Are e-lists dying? (final post)
- Apologies for cross-posting.
Thank you to everyone who responded to my post, "Are e-lists dying?"
This is my follow-up post, and it will be my final public post on the
subject. After reading this post, ANYONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN
DISCUSSING AND/OR BEING INVOLVED WITH REVITALIZING THE E-LISTS PLEASE
CONTACT ME OFFLIST at abernhar@...
- - - - -
I have now had the opportunity to read carefully through all the
messages posted in response to my initial question, "Are e-lists
dying?" And contrary to my expectations, I must conclude simply that
the answer is: no.
I would now prefer to say that the e-lists are not actually "dying,"
but instead that they are in the midst of a "significant
Please do not misunderstand me. I firmly believe that many of the e-
lists (especially crosstalk) are in crisis. I think Mark Goodacre
summed it up best: "the e-lists are not as robust and healthy as they
once were." The data I compiled shows an unmistakable, consistent
downward trend in the number of posts to the e-lists I have been
following for years. Even if counting the raw nuber of posts is not
an absolutely perfect way to gauge the state of an e-list, I think
that the number of posts must at least be considered the leading,
critical indicator of an e-list's state. After all, the purpose of e-
lists is to discuss topics _via email posts_. So if the number of
posts to an e-list consistently decreases over time, I don't see how
anyone can deny that the e-list is in decline . . . and the number of
posts to the e-lists I've been following is _definitely_ down, year
after year, for perhaps almost a decade. I can see no reason to
attribute the declining number of posts to some kind of seasonal or
cyclic phenomenon. Unless something changes, I think the e-lists
really will die (if not actually, at least effectively).
However, I do not think the e-lists are going to die for four primary
1. The e-lists still have "robust memberships," as Jack Kilmon
2. People probably are "still reading elists, just not talking so
much," as Judy Redman pointed out.
3. Not all e-lists are in crisis (apparently just the ones I liked
to follow): The B-Greek and Biblical Studies e-lists seem to be doing
just fine (Jim West, please share your secret).
4. Above all, people don't want the lists to die. There are too
many of us who remember how useful the e-lists once were, and plenty
of others (e.g. Chris Weimer) who understand well how useful they
could be again. I was greatly heartened by John Stanton's succinct
response to my question, "Are e-lists dying?": "I hope not!"
Thus, I think the e-lists are in transition, and I think we should
follow the advice of my old friend Mike Grondin: "If it turns out
that nothing can be done to maintain a `critical mass' of dialogue on
these lists, those of us who care will have to consider locking the
doors and going to more fruitful methods of sharing and discussing
information and opinions in our areas of interest. Before going down
that route, however, I think we should explore some creative ways to
bring more life to the scholarly e-lists."
In closing, I just want to say, I am optimistic that the e-lists can
be revitalized. I aim to proceed in three distinct phases.
Phase 1. Identify the underlying problems that have hurt the e-
lists (I've got a draft list put together that I would like to refine
through discussion with others).
Phase 2. Discuss and brainstorm how the underlying problems can be
addressed and the e-lists revitalized (again, I've got a draft list
put together that I would like to refine through discussion with
Phase 3. Determine who is interested/able to be involved in
revitalizing the e-lists (this is going to be a big project, and it
will never get done properly unless the work is divided up so that
nobody gets overwhelmed.
PLEASE CONTACT ME OFFLIST IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN DISCUSSING AND/OR
BEING INVOLVED IN REVITALIZING THE BIBLICALLY RELATED E-LISTS:
- I think it fair to say that the more 'specialized' a list is, the more
likely it is to have fewer participants and therefore fewer
conversations. Remember when SBL tried to get an OT and a NT list off
the ground? Both died quickly due to lack of interest and
participation. Overspecialization is the problem, it seems to me. As
it is also the problem in the guild overall. As Professor Metzger
pointed out years ago- the more specialized one becomes, the less useful.
Further, some lists are quivering on the brink of disuse because they
have allowed the loons to take over. This happened on the old ANE
list. The new ANE-2 is tightly moderated and thus quite engaging.
For one thing that scholars loathe is idiocy. Lists which let anyone
post anything on any topic no matter their qualifications or lack
thereof to offer an opinion are doomed to spin off into madness. The
'biblica-list' is a recent example. It was started because
disgruntled persons who weren't 'getting their way' elsewhere wanted
to have their way in spite of the inevitable consequences (or because
they failed to appreciate the consequences).
So, that said, the more robust lists are robust because of 1) focus
within the broad field (as odd as that sounds- what I mean is that
they are focused on academic issues concerning biblical materials and
yet the whole scope of biblical studies is in view) and 2) tight
moderation. Academics of quality are attracted to exactly that kind
of experience. And they shy away from the nonsense.
Finally, if, as Andrew requests, I offer the 'secret', I would say,
invite, invite, invite. Have discussions of issues people are
interested in. Have 'colloquia' with invited participants. Keep your
list tightly moderated and bar or ban the nutjobs. All will be well
because scholars like to discuss things! The only way elists die is
when scholars are absent and discussion becomes nonsense.
(with apologies to any and all I've offended in the preceding
comments- not because of the comments, but simply for the sake of
Jim West, ThD
--- In email@example.com, "Andrew" <abernhar@...> wrote:
> However, I do not think the e-lists are going to die for four primary
> 1. The e-lists still have "robust memberships," as Jack Kilmon
> pointed out.
> 2. People probably are "still reading elists, just not talking so
> much," as Judy Redman pointed out.
> 3. Not all e-lists are in crisis (apparently just the ones I liked
> to follow): The B-Greek and Biblical Studies e-lists seem to be doing
> just fine (Jim West, please share your secret).
> 4. Above all, people don't want the lists to die. There are too
> many of us who remember how useful the e-lists once were, and plenty
> of others (e.g. Chris Weimer) who understand well how useful they
> could be again. I was greatly heartened by John Stanton's succinct
> response to my question, "Are e-lists dying?": "I hope not!"
- At 04:03 AM 7/16/2008, drjewest wrote:
>...Further, some lists are quivering on the brink of disuse because theyWell, one needn't go over to biblica-list for an example; you can find your
>have allowed the loons to take over. This happened on the old ANE
>list. The new ANE-2 is tightly moderated and thus quite engaging.
>For one thing that scholars loathe is idiocy. Lists which let anyone
>post anything on any topic no matter their qualifications or lack
>thereof to offer an opinion are doomed to spin off into madness. The
>'biblica-list' is a recent example. It was started because
>disgruntled persons who weren't 'getting their way' elsewhere wanted
>to have their way in spite of the inevitable consequences (or because
>they failed to appreciate the consequences)....
test case right here. XTalk, originally CrossTalk, was born in 1996 as an
UNmoderated list. Eventually, it was monopolized(?) by a few cranks, and
the list's future was in jeopardy. Fortunately, Jeffrey Gibson hatched a
plan to save the list, and with assistance from a few henchmen assistants,
and the permission of previous host HarperCollinsSanFrancisco, moved the
list from the HarperCollins server to its present location, where it
survives as a moderated list with aforementioned Gibson as
moderator-in-chief. I am grateful to Jeffrey for his initiative in saving
this list from a premature demise. He still does most of the heavy lifting
on this list behind the scenes, and we all owe him our thanks. He is
assisted occasionally behind the scenes by a few assistants. If you want
to know who they are, you can visit our website at
which, I am embarrassed to say, is badly out of date (Memo to...)
Bob in HI
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