The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0001 Wednesday, 8 February 2006
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Subject: SHAKSPER is back with an important change!
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
>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
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
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
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.