List technology

Chris Burford 100423.2040 at
Sun Aug 11 02:05:31 MDT 1996

I appreciated Malgosia's clarification of the possibilities, and
was interested to see other people's responses. What really matters
in the end however are not my desires or the desires of others but the
desires of Spoons.

Spoons come across to me as remarkably tolerant while being honest about
their own feelings. They seem to be in the position of a non-profit
making electronic publishing house. There is no reason however why they
should spend time publishing what they do not want tp do. They therefore
have ultimate say over how it is done. And even if Spoons considered
"pulling the plug" the reality long before that, is a number of
opportunity choices, each with relative costs and benefits.

If Spoons people are already contributing to a rota and giving time in
other ways, like inspecting periodic flame wars, the question arises
whether that time might be reinvested more rewardingly for them
in another format. I see no reason to assume from the founding
documents of this list or the attitude of spoons over the months
that they are likely to be interested in an narrow arena for sectarian
political flame wars. They expect a community to emerge and largely
manage its affairs on this list. And to a great extent it has.

But the experience of over 200 people, and perhaps another
five hundred who have visited and left over the months, is easily
swamped by the surface phenomena of half a dozen ill-tempered
intolerant posters shooting from the hip ever fifteen minutes they
think they can score a point. We have to wait for each fire
to burn out before we start again. And yes we learn in the process.

So Spoons may wish to consider its aims as a democratic publishing
house(?). There is no basic rule that a hundred posts a day
should all be delivered immediately rather than batched, so people
can read the contents quickly, as they may with most newspapers that
have some rudimentary structure. Main story and contents page one,
features on other pages. A publisher could well decide he/she has no
interest in publishing material in a form that does not reward a more
sophisticated type of reading than at present often dominates this list.

So if we now look at the other side of the experience - reading by
subscribers -
the feedback has all been oppositional to my proposal, and I cannnot
look round the room to read the body language to see how representative
that is. But it is of course more likely that people would speak up
against a proposal than for it.

What is interesting here is people's
description of how they organise their time and select and read.
People are extremely adapatible and it would be necessary to argue
not only that their present method is convenient to them but they would
be unable to adapt to another.

So there is a conflict a bit here between the deleters and the
skimmers. And I am a skimmer.

I will therefore just describe my own method which I find has
advantages for me:
IMO standard size hard discs are so large that
there is no storage problem unless you are filling it up with
lots of graphic images. The published material we receive from
Spoons is text, which does not use up a lot of space, and even then
can be zipped. And after a year you can go back to the archives.

So I store everything, and can go back over the last six months easily.
For a year ago, I am helped out by the index in the archives. BTW I
have combined all the Spoons index for marxism 1995 into one file
about 900k long.

What to use for a scan device?
Microsoft Write is readily to hand in Windows.
(Notepad is designed for text files but it does not have the
cut and paste memory capacity above 50k (?) required for appending
material in building up your own working archive. Write does have
that cut and paste memory capacity.)

I download my files in a format that can be read by Write. (I give
them an extension .w which I have instructed windows to
associate with Write)

I double click to read them in Write, do not bother to press the
button to convert them, as I do not want Write codes inserted into
the text.

Then use Find.

Instruct find to look for  ue:

These are the last three letters of Issue:

and that allows me to scan contents of a group of digests.
Go back to the beginning (Control Home of course) and change the Find
to m:

These are the last letters of From:

and allows me to avoid the head
ache of scrolling. My eyes are taken to the start of each post.
I then have a choice of immediately to skip to the next by pressing
F3 or read two or three lines and then press F, or read the whole article
and press F3.

I can go also back to the beginning and recheck. So I do not wear
out my delete button. I wear out my F3 button.

Then a group of digests which have been downloaded at any one time
can be grafted in Write with cut and
paste into working current archives which can be reinspected and
searched through with Write if necessary.

One file started 1st August has already reached 1 meg which Write can
scan easily, and I am starting another one, since at present I do not
like to go above one meg in case I choose to back up onto floppy
discs. In fact when I get round to it (famous last words) I shall
back up onto another hard disc, perhaps after zipping).

So for example I have the possibility easily of going back to reading
exactly what was written on 10th May, and also what was written
on 9th May and 8th May. And forming my own opinion.

To manage the mail as others have advocated by cutting and
discarding almost all, would for me now be like voting
to have Alzheimers disease. And I have enough personal experience
of that already.

The issue here is not only what format Spoons can publish that aids
intelligent reading, but also some access to a collective overview
and a collective memory, that exists flexibly between the immediate
experience of receiving mail and the experience of accessing the
formal archives.

There is also the mood of reading. Matt has offered help with another
technical device, kill file, to lower stress. I would say that skimming
over, rather than having to delete also lowers stress and
allows you to correct your oversights. I do not have to feel angry or
petulant as I wear out my F3 key. I am not condemning the posts I
skip over as trash, they are just not my priority today. They may
be tomorrow.

Perhaps only six people have speed-read to the end of this long
personal commentary,
but it seemed to me that if we are to take the discussion further
we have to get into the detail of the phenomenology and how
individuals make their choices.

I am not saying my method is the only
one or the "best" one. I am saying that humankind is almost infinitely
adaptible and deleters would not necessarily all stop subscribing if
Spoons in its wisdom decided to change its publishing format and people
discussed how to adapt to that. Obviously there is some flak associated
with all choices, including the choice of changing nothing.


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