[OT] Mailing Lists: Good for argument, bad for discussion

Von Fugal von at fugal.net
Sun Jun 29 12:35:52 MDT 2008

<quote name="Dave Smith" date="Sun, 29 Jun 2008 at 11:49 -0600">
> I think this phenomenon happens because it's easy in an email to trim  
> away things you don't want to respond to, and focus only on the part of  
> the email that you disagree with. It's easy to believe that someone  
> disagrees with you 100% because they chose to respond to the 1% of what  
> you said that they disagreed with, even if that 1% was totally  
> tangential to your main point (which the responder may *did* agree with,  
> but you'd never know). I'm not sure if I like or dislike this because  
> frankly, it'd be a boring list if everyone just responded with "me too".  
> However, I do think it encourages argument and nit picking rather than  
> good old-fashioned discussion.
> What are your thoughts?

I think mailing lists are a well suited medium for discussion. Threads
and point-by-point replys are useful and not available in other forms of
discussion. Clearly there is the tendency to have rampant tangents, and
this can be a downside. I also see your point about perceived/conveyed
dissagreement. There are upsides, too. People will talk about what they
want to talk about, and on a mailing list they don't have to compete for
limited sound-space, this also means a small number of people can hijack
a thread all the way to the moon. As for dissagreeing on only one point
and ignoring the rest, it still leaves you able to decide if you really
care about the point they dissagreed with. The twinkies for example,
you're wife probably didn't care that someone had an opinion about
twinkies in particular. People wanted to talk about twinkies, so a whole
new subthread was born. This doesn't have to preclude the original
discussion about $BEHAVIOUR running its course. So yes, I think mailing
lists are a good medium for discussion, with at least one caveat: let
the user beware and employ filtering tools.

Von Fugal
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