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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: July ::
FYI -- The Future of listserv Technology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0360  Tuesday, 7 July 2009

[1] From:   Thomas Le <
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     Date:   Thursday, 2 Jul 2009 18:27:32 -0700 (PDT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0351 FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology

[2] From:   Dan Venning <
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     Date:   Friday, 3 Jul 2009 01:42:07 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0351 FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology

[3] From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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     Date:   Monday, July 06, 2009
     Subj:   SHK 20.0351 FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Thomas Le <
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Date:       Thursday, 2 Jul 2009 18:27:32 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0351 FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0351 FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology

Dear Hardy,

The notion that listserv days are numbered is exaggerated.

There is no technology out there right now that can equal an e-mail list 
in control of both content and participants, and timeliness.

Facebook, Twitter are exhibitionism in disguise, not a place for 
serious, thoughtful, well-considered discourse on anything, let alone 
academic subjects or Shakespeare. Serious discourse to millions of 
participants? Besides, the accounts may be here today, gone tomorrow.

Blogs are musings of individuals who know they do not have to exercise 
restraint and self-control or caution that an academic lister does. 
There is no control of topics or participants.

Websites are generally static and change glacially, or sometimes move 
without leaving a forwarding address. Unless it's a news organization 
with a huge IT staff to keep the contents changed regularly, a website 
is more like a book, not a dynamic venue.

"The deterioration of contents noted, after ten or more years of daily 
discourse, is only part of the whole story of scholarship. How many and 
how frequently new ideas and earth-shattering discoveries can be gotten 
about the life and works of a 450-year-old man who has been studied for 
about that long by generations of scholars?  Do Facebook, Twitter, 
MySpace, blogs change that?"

The e-mail list, while beset with known problems, still stands head and 
shoulder above the rest of contending technologies.

Thomas Le

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Dan Venning <
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Date:       Friday, 3 Jul 2009 01:42:07 -0400
Subject: 20.0351 FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0351 FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology

Hardy:

Thank you for passing along this fascinating article, as well as 
discussing the history of SHAKSPER. This was a thorough and detailed 
history, and tackled head on the issue of how listservs like this one 
continue to serve the academic community.

However, I think you perhaps underestimate the uses of Facebook (to 
which I belong) and Twitter (which I don't yet use, but probably will 
have to, soon), however. For many people -- both students and scholars 
-- as well as for organizations, these websites go far beyond "internet 
exhibitionism." They serve as marketing and outreach tools for theatre 
companies, and I suspect that they may go beyond simple exhibitionism 
into the realm of identity-crafting for some. On the other hand, 
Facebook and Twitter can easily drain the resources of members of the 
internet attention economy, whereas listservs, if well-managed by users 
through digests or through careful filtering in good email clients, 
don't take up too much attention at all.

Thanks once again for this terrific overview, and for passing along the 
Chronicle article.

Dan Venning

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Monday, July 06, 2009
Subject: FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology
Comment:    SHK 20.0351 FYI  --  The Future of listserv Technology

Thanks to Thomas and Dan as well as to those of you who I have exchanged 
messages with me off-list and those of you who so kindly added me as a 
"friend" to your Facebook account. As I mentioned I have joined 
Facebook, but I have not gotten my socially active soon to be 
16-year-old daughter (who spends much more time with her boyfriend, 
friends, and sister than with me and working at her school's service 
requirement) to give me a hand getting started with it. I welcome anyone 
who wants to be my "friend" to add me -- (I'm pathetic aren't I?). I 
will, however, not be able to get started on my own until after I finish 
the essay that I have been on a roll with and that has been a constant 
companion much of the past ten days or so.

Let me address a few specifics.

Dan thinks I may be underestimating "the uses of Facebook . . . and 
Twitter . . . . For many people -- both students and scholars -- as well 
as for organizations, these websites go far beyond "internet 
exhibitionism." They serve as marketing and outreach tools for theatre 
companies, and I suspect that they may go beyond simple exhibitionism 
into the realm of identity-crafting for some. . . ."

As I wrote, I had joined Facebook only a few weeks ago and have not yet 
actively explored it. My experience, therefore, is second-hand, filtered 
through my students, daughters, and son-in-law, and by way of what I 
have read. I just have not until now been interested in "social 
networking." I am clearly not as extroverted as my two daughters are nor 
am I particularly comfortable in social situations (not comfortable is a 
serious underestimation: I am often emotionally terrified by many if not 
most social situations). I am, however, grudgingly coming to realize 
that I am far too introverted than is good for me. Even though I have 
been behaving rather like a hermit in the nearly five-years since my 
wife's death, I am coming to realize I need friends and companions 
(Sorry, I'll save this for therapy).

Returning, so, Dan, I am probably "underestimating" the uses of Facebook 
and Twitter and can see how they might indeed be useful in situations 
like as "outreach tools for theatre companies." But if I were 
underestimating, I was doing so because I like Thomas Le still believe 
they are not AS useful a place for "serious, thoughtful, well-considered 
discourse" as listservs are, especially moderated ones as SHAKSPER is, 
but back to that point in a moment.

Thomas Le further notes, "The deterioration of contents noted, after ten 
or more years of daily discourse, is only part of the whole story of 
scholarship. How many and how frequently new ideas and earth-shattering 
discoveries can be gotten about the life and works of a 450-year-old man 
who has been studied for about that long by generations of scholars?  Do 
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs change that?"

Thomas refers to other points that I made in "The Future of listserv 
Technology" post about the "Reduction in number of members" and 
"Reduction if quality of postings on the list." I will return to the 
first of these later. Thomas, in the passage I quote, offers an 
ameliorating take on a point I made about list content.

To this discussion about the reasons for the deterioration of the 
quality of some postings on SHAKSPER let me add some observations John 
Velz made in his EXIT PURSUED BY BEAR. [I finally was sent not one but 
two copies of EXIT. While I was working on the crash and other 
difficulties I was having these past few days, I got quite a bit of it 
read. I also have been trying to see if there is anything that might be 
done to make this fascinating look at John Velz's life's work with 
Shakespeare and Shakespearean he met along the way available to others. 
I will probably have more to say about this matter in the near future. 
In the meantime, anyone who would care to read the four-page chapter 
that relates to SHAKSPER may find it here: 
http://www.shaksper.net/~hcook/Velz.pdf. At some point, I would also 
like to offer a few corrections about me and SHAKSPER where John's 
memory apparently failed.]

   I was a subscriber to the shaksper e-mail bulletin board [sic] almost
   since it first took shape. In more ways than can be enumerated, it
   has been an important influence on my later years as a Shakespearean.
   In the early years of this board I frequently jumped in to express
   opinions on controversial questions and to provide facts where I
   could (218). . . .

   It is true that though the postings are monitored -- for many years by
   a very generous and patient friend to all SHAKSPERians, Hardy Cook -
   much improbability and misinformation slips through. But one fishes
   through the day's postings for the few items worthy of attention or
   occasionally of a response (219).

Please allow me the opportunity to address these issues.

As I have explained, the Internet began as a military application, moved 
to academia, and spread to the general public after the proliferation of 
Internet service providers like AOL and CompuServe and the 
implementation of graphical user interfaces (like Mosaic) to navigate 
it. Academics, other than computer scientists and librarians, began 
using e-mail and then bulletin boards and usenet groups and listservs. 
Early non-military users of the Internet advocated for its being an 
anarchic world, eschewing artificial boundaries, rules, and limitations. 
When I began editing SHAKSPER, I was caught between two impulses, 
maintaining the list's academic orientation and being as inclusive as I 
could within this constraint.

As I reported in my recent _Borrowers and Lenders_ essay "SHAKSPER: An 
Academic Discussion List"   (2.2. Winter/Fall 2006: 
http://www.borrowers.uga.edu/cocoon/borrowers/request?id=781467):

   From the beginning, SHAKSPER's target audience was scholars, and Ken
   and I went out of our way to make the list user-friendly for those
   academics who, in those early days of computing, were not necessarily
   comfortable with technology.  However, from its roots, we 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" . . . .

When I was preparing the above essay, I observed a connection between 
the increased number of subscribers who were non-academic enthusiasts 
and those who were academics and theatre professionals and the 
appearance of the "What is this list for" meta-discussion topic. During 
these years, I seldom rejected posts, resulting in the unevenness in the 
overall quality of the posts that John Velz refers to in the quotation I 
cite above. I struggled with the consequences of these conflicting 
impulses. After recovering from the SHAKSPER server's crashing, I 
revolved in early 2006 to become more active as a moderator striving to 
post only messages that were of interest to the Shakespearean academic 
community as a first step toward regaining the list's academic 
orientation. To my striving to become more active as a moderator, I 
added new features -- the Roundtable, the Book Reviews (with books, 
reviews, and reviewers all vetted by the SHAKSPER Book Review Panel), 
and the Cook's Tours of Internet Resources for Students and Scholars of 
the Early Modern Period. To these Eric Luhrs is redesigning the SHAKSPER 
web site with a new structure that will enable users of the site to 
access it more easily and to use the archives, present content, and new 
features effective and efficiently. I am excited about the new features 
and about the redesigned web site -- a design that will enable me to 
change and update content without having to go through Eric. My having 
control over the web site's content will enable me to make the site more 
responsive to its users' needs, improving it as a tool for academic 
research to the benefit of scholars, instructors, students, and casual 
readers.

Finally, I want to address the matter of the reduction in the number of 
SHAKSPER subscribers. In last week's post I wrote that I had "lost 
approximately 200 members," which I attributed "to overzealous 
anti-spamming software and to ISP e-mail policies." Ironically, the very 
day I posted this message an anti-spamming technology company that had 
not caused me problems before, Trent Micro, listed the SHAKSPER server 
on its Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS) Dialup Users List (DUL) as a 
possible spammer and blocked SHAKSPER mailing deliveries to almost 50 of 
the SHAKSPER users, who subsequently have been deleted, I hope 
temporarily, from the membership list.

Unfortunately, I do not have the time right now to figure out why Trend 
Micro believes that my server is NOT operating from a static IP address 
when in fact it is. Until I do I have lost as members everyone who 
subscribes to SHAKSPER from a COMCAST e-mail account as well as many 
others whose universities use Trend Micro's services, which are 
currently "blocking" delivery of digests from SHAKSPER, causing those 
mailings to "bounce" back to the SHAKSPER server, resulting in those 
addresses being removed from the SHAKSPER membership list.

If listserv technology is dying as a means for delivering worthwhile 
content is it in part because of overzealous anti-spamming technology 
whose protocols are falsely "blacklisting" mass mailings from listserv 
servers.

Sadly yours,
Hardy M. Cook

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