[Dixielandjazz] The Natural Life Cycle of Mailing Lists

Williams, Bob robert.c.williams@eds.com
Fri, 13 Sep 2002 13:32:19 -0400

When people complain about too few or too many or too diverse posts on this
list, I think of this mid-90's post, which I went out and found.  I believe
it's been posted on this list in the past.

Bob Williams 
The World's Most Modest Man and 
The Nominal Leader of The Wooden Nickel Jass Band 

Every list seems to go through the same cycle: 
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 

6a. 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) 


6b. Maturity (a few people quit in a huff; the rest of the participants 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)