My inbox is nearly on fire this morning. Two email lists are very active with heated discussions. One centers on a proposed cell phone tower at the local high school and the other discussion is about accessible PDFs. While I have opinions about both issues I’m not going to participate in either discussion because I really don’t think that the folks with one view are really listening to the folks with an opposing view so participating in either discussion would be a waste of time, energy and emotions.
Passionate discussions on email lists and bulletin boards all seem to follow the same pattern. Someone posts a topic — sometimes it might be a little inflammatory, but many times it is simply an innocent question — which is true of both of the cases that are being discussed on the email lists today. Then someone answers the question or statement with one point of view and someone else responds to the person with another point of view. Then the really passionate folks start chiming in and often someone makes fun of someone on the other side and then someone from the other side defends their position using stronger words and before you know it, unless the moderator (or a seasoned list user) steps in and tells the folks to calm down or take it off-list or cease and desist, someone is being referred to as a Nazi. I’ve seen it so many times that it is actually sometimes fun to watch.
The Washington Post featured a front page article about school email lists this morning. I thought I’d find it more interesting than it really was because of my long history with managing school email lists, first Bradleynet, then Pylenet; and because I now belong to a list that is mentioned in the article (and remember the discussion it describes very well as I am friends two of the debaters).
I’ve been a member of too many email lists to count, and they are pretty much all the same. You have people who think it should not be moderated. You have people who think it needs to be moderated more than it is. You have the entire spectrum of political correctness/incorrectness. You have people who threaten to unsubscribe if certain things are posted and those who get upset if certain things are not posted. At least the school lists don’t have the grammar police.
The article mentions a PTSA (past?) president who thinks the email list belongs to her and not the school. While I think she is very wrong, I know how protective I felt about Bradleynet. I had a hard time letting it go. So if that is the reason the woman in question thinks the list belongs to her, I’ll have to admit that I understand it, but somehow I don’t think that was the reason.
I don’t envy those names mentioned in this article. I think that this is one area that does not need news coverage. Email list managers have enough with which to deal without their schools and lists mentioned in the Washington Post.
The comments are almost more interesting than the article, and, in a way, mirror exactly what the article mentions. That with a few keystrokes a person can add to (or detract from) a discussion. It has nothing to do with elitism or unenlightened generations. It has to do with common sense and self-restraint.