The Natural Life Cycle of Mailing Lists
By: Nexx Many-Scars aka Mark Hall
Something I came across on my Ars Magica Mailing List. Having seen these lists in various stages,
I thought it might be interesting to some of y'all.
Kat Nagel sent this terrific
piece to the EARLY-M mailing list in December 1994. It is the best description of the social
development of a mailing list I've read.
Every list seems to go through the same cycle:
- Initial enthusiasm (people introduce themselves, and gush a lot about
how wonderful it is to find kindred souls).
- Evangelism (people moan about how few folks are posting to the list, and
brainstorm recruitment strategies).
- Growth (more and more people join, more and more lengthy threads develop,
occasional off-topic threads pop up).
- 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).
- 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 annoyed).
- 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).
- 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).
Mailing_List_Life.php -- Revised: January 27, 2021.