META: List Filtration (a.k.a.: Signal to Noise Ratio)

Eric Watt Forste (
Thu, 26 Dec 1996 16:09:03 -0800

>If a limited list has inherent value, why not take the obvious,
>simple, and fair approach of charging for it? Only those with
>enough serious interest to participate and support the list would
>join, and that level of participation could be adjusted by price.

It's been tried. I suspect a transaction-costs problem here. The
various petty expenses involved in simply administering such a
scheme more than consumed the value yielded by the list membership
fees (although only indirectly, because most of the expenses involved
were covered with volunteer labor... but that leads us to the worry
of unnecessary burnout of valuable ExI volunteers, a scarce resource
we need to harbor).

Of course, fees could be raised, but even the small fee that ExI
once charged for this list drastically escalated the standard of
service to which ExI was held, and again it must be remembered that
the services were being provided, for the most part, by volunteers.
I just don't see a commercially viable price point for the market
for this list at this point in time.

A further point to be considered is that during the time that a
fee was required for the list, we lost a number of valuable
contributors, some of whom have since returned.

>The official sanction of the Extropy institute is a valuable
>commodity for such a list, and I think it would be immoral not
>to profit from that, and to give the institute itself complete
>freedom to sanction and do business with whomever they choose.
>If they do a bad job, well then let the free market create
>another list to do better.

We might take a hint from the market in observing the fact that
profitable paid-subscription email lists are rare. I would
guess that this will become a thriving segment of the information
market sometime in the next twenty years, but I don't think conditions
are quite ripe for it yet.

Of course it's exciting to pioneer emerging market segments, but it's
also wise to keep in mind that the pioneers are often the ones lying
around with arrows sticking out of their backs.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++