The Natural Life Cycle of Mailing Lists
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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).
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