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Resist list nazification

From:David G. Durand <david@...>
Date:Tuesday, January 22, 2002, 18:52
Irina's recent mail disturbed me, because it reflects a reaction to
what I am taking great effort _not_ to do. I have received several
pieces of mail from people commenting on the re-imposition of the
traditional list traffic limit (previously in place for many years
without comment or objection). The most negative reaction was regret
that such a limit seemed useful.

One person explicitly suggested that we might need a "list nazi" --
someone with the duty to complain about off-topic posting. Even
without giving a person like that authority to control a list, that
role is a troublesome one. Some level of "pure chat" is part of what
makes this list pleasant and fun. I am opposed to this way of
managing what to some is a traffic problem.

There's no-one making rules here, just an evolving community, and
that's the way it should stay.

In urging people to think about the topicality of what they post, I
am asking them to think in terms of relative quantity, and relative
interest. If you find that you're sending 20 messages a day with no
relevance to the subject areas of the list, maybe you should think
about the several-hundred subscribers who rarely post. If you post a
few a day there's probably not much to worry about. On the other
hand, there's no objective test of topicality, either.

For instance, I've personally never cared for the long discussions of
cognates in European languages, English spelling reform, or differing
accents in English. These are arguably topical, are certainly
traditional for the list, and seem popular with other readers.
Sometimes I even find them interesting too, for a while. I personally
like some of the denser abstract discussions of linguistic topics
like case marking, morphology, tense/aspect, and the like, but others
find them boring. My point is that I do _not_ intend to impose my
taste in topics on the rest of you.

The posting limit, and the (relatively rare freezes that it has
caused over the years) seem to serve as a negative feedback mechnaism
to moderate social chat when it exceeds a certain level. I can't
remember a time, even during a relay or survey, that non-chat
conversation has frozen the list. Were that to happen regularly, it
would be a sign to raise the limit.

I would happily revise the TOPIC system which allows LISTSERV to
filter messages for subscribers if people have suggestions as to how
it should work. I remind all that the subject line prefix CHAT: can
be used to indicate a more "social" message, and allows filtering by
those who don't care to read CHAT: messages.

As you would in any social situation, I just ask that you think about
other subscribers.

   -- David
David Durand                    |  12 Bassett St.        |  Providence RI, 02903-4628 USA
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