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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
It's Time for Another Meta-Discussion
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0080  Monday, 17 January 2005

[Editor's Note: I am recovering from a failing hard drive on my desktop
computer, which I use to edit and distribute SHAKSPER. I think I have
recovered all of the submitted messages so that I can use my laptop, but
if something is missing please resend. I also have a busy day and week
ahead of me so there may not be digests every weekday. Below you will
find my responses to issues raised in this thread and the most recent
submission, which I have not commented on yet.]

[1]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Monday, January 17, 2005
        Subj:   It's Time for Another Meta-Discussion

[2]     From:   Martin Green <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 Jan 2005 18:04:19 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0074 It's Time for Another Meta-Discussion


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Monday, January 17, 2005
Subject:        It's Time for Another Meta-Discussion

On Thursday, January 6, 2005, in SHK 16.0024, I announced that Eric
Luhrs and I would be making some improvements in SHAKSPER by switching
the SHAKSPER server from a SUN UNIX environment to a PC Linux one and by
redesigning the SHAKSPER web site. Eric is currently planning the
requirements of the server, and I will be purchasing it when he has made
his final decisions about its configuration. We are also considering
other changes such as moving from LISTSERV to Majordomo. I concluded my
message by asking the members of SHAKSPER: Is there anything you would
like to see changed in the near future in the operation of the list?

Most of the members have expressed an overwhelming desire to keep
receiving edited and moderated SHAKSPER digests by e-mail. A few
respondents endorsed moving to Majordomo, free e-mail distribution
software, from LISTSERV. LISTSERV has been the software that has been
used since the very beginning of SHAKSPER, and I am quite comfortable
with it. I know, however, that HUMANIST has moved from LISTSERV to
Majordomo. If there are any readers who have had experience with
operating a list using both programs, I would appreciate your contacting
me in a private message to provide your assessment of working with the
two. I am particularly interested in making sure that Majordomo has all
or most of the same features as LISTSERV.

And now for my responses to the issues raised in this thread.

Eric M. Johnson requested that I "continue to require registration
before letting a user post to the group" (SHK 16.0033).

I intend to continue to keep SHAKSPER not open to automatic subscription
and to require submission of a brief biography before adding anyone to
the membership list. I do not view this requirement as part of an
adjudication process but as an expression of genuine interest on the
part of the prospective member and as a record for myself of the
background of the members. Let me add that I am the only one with access
to these biography files.

Some members were interested in exploring formats that did not
necessarily depend on e-mail. At the heart of these responses was the
desire to have an easier way "to keep track of older posts" (John Reed,
SHK 16.0033)

JD Markel expressed a preference for the "Discussion Group" quality of
an e-mail distribution list over the more chatroom-type blog, which he
saw as something that "might diminish academic tenor" of the discussion.
Markel also liked "e-mail interactivity and notice with discussions
cataloged at the website" but would like to see "some changes to the
cataloging," wishing for a "simpler thread structure." This idea was
seconded by Richard Burt who wrote, "I have found searching the database
often does not get me what I want and gets me lots of stuff I don't want
(unlike Google)" (SHK 16.0056). Markel also would like to "add a
homepage link and catalog page for threads in the nature of 'calls for
papers' and 'announcements.'  Keep them in the main catalog, but copy
them to a unique catalog that interested users can scroll without having
to sift through the greater mount of textual and performance threads"
(SHK 16.0042).

These are thoughtful suggestions, and Eric will be looking into possible
changes to the way messages are threaded and to the feasibility of
creating a separate what Markel later suggested should be called "News"
section on the website and a procedure for my being able to send
announcement to this page without an inordinate amount of extra work for
either him or me.

John Webb notes that "Hardy has created a unique resource" (SHK 16.0042).

As I indicated in my review of the history of SHAKSPER (SHK 15.2142:
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2004/2151.html), SHAKSPER was founded
by Ken Steele; I took over a few years later. Eric Luhrs is responsible
for creation and maintenance of the website.

John Webb was the first of many in this thread who thought that I "ought
to find a few people to whom" I could delegate some of my duties, so
that I can get occasional breaks without interruptions to the
discussions. John Perry agreed adding that "when Hardy takes some time
off, I really miss the forum" (SHK 16.0056).

This is not a new suggestion. It has, in fact, been advocated by some
members of my Advisory Board. I am sure that there are willing
volunteers, but . . .  Over the years, I have developed a "house style"
for SHAKSPER. Writing up a manual or set of instructions on how to edit
SHAKSPER digests and how to moderate discussions in order to train
others would require more effort than I have the time or inclination to
do now. I am content to take occasional expected (for a rest, a holiday,
a business trip) or unexpected (for a computer problem, a medical
problem, or a family emergency) breaks from editing and distributing
digests. I am sure that some like John Perry genuinely miss the
discussion during these times, but I have received many e-mails of
support and encouragement at those times. Rest assured, when I am ready
to pass on SHAKSPER, I will make provisions for a smooth transfer.
Should something unexpected happen to me, Eric has access to the server
and the list and I am appointing him my personal representative in this
matter.

Colin Cox was the first in this thread to make an offer to help me out
with my expenses saying that he is "very willing to make a contribution
to Hardy's expenses" (SHK 16.0056).

Other generous offers followed; so many, in fact, that I felt compelled
to respond on Thursday, 13 January 2005, in an Editor's Note: . . . I
feel that I must make a brief statement now. I appreciate all of the
messages that have been sent and the expressions of support for my work
with this list. Yes, I do pay a considerable amount of money for the
software license and commercial Internet fees, which of course I use as
a tax deduction. I am gratified by all of the offers of financial
support, but my understanding is that I cannot legally accept money
unless I incorporate SHAKSPER as a not-for-profit corporation, something
that is far too much trouble for me to bother with. I am comfortable
paying what I pay and my recompense is the gratitude of the members"
(SHK 16.0067).

On another occasion, JD Markel added to his previous comment: "Being new
to this site I had not realized all interaction in all threads are
routed through a single e-mail address.  Not important for me, but this
indicates how much more work you do in segregating reply e-mails and
attributing them to various threads. Surely there's a way to lessen your
work in this regard?" (SHK 16.0056).

Short answer, No. I have refined my procedures to be as efficient as I
can and am satisfied with them as they are.

Al Magary was the first to mention "RSS (Really Simple Syndication)"
feeds adding "Likewise, email-list discussion is now possible in a
variety of formats at sites that facilitate instant updating of
webpages-that is, web message boards and web blogs, or blogs. You don't
have to have spiky hair or ride a skateboard to appreciate the
flexibility of blogging technology. I'm sure that one of the blog
formats would be congenial for Hardy and SHAKSPERians alike.  For
example, one format has message boards from which the blog owner can
pluck good pieces and repost on his blog's home page-from which you can
get an RSS feed. With such a design you wouldn't have to surf to
SHAKSPER unless RSS sent an interesting item to your inbox" (SHK 16.0066).

This is an area that I am going to defer to Eric to address. I can
assure everyone that I have decided to continue to distribute SHAKSPER
digests by e-mail distribution software. However, Eric is pursuing other
technologies that we can also implement along with the re-designed
website. More to come.

Hardy M. Cook
Editor

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Green <
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Date:           Friday, 14 Jan 2005 18:04:19 +0000
Subject: 16.0074 It's Time for Another Meta-Discussion
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0074 It's Time for Another Meta-Discussion

SHAKSPER is fine, just as it is, and I hope it stays that way.

But clearly, the administration of the program imposes substantial
financial, time, and energy demands upon the Moderator.  Has any thought
been given to obtaining a sponsor for SHAKSPER (like Texaco was to the
Metropolitan Opera)?  Could not, say, the Shakespeare Association of
America, if Dr. Cook were to agree, "sponsor"  SHAKSPER by paying the
fees for the use of the Internet, and perhaps also some well-merited
compensation to the Moderator?  Right now, the SAA is planning a meeting
in March (in Bermuda!), the cost of which is probably many times the
cost of a useful contribution to SHAKSPER. The benefits to the SAA, or
any organization, of contributing funds to "sponsor" SHAKSPER, would, I
think, be substantial, in terms of good will, prestige, and even
membership.   I am a member of the SAA, and would gladly check an
appropriate box on my yearly membership application to give an
additional sum for the maintenance of this Conference.

I am not suggesting that the sponsor take over SHAKSPER, but only that
it contribute to the cost of its operation and dissemination by the
present Moderator (just as Texaco had nothing to say about what operas
would be performed by the Met, but, for many years, gained  much good
will by  paying for the broadcasts).

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