The Natural Life Cycle Of a Mailing List

GB:'X0B$4fAB92GB5 76711.1261 at COMPUSERVE.COM
Mon Aug 5 02:27:10 CDT 1996


Every list seems to go through the same cycle:

1.  Initial enthusiasm (people introduce themselves, and gush alot 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).

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