From: Will Wagers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed Nov 11 1998 - 00:42:12 EST
Dear List Members, Administrators, and Owners,
I fear I am one of the Gang of Four of which Carl complains, having posted
*after* his post entitled "Re: PRWTOTOKOS: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND MAYBE
TOO MUCH". I was going to spare the List my apologies and comments until
I received Carl's latest post on the subject entitled 'What "Enough is
enough ..." means'.
I regret my posting occurring after Carl's. Obviously, this has caused him
and the other administrator a great deal of stress. I sincerely doubt
whether my posting caused any collateral damage.
In my case, I composed a post, sent it, and *then* my emailer
(Eudora) fetched his post along with others as is its common practice. I
shall assume, for the sake of argument, that had I manually checked for
the latest posts, specifically from the List Administrators and Owners,
*then* pressed "Send" that I would have minimized--but not
eliminated--the chances of my posting after a thread had been declared
However, even this paranoid procedure would not guarantee that my
post would not be sent after Carl's. Postings are not transmitted
instantaneously, and they arrive at various destinations--the mail
servers--at various times. The current thread termination procedure
seems to assume instantaneous and constant transmission, neither of
which is true.
I, like many others, have my emailer set to sort by date and time, not by
subject. I often have posts arrive up to *days* after their official posting
date. I don't know whether this is due to the sending or receiving mail
servers, temporary difficulties on the network, or what; but, it is a
frequent occurrence. (I wonder how many noticed that the time of Edward
Hobbs' irate posting was EDT--Eastern Daylight Time.)
My point up to now is, simply, that posting a termination notice is not
the equivalent of shouting "Shut up!" in a classroom, where the signal
travel time is negligible and, apparently, instantaneous.
While recognizing the right of the List Owner to define and administer
the List in any way deemed suitable, I would like to suggest that the
procedures be adjusted from time to time (and not merely ratcheted ever
tighter). Specifically, I believe the nature of the medium is not
sympathetically matched to the procedures. Firstly, in the technological
limitations mentioned above. And, secondly, in that, despite being a
"written" medium, email threads are very like conversations: they have
"life" and "momentum". If it is desired that administrative orders be
followed immediately and to the letter, then control *must* be exercised
at the list source by moderation. No amount of indoctrination of list
members, nor FAQs, nor chiding or imperious posts, nor sanctions will
ever achieve the desired level of control. List moderation is far more
effective and far gentler with and less demanding of list members.
Next, I would like to point out that I do not detect the fact that Carl was
shutting down the thread. I interpret his post as requesting that
theological postings be ceased. Both Carl's subtlety and my obstuseness
can be infinite, so I am not sure where the problem lies. But, I can say that
nowhere does he say, "This thread is hereby terminated." I would like to
suggest that future cancellations contain a standard wording in both the
Subject line (e.g. "thread name - TERMINATED") and the first line of the body
which can serve as an unequivocal and unavoidable notice of termination.
I might add that I, and perhaps others, do not consider the Subject line to
be a message, much less a directive, unless the body is empty. I knew
from Carl's earliest post that he felt that "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND MAYBE
TOO MUCH" and may have given accordingly too little notice to the Subject.
I would also like to clarify the notion of a thread, which is typically and
conveniently defined as posts having the same title line. The lists with
which I am familiar consider a change of Subject line to initiate a new
thread. Thus, "Re: col 1:15 greek help", "PRWTOTOKOS (was col 1:15 greek
help)", "Re: col 1:15 greek help/Adam Clarke", "Re: PRWTOTOKOS, Partitive
Words and listing of LXX use", "Re: PRWTOTOKOS (was col 1:15 greek help)",
"Re: PRWTOTOKOS--KTISEWS a genitive of subordination", and "Re:
PRWTOTOKOS" would all be considered different threads. Indeed, most
emailers and news group programs consider them separate. There
are obvious flaws in this simple scheme, but its use is widespread and
My point is that, technically, all these threads would *not* be terminated
by the one notice. Now, it may be that in this case with the common
beginnings of most of the thread names (i.e. "Re: PRWTOTOKOS ...") that
most people were following closely enough and reading every post and
assumed it to be a single thread despite the name changes. However,
commonly, the various subthread names are not so easily distinguishable.
And, when does a subthread become a thread? So, I am saying that if
draconian measures are to fall on the heads of offenders, greater clarity
is needed in termination notices to handle more of the inherent ambiguity
of thread names.
A tangental point is that when an administrator is also a frequent
participant, it can become confusing when a participant suddenly asserts
their administratorship. Ideally, administrators are seldom contributors
and, even more seldom, participants in discussions. This may seem at
first to be a minor point, but consider appearing before a judge who at
one moment is an advocate and at another is the impartial dispenser of
justice. This is a problem on a list where the administrators were chosen
specifically for their scholarship, among other reasons. I prefer a much
more strict separation of the roles. And, personally, I value the
contributions and participation of the administrators much more than
their administration, which--especially if it is to be handled in an academic
fascist manner--is easily handled by less competent scholars. A graduate
slave (oops, I mean student) could easily handle it. I guess what I am trying
to say is that, while recognizing that his current demeanor may be
appropriate to his office, I miss the old Carl--the one who so gently bursts
Therefore, I recommend that in a termination or other administrative post,
the List Owner or Chair identify themselves in their official capacity, e.g.
"Carl W. Conrad, Co-Chair, B-Greek List". This will be especially helpful to
newer list members, but can help everyone to realize that the post is not
merely an opinion or complaint, but official exasperation.
BTW I find it bizarre that the List Owner would be subject to discipline (do
I have this right?). It would surely be a symptom that something is wrong
besides a few clumsy and-or fanatical list members.
I would certainly not quit the list just because of overzealous or
inappropriate postings whether by religious or administrative zealots:
it is simply too valuable a resource. However, to my taste, some of the
great personality of the List and of the List's great personalities is
suffering from heavy-handedness. I urge a sympathetic rethinking of
administration goals and policy.
I know many, if not most, of you are bored to tears by internal list matters,
but they must come up from time to time. I hope all can tell that I am
sincere in trying to raise my concerns and offer constructive suggestions
and not merely trying to have the last word--which I am sure I will *not*,
in fact, have.
Where were you guys during the great Chicken Liver thread?! ;-)
Carl's first "official" post is as follows (I hope I edited it faithfully):
>I frankly think that we have far overstepped the boundaries here into
>hermeneutics; I don't speak for anyone else, but I am not accustomed to
>taking this language in a "matter-of-fact sense." I think, however, that we
>are now far-removed from what the grammar of the passage can tell us and we
>are into the matter of how we understand the word meanings. I doubt
>seriously whether an understanding of the Greek can help us with this; it's
>a matter of the hermeneutical presuppositions that we bring to bear upon
>the text. And I don't think that's a matter we should get any further into.
>I think it has been almost wholly theological since its inception; I think
>that the Greek has only been discussed insofar as it seems to support one
>or another theological stance.
>Quite frankly, I think that point has been reached, and actually reached
>some time ago, perhaps even EN ARCHi, so far as this thread is concerned.
>Yes, it has been civil--but it has become increasingly repetitive, without,
>so far as I can discern, new points being brought to bear but rather with
>old points being reformulated in slightly different phrasing.
>I really think that this too is problematic. I think that readers would do
>best to read through the entire correspondence and make their own
>summaries: the problem with a "final summary" is that it never turns out to
>be "final"--it always evokes another response.
>Carl W. Conrad
>Department of Classics/Washington University
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