Wednesday, 14 March 2007

How to run an email list

I have never run an email list. I have been putting off the task of blogging about the current issue of the day in Victoria, how to run an email list and what its rules should be.

I am currently chairing a panel which is reviewing the Australian domain name system (DNS) - read all about it at http://www.auda.org.au/2007npp/2007npp-index. The list for domain names in Australia is the DNS list, courageously run for years by Kim Davies who pursues a pretty non-interventionist approach. Very wise. Its a wild and woolly list. Librarians are so polite by contrast, even when they come close to breaking the rules. If they do. I don't think we have a lot to worry about.

I am glad that the time for comment to the ALIA Board on the ALIA lists has been extended to the end of March, because lists are very important for participation in ALIA, and it is important that they are used. I hope to work my way through some issues, and post some considered thoughts. Informed, of course, by my experiences of the DNS list and other horrors.

Rather than speculate on rules for a list, a starting point might be: what makes a "good" list? Some first thoughts:
1 Activity - something has to be going on.
2 Enough people sitting near networked computers for a big chunk of their time. A critical mass of potential participants.
3 Someone in charge, however lightly. Someone to throw in a thought, email a notice, when things are slow.

Any other ideas?

5 comments:

e_swan said...

I think the way the AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) runs its email list is an excellent benchmark. There are clear rules that are enforced - even to the point of people being banned temporarily from the list on occasions. One rule is that no one may pass on information from the list without first obtaining permission. Another is that all messages need to be tagged, e.g. TECH, ISSU, WC (water cooler for gossip as AIIP members are often working alone from home) so participants can easily select what to read. The list is an amazingly active, supportive and informative resource and generally devoid of anything that could be considered too personal.

CW said...

I'm sure I'm missing out but I really dislike email
lists and haven't subscribed for yonks. However with blogs via RSS feeds I find I can quite happily keep up with discussions within the profession. Of course, there aren't as many Australian library folks blogging as there are Americans and others - but this is changing, and as more of us get into the blogosphere things will get even more interesting, I reckon! So I'm pleased to see your blog, Derek, and look forward to reading it (and I hope you keep blogging, even after the election ;) ).

Michelle said...

Thank you Elizabeth for the tip. I didn't know that the AIIP existed. I also like the idea of clear rules that are enforced. It gives the environment boundaries.

Derek Whitehead said...

Thank you for the comments - keep commenting. And thank you, CW - I definitely intend to keep up the blog after the election.

Anonymous said...

i think its clear how an over concern with boundaries negatively impacts a mailing list...as trevor pointed out, he could see little evidence of discussion and debate on a mailing list he was on but a lot of discussion on appropriate rules etc.Interesting and kinda sad
fran m