[Air-l] Air-list

Jennifer Stromer-Galley jstromer at albany.edu
Wed Sep 13 18:31:52 PDT 2006

I want to second what Mark posted and also offer up a few more thoughts on the
rationale for a 2 post max rule (which I recognize I'm now violating ;-).

The rationale established by the E-Democracy Project, as I understand it, is
that there is a risk with email lists that a small group of people can
effectively control the topic agenda, hijack existing threads, and move
conversations along much faster than others can keep up with.

Attention is a limited resource, and if one's inbox is full of emails from
three people who in the end are mostly having a conversation with themselves
(especially if it's viewed as "nasty"), then the other 100 people are in
effect left out/left behind/or quit because the conversation is no longer

By holding to a two post rule, it slows the conversation down, allows emotions
to cool, and (hopefully) more rational posts to be advanced. It also allows
other voices in. I know that seems strange to say in an online context, since
the ability to "speak" is unlimited, but again attention is the limited
resource, and people will stop attending to email lists where a small group of
people overwhelming dominate it. Then, the email list collapses under the
weight of the vocal few.

Some people use their email filters to block out those whom they don't wish to
hear, but for the integrity of the discussion and the cohesion of the
community it's better if people aren't filtering out individuals they don't
"like." [I'm being a little flip here. We filter out people for many reasons,
I know.] We should, ideally, be exposed to positions we don't wish to hear,
even if the end result is a cognitive dismissal of the position.

Of course, this is one of the big debates with online communication - do we
self-select what we wish to be exposed to? Technicaly, sure. Ideally, no. So,
filtering, at least to my mind, is an easy solution but robs the community of
exposure to diverse perspectives, even opinions we find problematic for
whatever reason.

So, the two post rule becomes a way to facilitate an important element of
healthy discussion, which is equality of participation among its producers,
without necessarily censoring (or censuring) anyone.

Best wishes,

> Also a disruptive person (and I speaking only in the general here)
> can hijack the entire direction of a list, thus limited the
> beneficial effect of filtering out an individual's messages.  A
> troll, for example, might work to intentionally raise disruptive
> points and get other list members talking about irrelevant or
> unproductive topics.  Filtering out the comments of the troll, in
> that case, will not restore the integrity of the list.  Again, I am
> just speaking generally.
> Mark

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