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    Re: what is a "list owner"?
    From: Greg R_
    Date: 2008 Jul 13, 17:10 -0700

    As someone who's also managed a few mailing lists (and other online
    discussion groups, forums, BBSs, etc.), I can appreciate a lot of the
    "thankless" work that goes on behind the scenes - so consider yourself
    thanked and appreciated.  :-)
    --- frankreed@HistoricalAtlas.net wrote:
    > 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.
    >  -FER
    > >
    Navigation List archive: www.fer3.com/arc
    To post, email NavList@fer3.com
    To unsubscribe, email NavList-unsubscribe@fer3.com

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