Re: META: Newbie SPIC

Keith Elis (
Wed, 24 Sep 1997 17:25:31 -0400

Harvey Newstrom wrote:

> The Low Golden Willow wrote:
> > You know, when I first joined, in the summer of 1993, when Perry
> > Metzger, Romana Machado, David Friedman, Carl Feynman, David Krieger,
> > Timothy May, and other names from the halcyon days were around, I hardly
> > posted for two years, I think.
> I had not realized that we Futurist-types could become nostalgic. I
> remember the "early years" of the list. I have not posted for a could
> of years, and may decide to become more involved. I have fond memories
> of this list from when I was posting.

I found this a while ago while surfing. It may not apply here, but I thought
it might be interesting to those who haven't seen it before. It's hardly a
rigorous study, probably based on the author's personal experience. I'd expect
evidence in support of it to be mostly anecdotal. Nonetheless, my experience
and intuition suggests it is probably not too far off the mark.


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).

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).