July 8, 2006

Tired of email lists.

Here's a message I just sent out to the CivPro and FedCourts email lists:
Well, the time has come for me to shut down the old CivPro and FedCourts email lists. It's been grand. These were among the first -- maybe even the first -- lawprof email lists. But for me -- and maybe for you -- blogging has overtaken writing email. I think blogging is a much better medium of expression. Though email lists retain utility for passing around announcements and getting answers to research questions, I think they are obsolescent as a mode of conversation, which is what interested me in them over a decade ago. After years of dealing with an overflowing mailbox full of bounced messages and address changes, I'm going to go out of the business of list administration.

I'll keep the lists going until fall semester begins. I encourage you to use the lists to make announcements about email lists you have started. Give information about how to subscribe, and the CivPro and FedCourts members can migrate to you. Feel free to talk here about what new lists should exist and who most wants to run them. For example, it might be nice to have a jurisdiction list and a complex litigation list, or some other such division of topics. For me, as soon as I start talking about it in those terms, I think, no, there should be a jurisdiction blog and a complex litigation blog, and these can be group blogs written by the people who have written great messages to these lists over the years. So, please, use the last few weeks of these lists to propose new group blogs and find people who want to work together on them. And promote blogs you already have, as I'm doing here.

Ann Althouse
University of Wisconsin Law School

Aren't you tired of email lists?


Mark the Pundit said...

Yes, especially if it is the "Townhouse" mailing list...

Bruce Hayden said...

Well, no, I'm not. But most of the lists I am on have mostly dried up over the last couple of years.

Just like news groups, one of the strengths of email lists (presumably listserve groups) is that they are fairly democratic. Any one on them can start a thread. Contrast this with blogging, where you have one, or a small number, of people starting conversations. You have to depend on them to say something relevant or interesting. And, sometimes, stuff that is important to me gets skipped.

Also, blogging doesn't do a good job of threading. With News groups it is easy to keep track of who said what, and respond to that. At least some email software can do this with email lists.

I obviously like blogging, but I don't think that it is the ultimate solution when you are talking a community, versus, the professor/student paradigm that you seem to have with blogging.

Kathy said...

In some contexts email lists still work better than blogs. I'm on a couple of lists for homeschoolers doing particular types of homeschooling. The lists allow us to ask questions and send out ideas and information. Anyone on the list can initiate a question or topic, as opposed to a few authors. Also, some of these homeschooling moms have very limited time to spend actually online, so they need to download their email, read it offline, and then queue up their response to be sent out the next time they're online. For those people, email lists are still better.

We use Yahoo's email list tools extensively to store links and files that members have shared that will be of use to other members. We could do that on a website, but I'd have to find another tool or set it up manually.

I am on a book discussion list, and I think that one could go either way. It *could* work as a blog, but for many people who are not totally up on the way blogs work yet, email lists are still easier.

Another advantage with the email is, if a lot of topics get addressed in a small span of time, working through the individual emails ensures that none are missed. With a blog it's easier to miss some.

John R Henry said...

I've probably set up 100 or so e-mal lists over the past 8-10 years. Some were one-way, for example my newsletter (www.changeover.com/newsletter.htm )Some have been specific and for limited purposes. I used to set up a list for each class I taught and then kill it at the end of the semester. It was for dissemination of class info and I tried, with varying degrees of success to get discussions going. Others I have set up for writing projects with other people. A list just makes it so much easier to keep all the e-mails organized. I set up a fan list for a favorite author (Nevil Shute) which resulted in a 3 day birthday party in Albuquerque to which 120 people from as far away as Ireland, Alaska, New Zealand came (in person, not virtually)

One of my favorite lists is one I run called NIOT for Nothing Is Off Topic Lots of good discussion on a wide range of topics with people from around the world. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NIOT

I also belong to anumber of other lists professional and recreational.

I've always used Yahoo Groups and its predecesor E-List for lists. I don't understand what you mean about management. It is all handled automatically and I do virtually no list management at all.

Last semester I tried a group blog in my Packaging Technology class. http://www.packtech.blogspot.com/

I had hoped for some more interaction between the class and the world and have some ideas for doing things differently in the fall term.

Blogs have a place but they are very different from lists. In lists, everyone is equal and anyone can start a thread subject to the list guidelines. In a blog, You, Anne, are the boss and all we can do is comment on what you think is interesting.

Both have their place. I am an avid blog reader. But I would be very sorry to see e-mail lists go away. Two different animals, we need both.

John Henry

Ernst Blofeld said...

The advantage of email lists (and their close relatives, forums) is that they centralize information in one place, and provide a known place to go and ask questions. At least in the techie world, this is invaluable. Almost every major piece of open source software has a mailing list that the developers and users watch, and that is archived.

Perhaps your view of matters is different because of the nature of the information exchange; open ended N-way discussion among peers rather than information transfer from high knowledge people to lower knowledge people. In the P2P case the editing function is critical. Also, perhaps your view is skewed by having a high traffic blog? Would you rely on blogs as much if you were junior faculty and found it more difficult to attract traffic?

Alcibiades said...

I'm not in the least tired of lists. Perhaps because my lists, on the whole, are in different fields than my blogging. Literature and humanities related, rather than political. And it also happens that most of the people on those lists are on the other side of the political divide, so I wouldn't have the chance to interact with most of them otherwise.

The one political list I'm on has bloggers and non-bloggers and we occasionally have get togethers at interesting or provocative political events in our area. Which would be hard to organize from a blog.