaining a relatively neutral stance in order to encourage projections -- assuming that this would magnify the tendency to project transferential material to a point that it might be easier to see --- exaggerate it so that what is ordinarily subtle and hard to see becomes glaringly obvious
So, we've become a training ground for list-owners. And the training has risen out of group necessity -- out of a rather chaotic and unstructured primordial mass --
I, for one, am not in the least bit interested in a sedate intellectual discussion of what goes on in internet communications along with helpful suggestions for listowners. We've had some periods of that on this list already and I've been pretty bored during those periods.
I don't really care who run's the list, man or woman; I'll take my turn though, just let me know when! And Matt, be SURE to include detailed instructions on just how to work this thing!
Ooh, the power of Life and Death!
As for sharing responsibilty, I also think there's an underlaying assumption that being listowner somehow gives you magical resiliency powers and the group may feel that he/she sould be more able to "take it" then the general population and are little quicker to put the listowner on the "hot seat" than we would be for another participant.
The simple fact is if the person will not alter their behavior you take a vote by the people who have been participating and if there's consensus the list owner cancels his/her access
Back in college I wore a button that said "Question Authority". Once on a bus, a woman saw it and sincerely asked me, "Why question authority?" I realized it was a self-contradictory button and didn't wear it anymore.
A good leader is not always apparent to the led. In fact, I believe that the best leadership is virtually transparent. Like an accomplished facilitator, an accomplished leader guides without bruising the horse's mouth with the bit. This doesn't preclude taking center stage whenever the group needs demand an affective focus, however. (grin) There are times when the leader provides a valuable service as focus (or scapegoat) for the group chagrin.
Leading others is an illusion propogated by those who would be led on those who are chosen to lead. It's an artifice supported by need and demanded by greed. Leadership is both a privilege and an obligation that subsumes the self in favor of the group purpose.
"List owner" is one of those terms, like "lurker" or "spam", which has taken on a meaning in this environment not to be confused with its more usual, literal meaning, i.e it's pretty clear that nobody owns a list like this, or even could. Nevertheless Bob Z of St Johns, James and I are listowners in the technical sense of having the privilege as well as obligation (no kidding!) of some administrative control over the workings of the list. It's not clear to me yet what the overlap is between this role and the designated or emergent leaders of the kind meant in f2f group dynamics -- I think there probably is one but maybe at least in part symbolic and flexible, not fixed.
My guess is the budgeted time issue also has something to do with the list remaining leaderless. Leading the group would require not one effort but many efforts and many rebuffs. Leading the group would require flexibility of process and thickness of skin. Most of all it would require time and commitment.
As Charlie Chan would say, "When number one listowner ask question he know answer to, always respond quietly."
Would anyone else like to be a listowner?
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