Monday, August 27, 2007

Rattlesnakes on an Email List?

I stopped subscribing to email discussions lists years ago. They are so, well, 1992.

Too many email lists generate too many messages. Some individuals still do not know how to use lists (how many private messages or responses such as "me too" or "see you there" are STILL being sent?). I tried to use digest mode but it made topic threads too choppy to follow. I also tried mailbox filters. I ended up marking most email list messages as read or just deleted them as they piled up.

In his editorial column in the June 2007 issue of Information Technology and Libraries, John Webb writes about his desire to have more individuals submit manuscripts to the journal. I am a bit perplexed by his decision to compare email list discussions to the peer review process of ITAL:

"A typical discussion thread on lita-l happens in 'real time' and lasts two days at most. A small number of participants raise and "solve" an issue in less than a half dozen posts. A few times, however, a question asked or comment posted by a LITA member has led to a flurry of irrelevent postings, or, possibly worse, sustained bombing runs from at least two opposing camps that have left some members begging to be removed from the list..."

"Some days I wish that lita-l responders would referee, honestly, their own responses for their relevance to the questions or issues or so-whatness and to the membership"

"do you have the "-" to send your ITAL editor a manuscript to be chewed upon not by rattlesnakes, but by skilled professionals who are your editorial Board Members and referees."

I see nothing wrong with a problem being raised and then solved within a few posts. Email lists such as lita-l are meant to be tools for quick questions and responses. Bombing runs and irrelevent postings exist on every email list, unless the list becomes moderated and filtered, which seems to be contrary to some core librarianship values.

I suspect few lita-l list subscribers view the list as an alternative to a scholarly communication tool such as ITAL. ALA members that join LITA are generally technology oriented individuals. I also suspect that most understand the shortcomings of all email lists and take them for what they are worth. Any LITA member that keeps up with the latest in library technology happenings using email lists over publications such as ITAL, or even blogs, may be in the wrong professional association.

There are also many questions that librarians have that simply do not warrant the full treatment of a typical ITAL article. Besides, blogging and the gray literature poses much more of a threat to the future of ITAL than the lita-l list ever could. Sphere: Related Content

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