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<nettime> The Natural Life Cycle Of Mailing Lists

The Natural Life Cycle Of Mailing Lists

Kat Nagel (KatNagel@eznet.net) 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:

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 annoyed).


1.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).



(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
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