Re: Do we need two lists?
From: Fred H Olson (fholsoncohousing.org)
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 10:50:14 -0800 (PST)
I'm replying mostly as list manager...  I am not inclined to separate
cohousing-L into a list about development and one about living in
cohousing. 

There are tradeoffs to narrower/broadener topics for listservs.  When
there are several related narrower topic lists, people sometimes post
messages on a inapropriate list - one with different narrower topic.  Or a
thread evolves off-topic. Every poster has to decide which list to post to
and this leads to some suboptimal choices. Like the problems with changing
subject lines (see below) moving a message from one list to another is
problematic.

Too narrow topics sometimes don't attract enough participation to be
viable (or get fewer responses than the same message would get in a
broader context). Sometimes a post on a narrower topic would really be
get the most useful response someone who doesn't subscribe the this
narrower topic list so they dont see it and don't respond.

On the other hand the biggest single problem with a busy listserv like
cohousing-L is that some people find the volume of messages hard to deal
with.  Narrower topic lists could give some relief if for people whose
interests correspond to one of the narrower topics only.  Others have
pointed out that cohousing development issues and 'live in' issues are
related enough that there would be problems and disadvantages to trying to
separate the discussion. 

Mailman - the software that operates cohousing-L - does have an automated
feature called "topics" that once defined would allow people to configure
their sub to receive only selected topic messages.  (Mailman would look at
headers and some of the body for keywords to assign a particular message
to a "topic". )  I have not experimented with these "topics" much but
would anticipate similar problems to dividing the list.  Cohousing-L does
not currently use this feature.  I have pondered having one "topic"
defined - announcements which might be moderated (go thru one person or a
small group to review editorially).  This is a ways down my "todo" list
tho. 

For now I encourage redoubling our efforts to write meaningful subject
lines for the initial message of a thread.  Changing the subject line on
replies is also problematic.  People don't always reply to the most recent
message in a thread so there is a tendency of changed subjects to just
segment the thread into multiple subject lines (which double as thread
topic).  But if a thread drifts too far from the original subject line,
do assign a new subject line tho I encourage keeping some reference
to the old subject for people trying to look up preceding messages:
 Subject: New subject description ............... [was: Old subject...

Email suffers from many shortcomings as a way of conducting a discussion
but I contend that it's still better than other systems due to messages
coming to subscribers and therefore coming to their attention. Bulletin
boards and web based systems require participants to "go to" the
discussion periodically which is prone to declining participation. 

I encourage bringing up development issues on cohousing-L.  Please
put care into composing your message.  Try to keep it concise
(people dont like to read rambling messages) but get enough detail to be
useful.  Put a great deal of thought into the subject line to convey an
idea about the topic of the message. And I encourge experienced cohousing
folks to feel some obligation to help less experienced folks.

I do encourage people to check the archives (via the link at the bottom of
EVERY message from the list).  I have found the search tool very useful
tho it is possible as Bartek says to get many extraneous "hits"  when the
search phrase is not uniquely used for the idea one is searching for.  Try
other words, a combination of words etc.  Note that there is an option to
just search just subject lines.  (There is a link to search tips is on
every results page.) If searching does not find an answer post a (well
worded) message/question.

On some - particularly technical - lists one can sense something that
makes one reluctant to post novice questions.  I don't think we have that
on cohousing-L too much ; all cohousing related questions are welcome.

Fred, cohousing-L list manager

--
Fred H. Olson  Minneapolis,MN 55411  USA        (near north Mpls)
Communications for Justice - My new listserv org.       UU, Linux
My Link Page: http://fholson.cohousing.org       Ham radio:WB0YQM
fholson at cohousing.org   612-588-9532   (7am-10pm Central time)





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