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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: February ::
SHAKSPER is back with an important change!
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0001  Wednesday, 8 February 2006

From: 		Hardy M. Cook <
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Date: 		Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Subject: 	SHAKSPER is back with an important change!

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

SHAKSPER is back! Both the list and the website are up and operating.

Toward the end of the second week of December, our old yet until then 
reliable server -- a Sparc 10, running Solaris 8.0 -- gave up the ghost 
(No, this is not an invitation to resurrect the ghost in Hamlet 
thread.). Eric and I had been planning to replace it, and now we were 
forced by circumstances to do so. Eric also had wanted to use the server 
upgrade to move from a Unix to a Linux platform.

We did our homework, and I purchased, as per Eric's recommendations, a 
Dell PowerEdge 1800 with dual Xeon 3.0GHz processors, 4GB of memory, 4 
250GB SATA Hard Drives in a RAID 10 configuration, and so on. In other 
words, a first-rate server. As Eric had wished, we are running RedHat 
Enterprise Linux ES Version 4 as its operating system, a move which 
required us to change from the Unix to the Linux version of Listserv and 
to obtain the proper activation (License Activation Key). In addition, I 
have doubled the bandwidth speed of the server from 384 to 768 KBPS for 
both uploading and downloading. Eric configured this server to be much 
more secure than our previous one, in large part because of the 
flexibility that Linux afforded him, and to create many different types 
and levels of backup. We even have redundant and removable power supplies.

Eric's next undertaking for us will be to redesign the SHAKSPER website, 
bringing its design into the 21st century.

As members may recall, my penultimate message before the crash was a 
long editor's note that I entitled "Various Ramblings" (SHK 16.2045 
Tuesday, 13 December 2005: 
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2005/2046.html). In that post, I wrote 
the following:

 >In the past more than fifteen years, I have given a great deal of my
 >life to delivering SHAKSPER to subscribers. I have explained that for
 >the first years of its existence SHAKSPER was almost exclusively an
 >academic list with scholars constituting 95% of its members. Then the
 >Internet revolution got underway and Internet access is approaching
 >universal in some parts of the world and now significant numbers of
 >SHAKSPER members are enthusiasts. Clearly, some members are happy with
 >SHAKSPER exactly as it is, but I am not. It hurts me every time I get
 >notification that another young or established scholar is leaving the
 >list. It hurts me when interesting scholarly postings are ignored and
 >others that simply drive me crazy thrive. It bothers me that appropriate
 >discourse for some appears to be ad hominem attacks on the poster,
 >especially if they disagree with his politics.
 >
 > . . .
 >
 >I have been looking for solutions to my dilemma, but nothing seems to be
 >adequate.

In a Happy New Year's message that Eric and I sent to the membership 
from a temporary GMail account, I indicated that for this year's SAA 
Annual Meeting that I would be writing a paper for the Shakespeare 
Forums seminar. Just before the server's crash, I decided to focus on 
the issues surrounding my efforts to maintain the list's academic roots 
in the increasingly (for lack of a better world) "secular" world of the 
Internet, a subject that has been central to many of my posts as 
Editor-Moderator this past year.

In another update of January 25, 2006, from that same GMail account, I 
mentioned that I had been thinking about my essay for the upcoming SAA 
meeting, which I am tentatively calling "The 
Future/Fate/Plight/Dilemma/Predicament of SHAKSPER: An Academic 
Discussion List in the 'Secular' World of the Internet." As an abstract, 
I proposed the following:

SHAKSPER, now in its seventeenth year, is an international "electronic 
seminar" that enables ongoing discussion of all things Shakespearean. 
The membership currently includes more than 1,300 SHAKSPEReans of 
sixty-four nationalities. Shakespearean textual scholars and 
bibliographers, editors and critics are members, but so are university, 
college, and community-college professors, high-school teachers, 
undergraduates and graduates, actors, theatre professionals, authors, 
poets, playwrights, librarians, computer scientists, lawyers, doctors, 
retirees, and other interested participants. Ken Steele founded SHAKSPER 
in July of 1990 with a core of about a dozen members.  In June of 1992, 
I took over as its owner, editor, and moderator.  At the time, the 293 
members were virtually all from academia.  Commercial Internet service 
providers were just getting started in the early 1990s.  Now significant 
numbers of SHAKSPER members are not scholars but enthusiasts. 
Nevertheless, from the beginning, SHAKSPER's target audience was 
academics, and Ken and I went out of our way to make the list 
user-friendly for those in the early days who were not comfortable with 
technology. However, from its roots, I also encouraged diversity and 
inclusiveness: "No academic qualifications are required for membership 
in SHAKSPER, and anyone interested in English Literature, the 
Renaissance, or Drama is welcome to join us."  As a consequence, the 
list now includes a significant number of non-academics and therein lies 
the source of many of the difficulties I now encounter as the list's 
moderator.  In my essay, I propose to explore SHAKSPER's history and the 
current dilemma I face of moderating an academic discussion list in the 
"secular" world of the Internet.

The point is that for quite a long time now I have not been satisfied 
with how SHAKSPER has been operating and discouraged that scholarly 
members, some of whom had been long-time subscribers, were leaving the 
list. I have tried a variety of strategies for a number of years. On 
April 3, 2000, I first suggested that members "please count to ten" 
before hitting the reply key. Other suggestions for self-moderation 
followed: exercising civility toward other members; taking discussions 
or debates that had become primarily exchanges/debates/attacks between 
two members off-line; considering that exchanges, such as 
congratulations, thank-yous, and I-said-you-said, may be more 
appropriate offline. I have also made suggestions about self-government: 
selecting one or two threads to respond in any one day and keeping 
responses as brief and to the point as possible by limiting submissions 
to a screen or two of text. I have even made suggestions for responding 
to contributions members consider foolish, myopic, mistaken, or boring: 
don't bother reading them; ignore them; be courteous but be indignant. 
None of these solutions seemed to me to curb the petty squabbles, the 
pet theories and interpretation (theories and interpretations that often 
tried the patience of the most open-minded among us), the over-blown 
reactions to pet theories and interpretations, and so on and so on.

On November 17, 2005, I announced that, in a desire to maintain the core 
academic role of SHAKSPER without sharply altering what it has evolved 
into, I intended to end some discussions earlier than I had done in the 
past. But I was still not satisfied.

These past eight weeks have been the longest hiatus I have had as 
SHAKSPER's editor in the more than fifteen years that I have held that 
position. I have had plenty of time to think and even some time to rest 
from my labors and work on other projects, like my upcoming SAA essay. 
While preparing this paper, I determined that the membership now appears 
equally divided between members with academic e-mail addresses and those 
with commercial ones, an indication that roughly half the members are 
currently academics and the other half non-academics. I welcome the 
diversity of members, but I want to regain the academic focus of the 
early days of the list. The only way that I can see that this is 
possible is for me to become active as moderator and only post messages 
that I believe are of interest to the academic community. In posting 
messages only of interest to the academic community, I am not proposing 
to restrict the membership of SHAKSPER or to eliminate significant 
questions and comments from actors, directors, or any member of 
SHAKSPER. The source of the post is not the issue; the issue will be its 
relevance to the broad scope of academic interests in Shakespeare studies.

I know that there are some who feel that the list has had little genuine 
academic content at all. I know that many will be deeply disappointed by 
my decision and see it as elitist and divisive. I know that some will 
feel that I will not be exclusive enough; and others that I am being too 
draconian. I also know that I cannot please all of the people all of the 
time.

I do not make this decision lightly nor do I even welcome the burden 
that it will force upon me. However, I feel compelled to make this 
change in order to reassert SHAKSPER's role in and service to the 
world-wide Shakespearean academic community.

Hardy M. Cook
Owner-Editor-Moderator of SHAKSPER

PS: What follows are a few appropriate posts sent to me before or during 
the crash.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
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The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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