tbyfield on Wed, 4 Sep 2019 02:46:17 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> radio nettime: 8 Sept 2019 12:00-13:00

Geoff, if you and/or anyone else is committed to nettime as a project, however you see it, then you might consider starting a new list (or whatever) dedicated to that project and recruiting people to contribute. An effort like that would face staggering obstacles, I think. Those obstacles are one way to measure the value of this list — basically, how much would it cost to recreate it? Those costs wouldn't be financial, though, they'd be human. What would it take to rebuild the messy mix of interests — optimism, generosity, sentimentality, habit, desperation at the lack of alternatives — that make people stick to this list? I don't know how anyone would do it, but I think it'd take superhuman effort.

A more practical way of measuring the list's value is to look at its actual traffic. Sure, times have changed from the 'silver age' of the mid/late '90s, and we need to adjust our expectations, but even so... The active contributors have dwindled to a few dozen, the range of subjects has become narrow and predictable, discussions quickly fall into ruts, and too much of it sounds like retirees moaning about the state of the world. It's great that some people can look past those faults and see a silver lining. But even if 50 different people suddenly started to sing the list's praises, that'd be a paltry 1% of the subscriber base. If we're serious about trying to understand the list's value, it's hard to ignore the fact that well over 99% of the people who are supposedly loyal to are silent.

The disparity between these two ways of evaluating nettime is sharp. To me, it suggests that the list is running on fumes — and that if it continues on its present course, it'll burn up whatever reputation it has left. I'd much rather shut it down on a decent note than let it dodder along until its pathetic state becomes undeniable. And if anyone is tempted to think, "Wait, who are *you* to decide for all of us?" my answer is simple: I'm one of two people who've shepherded this list for the last twenty-one years. The number of mailing lists that have lasted that long is vanishingly small. It doesn't happen by magic, it happens in large part because a list is well-maintained. Until we switched the list to non-moderated status two years ago, *every single message* was approved by hand in a terminal using mutt and vim. And not just approved, but often delayed to modulate the pace of the conversation, compiled into digests with custom names, held when someone sent a second copy to fix a typo, and tons of other things. This list is some seriously bespoke shit. So, if you value this list, then part of what you value is our judgment. And our judgment now is that it's time to think very seriously about shutting it down AND MAYBE ALSO trying something new.

But we haven't decided that we *will* shut it down — we announced that we're thinking about it and asking for new ideas. Protesting that the list is still worth it isn't a new idea: it doesn't address the list's serious shortcomings (notably it's catastrophic gender imbalance), it doesn't propose ways to make it more relevant, and it doesn't offer any prospects for attracting new voices / forms / focuses. And if the list can't adapt, then it's just another zombie cultural project lumbering along. I think there's much more value to be found in my initial challenge — encouraging you or anyone else to actively start your own — than in passively hoping that some interesting discussions might flare up every once in a while. If people really rely on this list, then its absence will be a constant reminder of what's needed — whereas its ongoing presence mainly means a few more mails to skim.

The labor involved in running this list is trivial — that's not the issue. Felix and I could do it for another twenty years if there was reason to be optimistic. We're interested in the future, not more of the past.


On 3 Sep 2019, at 22:49, Geoffrey Goodell wrote:

Hi Felix,

I am confused about the source and scope of the perceived threat that has led to the perception of such urgency to shut down the list. I must ask what it is about the current dynamics that the erstwhile leaders find so threatening.

Perhaps it is because I have not been around Nettime back in the twentieth century, but I see nothing wrong with it. In fact, I like it as it is.

If the maintainer of the mailing list server would like to quit for whatever reason, then I for one would be happy to take up the task. I'm sure I'm not alone. In fact, I'd run a mailing list for the oldster-tribe just as readily as I'd run a mailing list for the youngster-tribe. I don't have a horse in
this race, just bewilderment about what people find so objectionable.

Yours in confusion --


On Tue, Sep 03, 2019 at 10:51:08AM +0200, Felix Stalder wrote:

I would try to reverse the question. Not what are the costs (which are
hard to calculate anyway), but what are the benefits. And if they
approach zero, then it's time to stop in a decent way (and archive the list for good). There is no use to do useless stuff. There is enough of
that on the world.

For me, the benefits have decreased, but are they close enough to zero?
What could be done to increase them? What would constitute a benefit,
and to whom?


On 02.09.19 22:28, Morlock Elloi wrote:
If the cost of running the list was exactly zero (let's not delve into
details at this point), would you still kill it?

If yes, then we have an interesting case of potlatch, without bonfire.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@kein.org
#  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject: