Response to Stephen Clift

On Tim Erikson’s blog Stephen Clift replies to my comment re reply-to-sender in e-groups:

P.S. Andy, our decade long idea has always been that being “public” needed to be an affirmative choice. We want to avoid mistaken messages to all. We do need to point out that you must press “reply-to-all” in our welcome and future monthly reminder posts. Also, what we really need in Newham and other newer forums is a coordinated and aggressive recruitment drive. With 400 members this setting might make a lot more sense.

I am of course familar with the arguments for reply to sender, and I don’t agree with them. People have already made an affirmative choice to be public when they join a public forum. On the other hand the reply to sender default is more suitable to private networking type of communication rather than group discussion.
The fear of accident is a red herring which discloses a predisposition towards privacy rather than openness and the 400 number is arbitrary. Yahoogroups is probably the largest system of e-groups and many of them seem to work quite healthily with reply-to-group and over 1000 subscribers. And before the web, we had Usenet with undisclosed numbers of subscribers to each group, but reply-to-group set as default in all variations of newsreader software, and many subscribers coping with up to 200 messages per day in high traffic groups. I’ve been subscribed to a couple of majordomo e-groups which switched from reply-to-group to reply-to-sender at the dictat of the group owner and in both cases the traffic subsequently declined from a healthy series of ongoing overlapping topic discussions into sporadic postings with periods of inactivity such that the new visitor will find a dead group and move on. In other words, reply-to-sender artificially maintains an effectively less-than-critical mass.
But I guess you will carry on insisting on sticking with the decade long idea, after all they are your groups and sufficiently lurker friendly that we could all become lurkers with nothing to lurk in. Thousands of youth in newham have myspace and facebook accounts, but are in my opinion extremely unlikely to adopt the practice of denying spontaneity and consciousy complying with counter intuitive instructions to try and make a seriously uncool medium work for social groups. Is it deliberate policy to disenfranchise them in order not to embarrass the occasional big wig who doesn’t know what he’s doing?

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