managed versus unmanaged lists
Apr 05, 2002 08:32 AM
by Eldon B Tucker
[writing on theos-l and theos-news]
At 06:46 PM 4/4/02 -0600, you wrote:
This maillist has seen many many participants posting wide ranging and even
controversial messages and they have come and gone. The list still lives on
and we all can post msgs without having to be concerned with the list owner
moderating or throwing someone off.
Also as I had earlier stated, some theosophical 'vested' interests, in the
early days of this list, made some indirect attempts to "control" what goes
on here and it failed because the individual who is responsible for
starting this list found such independent free for all list has a place in
I've been waiting a few days to see what everyone says before making
any additional comments. I find it best to delay and respond with a
cool head rather than hastily writing angry replies when I see things
that I don't like.
You seem confused about what a moderated list is. In a moderated list,
a moderator reads any postings sent to the list and decides in advance
what is allowed to go out. This is the approach taken by the bn-study
list at Blavatsky Net, with the intent to filter out spam, large
volumes of off-topic materials, and keep out the personal attacks
and back-biting that sometimes is found on the Internet.
The difference between theos-l and theos-talk is that theos-l is
an unmanaged list and theos-talk is a managed list. An unmanaged
list is basically abandoned by its listowner, and continually stands
the risk of being taken over or destroyed by trolls or special
interest groups, or hijacked for someone's personal purpose.
An managed list is one where the listowner pays attention to the
state of the list and what's happening to the participants and
intervenes if necessary.
When is intervention necessary? I'd say as rarely as possible.
Generally a list is self-correcting. Someone may get out-of-hand
and others on the list with start writing and the person will
eventually behave themselves. Over a long period of time, if
this fails to happen, then it's up to the best judgement of the
listowner to protect things, to look after the best interest
of everyone on the list.
Is it necessary to spell out a long list of rules for
participants of a list? I don't think it is. Some things are
obvious. You do not plagiarize, violate copyright in defiance
of the copyright holder's express wishes, seriously slander
people, engage in widespread personal attacks against list
participants, nor flood the list with a large volume of messages
and then refuse to engage others in any meaningful discussion.
A mailing list is a place where a group of people engage in
an exchange on an equal basis. Troll-like activities, attempts
to take-over or destroy lists, are obviously banned. Participants
are expected to actually participate and engage with others in
a respectful manner.
You're giving into unfounded paranoid fears when you start
thinking that there's some group out to spy on or control
what goes on. Each list may be created with a particular
purpose or topic, and it's appropriate to not totally abandon
it. But within the context of the topic, there's no attempt
to control the free flow of ideas.
I have the early years of theos-l online. Initially, I was
saving all the messages, and was able to provide John Mead
a copy when his archives were lost at one point. You can
access them (in the form of monthly files) for the
July 1993 through December 1996 time period at:
You claim that there were attempts to control theos-l,
but I don't recall ever having seen any, nor have I heard
of any from others. I was an active participant from
September 1993 on the list, and in taking a quick look at
the archives, first notice you show up around November 1995,
over two years later.
During the years, you've mentioned dark suspicions that
people from Wheaton were spying on the list. Over the
same years, I've had occasional correspondence with some
of them, as I supported the software for the membership
department on a volunteer basis. To the best of my
knowledge, none of your suspicions were founded.
I can reassure you that no one is spying on or plotting
against you nor the list.
I hope that in the future the theos-talk list can be
self-correcting. I hope that whenever someone gets out
of line, that messages from other list participants and
moral pressure will make them aware of the problems
that they are causing. I don't like having to intervene.
Although I think that a few people may have been fooled
about what has been going on, I think that many can
sort through the facts and take a balanced view.
The lists exist for their stated purposes, and no one
should be allowed to take over or destroy a list.
When someone has to be removed, it's not censorship of
someone's brilliant ideas that people just aren't
ready for. (That's a ridiculous rationalization that
attempts to portray the victimizer as the victim and
ignores the victimizer's past behavior towards others.)
Some people may resort to name calling. One that I've
heard is "fundie." It says nothing about someone's
intelligence, knowledge, willingness to consider new
things, kindliness towards others. Theosophists are
taught as a spiritual practice to ignore small personal
slights, and only to respond when there's a significant
issues involved. It's a practice in self-forgetfulness.
So if you don't see any replies to such petty insults,
it's not because they're acknowledged as being true.
Another thing I've seen is sweeping over-generalizations.
Someone may feel some personal animosity towards a
person in a group -- say someone is angry with a person
on theos-talk mailing list. They immediately over
generalize and blacken the reputation of everyone there.
Regardless of one's feelings to any particular person,
the other people have nothing to do with it. To label
and attack whole groups of people is to be a hate-monger.
The theos-talk list isn't the only one that expects
its participants to be respectful to others. The
original new members message to theos-l also mentioned
that no belief was required, but participants were only
expected to be respectful to and not attack others
on the list. As an experiment, I just subscribed under
a different email id (email@example.com) to see what
kind of message is currently given. I don't see this
Although I don't see a requirement that participants
treat each other with respect any more, I don't think
that John Mead ever intended it to go away.
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