From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 1997 18:11:39 -0600
> Dear Fred, Stuart, and the rest,
> Our group is in the process of coming up with  a new plan of how and 
> when we hold our meetings, etc.  It ocurred to me that we could have 
> alot of very good discussion on the Internet just like we do here on 
> Coho-L.  Those cyber-meetings would supplement, but not replace, our 
> face to face meetings.  Some of the opportunities I see are:  no need to 

I have a fair amount of experience trying to use email lists as a decision-
making forum.  I have had mixed experiences.  Simple decisions, decisions
that are mainly technical, decisions where there is not too much conflict,
seem to be ok.  Difficulties I have encountered:

        * It's very hard to handle significant conflicts/disagreements by
        email, especially when a lot of emotion is involved.

        * Some people are careless in phrasing email, or things get lost
        in the translation, and feelings get hurt.

        * Discussions can be drawn out, and happen in the middle of other
        things people are doing, so some folks forget the context.  Points
        get repeated unnecessarily, or have to be repeated because people
        have forgotten.

        * If someone is silent, you don't know if it's because they don't
        agree, don't care, or haven't logged in lately.

My general feeling is that it is useful to try and resolve the issue by
email, but it's better to abandon the attempt if it gets sticky, and make
the decision another way.  Agreements in advance on how the process is
supposed to work help.

Some of these problems might be soluble by appropriate software.  There are
some attempts at decision support software out there, but I haven't used
any of them.  I seem to recall that a Lycos search for "consensus" brings
up a few pointers to that kind of thing.

Stuart Staniford-Chen
Cohousing Network Webperson. 
  • Cyber-meetings Denise Meier and/or Michael Jacob, January 21 1997
    • Cyber-meetings Stuart Staniford-Chen, January 21 1997
    • RE: Cyber-meetings Rob Sandelin, January 31 1997

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