There’s been a lot of talk about the use of the Archives and Archivists listserv, #thatdarnlist, and blogs rather than listservs as fora for discussion by SAA members. I’m only going to address one small part of this larger debate: why I don’t post to the Archives and Archivists listserv.
1. Difficult to access: Although this has been made easier with the advent of the new website, A&A has always been difficult to sign up for. It is located on a part of the website away from anything else, meaning that you would have to go to that page specifically wanting to sign up for “Email Discussion Lists.” You also need a separate login and password from the credentials that govern your SAA profile to be able to sign into the listserv system. In an age where integration of web services is becoming the norm, a separate system is just not something to which people want to go.
2. Intimidating personae: Once you get people to subscribe to A&A, however, many aren’t posting. In any forum of communication, there are going to be people who are more active than others. But when those people dominate the conversation to the exclusion of others, then it becomes a problem. Is it entirely their fault? Of course not. People also need to just plunge into the conversation. However, if they feel that posting something to the list is not worth the resulting conversation, they won’t do it.
3. Listservs are Web 1.0 technology in a Web 2.0 world: As has been mentioned on A&A, it has been in existence since 1989; listservs themselves have been around since 1986, making them one of the first methods of communication over the internet. They have an important place in the communication of some organizations, but those are primarily more technical ones. Most of the lists to which I subscribe that have actual discussion are in the Linux community. More and more, people today aren’t thinking of listservs as locations of discussion; even fora, that staple of mid-1990s Internet life, are being pushed aside. Discussions have moved to blogs, to Twitter, to Facebook, and to other social networking sites. I personally read A&A through an RSS feed in my Google Reader, so that it can be with the rest of the information I regularly consume. However, I didn’t know that was possible for the longest time, having to search through the back messages to find it. Perhaps if this was made more public, more people would sign up and perhaps some of those people would contribute. I understand the need for a place of discussion sanctioned officially by SAA; I just don’t think people should be surprised when conversations happen in more than one location.
Finally, I welcome any discussion about this topic that may occur. I, like most blog owners, would never delete comments that simply disagrees with my opinions.