The Natural Life Cycle of Lists
Kat Nagel (KatNagel@eznet.net) sent this terrific piece to the EARLY-M mailing list in
December 1994. The moderator support and methodologies included
ARRAY Development's DeLiberation™ Consultative Framework increase the chances of
achieving a mature discussion (6.2) rather than the "smug complacency and stagnation"
described in (6.1).
Every list seems to go through the same cycle:
1.Initial enthusiasm (people introduce themselves, and gush a lot about how wonderful
it is to find kindred souls).
2.Evangelism (people moan about how few folks are posting to the list, and brainstorm
3.Growth (more and more people join, more and more lengthy threads develop,
occasional off-topic threads pop up).
4.Community (lots of threads, some more relevant than others; lots of information and
advice is exchanged; experts help other experts as well as less experienced colleagues;
friendships develop; people tease each other; newcomers are welcomed with
generosity and patience; everyone -- newbie and expert alike -- feels comfortable
asking questions, suggesting answers, and sharing opinions).
5.Discomfort with diversity (the number of messages increases dramatically; not every
thread is fascinating to every reader; people start complaining about the signal-to-noise
ratio; person 1 threatens to quit if *other* people don't limit discussion to person 1's
pet topic; person 2 agrees with person 1; person 3 tells 1 & 2 to lighten up; more
bandwidth is wasted complaining about off-topic threads than is used for the threads
themselves; everyone gets annoyed).
1.Smug complacency and stagnation (the purists flame everyone who asks an
'old' question or responds with humor to a serious post; newbies are rebuffed;
traffic drops to a doze-producing level of a few minor issues; all interesting
discussions happen by private email and are limited to a few participants; the
purists spend lots of time self-righteously congratulating each other on keeping
off-topic threads off the list).
2.Maturity (a few people quit in a huff; the rest of the participants stay near stage
4, with stage 5 popping up briefly every few weeks; many people wear out their
second or third 'delete' key, but the list lives contentedly ever after).