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The (Not-so) Nice and the Nasty, E-Mail Lists Surge in Usage

“For increasing numbers of people and neighborhoods, I-saw-it-on-the-Listserv has become the new I-heard-it-on-the-grapevine … including some truly nasty spats … thanks in part to the faceless nature of e-mail communication … well that and some of the egos involved in some churches, charities and other community organizations.”

In an article by Steve Hendrix of the Washington Post entitled “Offering Both the Nice and the Nasty, E-Mail Lists Surge in Usage” the author asserts, correctly in my humble opinion, that:

“The use of free group lists for mass e-mails, a mainstay of neighbor-to-neighbor communication for more than a decade, continues to climb steadily as more newcomers sign on and longtime users add additional groups to their routine.”

At least that’s how I’ve found it in both the neighborhood in which I live, and for my last church – where we leveraged the free listservs available with our domain hosting package, built right into the control panel.

I mean, what are the choices – semi-public BBS’ that are prone to spam and hacking by nere-do-wells – or subscribe and opt-out by email lists whose recipients, threads and distribution are easy to create and maintain?

Then again, while operationally optimal over an electronic bulletin board, there is that sticky little communal issue that is not as easily moderated on a mailing list – an issue again well stated by the Mr. Hendrix:

‘From “seeking vacuum repairman” to “another mugging near metro” to “your charcoal smoke is making me sick,” subject lines — and the messages they contain — have become rich, varied, sometimes maddening veins of neighborhood gossip.’

Or with apologies to the Apostle Paul:

“Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from post to thread, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.”

My suggested solution to this issue is to avoid general gossip by having well focused email groups whose primary purpose is tied into the operational aspects of your church, charity or other community organization. Such as:

  • hand bell choir
  • ladies Bible study
  • men’s breakfast
  • youth group events

Notice that not only are the above suggestions specific to a group, but to the major activity associated with said group.

This way, if one runs into the “… truly nasty spats … thanks in part to the faceless nature of e-mail communication …” as mentioned in the aforementioned article.

How about you, what’s in your group’s listserv? Please, share some experiences and suggestions.

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