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    What is a "list owner"?
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2008 Jul 13, 16:08 -0400

    Some members of this group are still confused about the concept of the "list
    owner" so I feel I should take one post to describe what it is and what it
    is not.
    Myself and Dan Allen are the "managers" of NavList. Technically, MY position
    is "list owner" though it is not significantly different from list manager
    (except that I have the 'nuclear option', see below).
    The expression "list owner" dates from the early days of the Internet. A
    "mailing list" was one of the earliest forms of online collaboration and
    group discussion. Mailing lists are now somewhat archaic though still
    relatively popular in academia. Note that NavList is a "mailing list" only
    in part since it is quite possible to follow every discussion and contribute
    without using email, and there are many group members who do just that. A
    "mailing list" was nothing more than a system for distributing plain text
    messages to multiple recipients by sending and replying to a single "list"
    address. Mailing lists are hosted on a particular server which handles the
    traffic and makes sure that only members can send messages out to the group.
    The list management software (sometimes "listserv") on the server has
    various settings which are controlled by one or more managers. The settings
    are simple addministrative functions like allowing "digest emails" and
    attaching the group name at the front of each message (for example, the
    "[NavList nnnn]" tag on messages can be turned on or off). The first
    manager, usually the one who signs up for the list initially, is called the
    "list owner". There is no actual "ownership" involved and list owners do not
    get any special powers (except on fully moderated lists where messages must
    be approved before they distribute).
    A list owner is not a sheriff, not an overlord, not a chairman, not a
    president, not a leader, and not an "owner" by any normal English meaning of
    the word.
    The managers of any online community, including "list owners", have
    responsibilities and work to do. This consists in helping members manage
    their memberships (for example, I get about one request per month to swap a
    member's email to a different address, and I am happy to do that), trying to
    ensure that 'spam' does not get distributed (the server does most of this
    but Dan and I have to slog through some of it), interacting with the
    software, and rarely people, who manage the servers where the community is
    hosted, investigating and attempting to resolve any anomalous behavior (e.g.
    a message on 4 July which carried no message number but should have been
    number 5688), and trying to arrange the few optional settings that are
    available so that they are convenient for the group. In other words, it is
    an UNPAID position of "I.T." management and support.
    But wait, can't a list owner 'spank' members when they're bad? No. There are
    no powers of punishment, no powers to enforce any rules. In an unmoderated
    discussion group, there are no such powers.
    But wait, can't a list owner "ban" people? No. In the VERY early days of the
    online world, this was possible since email addresses were difficult to
    acquire (and expensive) and generally uniquely associated with one
    individual. But this has not been the case for well over a decade. It is
    technically possible to ban an email address, but this serves no purpose
    since anyone can sign on in less than two minutes with a new email address.
    But wait, can't a list owner annihilate the group? YES! The nuclear option!
    This is such a powerful power. Actually, if you think about it, it's a
    purely administrative power, useful only when the group transfers to a new
    server. Some might imagine that it could be used to destroy the entire
    discussion group. That's not the case because it is trivially easy to
    re-launch. Picture this scenario: a list owner throws a fit, kills a group,
    and takes his ball and goes home to sulk. List members soon discover that
    their group is GONE! Then someone with a brain realizes that the group
    consists of the members, not the server. So whoever thinks of it first
    simply starts a fresh group (this is trivially easy on googlegroups, just to
    name one example). That individual then signs up all the email addresses
    available from the previous list (this would miss lurkers and passive
    members who would have to find their own way, presumably by emailing people
    that they know in the earlier group) and the discussion group is back in
    business in a few hours. So even that seemingly important power, the nuclear
    option, is no power at all.
    But wait, can't a list owner control attachment policy? This one is a 'yes'
    with qualifications. Some software for managing groups provides extensive
    controls over this sort of thing. The software driving googlegroups (which
    currently hosts NavList) does not. But in any case, I consider this
    something that group members will manage all by themselves. There has been a
    steady rise in the size and number of attachments in the past few months. I
    haven't seen any complaints. If anyone is bothered, speak up and say so.
    That's your best defense against an overstuffed mailbox. From my own
    perspective, unless you think that everyone on NavList deserves their very
    own copy of some large document, it's a good idea to save big files for
    private emails.
    But wait, isn't the list owner also in charge of the archive at
    www.fer3.com/arc? That is something that I do on my own without any
    connection to list management (and btw, you can thank Dan Allen for
    storehousing messages from the early days of the group which are now
    incorporated into the archive).
    But wait, didn't the list owner use his "powers" to organize two Navigation
    Weekends at Mystic Seaport? That is something that I have done on my own
    without any connection to list management.
    So that's that. Sorry to be off-topic. I do not need any replies to this
    message, and I am sure that other group members would be annoyed by further
    discussion of this sort of "administrivia."
    By the way, I do understand that some folks accustomed to traditional
    hierarchical organizations find this concept of a list "owner" who owns
    nothing rather confusing. Hence this message. But a few of you have had this
    all explained to you SEVERAL times, and you still don't get it. It's your
    responsibility to learn, not anyone else's.
    Navigation List archive: www.fer3.com/arc
    To post, email NavList@fer3.com
    To unsubscribe, email NavList-unsubscribe@fer3.com

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