[Air-L] Change of default reply setting on air-l

Charles Ess charles.ess at gmail.com
Sun May 10 20:43:48 PDT 2009

On 5/10/09 8:23 PM, "Nicole Ellison" <nellison at msu.edu> wrote:

> PS FWIW, the social scientist in me thinks we should try it out and see what
> results, if anything.

I'm strongly in agreement with Nicole Ellison on this point - but let me
also try to address the multiple concerns that the recent change has rightly
evoked ...

1) Process - including an apparent failure to communicate ...

A very large number of people have - quite reasonably - asked about the
process by which the decision was made to change the default setting of the
mailing list.

A) Briefly, a member of the Executive Committee suggested we make the change
based on the following considerations:

This will eliminate emails, intended to be sent privately to another member
of the list in response to a list post, being accidentally broadcast instead
to ca. 2,000 list members.
- and thereby entering our uneditable archives on Dreamhost.
We've seen a fair number of these - I'm guilty of more than my share, and so
perhaps I'm more sympathetic to this consideration.  Very, very fortunately,
so far at least, most of the emails have _not_ passed on comments or
otherwise revealed information in more than mildly embarrassing embarrassing
For that, we've had more than one request from respected - and certainly
competent - list members to eliminate such emails from the archive record.
Given our arrangements with Dreamhost, this is more or less just not
All of this raises the central worry that there exists a good possibility in
the long run of the list that someone will indeed post to the list a note
intended for a particular individual, but one containing very sensitive /
confidential information, the publication of which on list could easily have
disastrous consequences for the individuals involved, and perhaps others.
Worst-case, some of us are concerned that this might make AoIR legally
liable / open to suit.

B) To be sure, other points of view - very much along the lines that have
now been extensively (and, thank you, very cordially) expressed by several
list members - were in play in our discussion as well.

And: what was under discussion was a _trial_ run of the change, to see how
far the concerns that such a change would dampen community conversation,
etc., turned out to be true.
(Hence my echoing the empirical sensibility of Nicole Ellison, above.)

C) There was, however - and believe me, the irony is not lost on me - some
miscommunication across the course of our email exchanges, such that our
stalwart System Officer Holly Kruse understood the decision to have been
made and one to be implemented.

2)  So, while the change was made prematurely - the upside is that it has
evoked just the sort of discussion that will be helpful to the Executive
Committee in making any long-term decision on this matter.
(As someone deeply committed to Habermasian and feminist understandings of
democracy, it is clear to me that potential norms must be openly discussed
and considered by those who will be affected by their possible adoption.)

In light of all of this, I propose the following:
a) now that the change has been made, and that voices both pro and con are
being raised - rather than switch back without further ado, I suggest we
keep it in place for the time-being.  This will have the further advantage
of giving us some empirically-based sense of what effects will really follow
from the change.
b) by all means, let's keep discussion regarding this change going on the
air list for another few days - believe me, your emails are being closely
attended to!
c) the Executive Committee will continue to investigate and discuss our
possible options.
d) once the Executive Committee has both a better sense of our options and
possibilities, and a more complete sense of the preferences of the
membership, we will decide which way to go - whether to continue with the
current setting, or to return to the previous default, and/or take some
third option that may emerge in the course of our exploration and
In all events, the Executive Committee will give the membership and
participants on the air-list plenty of notice and careful explanation of how
we have arrived at whatever decision we reach.

I hope all of this will be received as helpful and acceptable.

Many thanks, all, for your careful and cordial comments!
- c. 

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