(Joel Dunn - edited by Tim Cavileer)
The Flyfish listserver (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a long and distinguished history. Early records speculate at its formation as early as 1988, but its archives only date back to 1990. The list has been fortunate to count among its membership a number of people who are interested not only in the sport of flyfishing but who have also been involved with the camaraderie of the list and who have cared to provide direction and focus, no mean feat with an unmoderated public list.
The succession of listowners:
Note: The general concensus is that the list started sometime in 1988 and that Tom Williams, a graduating student at UMAB, handed it off to Elizabeth Brindley who passed the torch on to Danny Walls. One early list member indicated that the person passing the list on to Brindley last name was Erickson.
The Flyfish list (we call it FF@ for brevity) has developed quite a sense of community and continuity. In addition to the list itself, the membership has created a "companion web page" (http://www.uky.edu/~agrdanny/flyfish/main.htm) with not only the standard list subscription information, but also including such diverse topics as book reviews, reading lists, surveys and polls, river etiquette, conclave schedules and access to the list archives.
The nature of FF@ has changed much over the years. At first, with only a few active members, it was easy to follow all discussion, both on messages "on topic" and those that were unrelated and chatty. As late as 1992, the most active list member only posted 136 messages, or about 2.6 messages per week. In the same year, only 39 members of the list posted more than ten messages annually.
However, by 1995, with over 80 messages per day, the chatty "flyshop" ambiance was rapidly declining as was the memberships tolerance for non-topical postings. Today there can be as many as 200 postings in a day, though typically the volume is 100 to 150 messages. It is common for list members to read the messages superficially if at all and to liberally use the "D" (delete) key. In 1995 one member posted 781 messages (15 messages/week) and another posted 627 times. In this new environment, messages which once were encouraged postings that gave the list much community, such as notices of births, deaths and other passages of life became burdens on bandwidth. Even so, as one ff@ member recently put it, "... many of the list members still consider the list to be "family", and proudly announce births and marriages and birthdays and anniversaries, sadly announce deaths and illnesses; in short, sharing with the list as they share with their family and friends."
As the list grew, many of the original members found that they could not deal with the large volume of mail and dropped off the list. The loss of a popular "oldtimer" was typically greeted with calls for increased structure for the list, and with calls for self-restraint in frivolous postings. The list owner periodically posts messages stating the rules that are accepted by the bulk of list members. There are cyclical discussions about list options as well, particularly with respect to the "reply to:" default. Should the list encourage the posting of replies or should the sender have to explicitly specify the list as a destination on the message? In the interest of spontaneity and dialog, this discussion has consistently come down on the side of list-oriented traffic though the cost might be the loss of volume-sensitive subscribers.
Another problem that has plagued FF@ throughout its history is the computer skill level of its members. Some list members are technophiles and can cut, paste and include pertinent parts of messages for replies. Other technophobes can barely compose a new message, much less properly quote a reply, often including a lengthy message with a few words of original content. Tolerance for poor netiquette has always been good, but that tolerance has become more strained as the size of the list has grown.
In the early days of the list, very few members used digest mode but as the volume of postings grew this practice became more common. With many list members reading the list in digest mode and with many more deleting messages with minimal review, the searchable archive became a powerful tool to help find particular threads (subjects) and to help follow postings by interesting list members.
For all its growing pains, FF@, has survived and remains the nucleus for an viable and vibrant community. Though thousands of miles apart, the members of the list have used their common interest in flyfishing to create real friendships and relationships that transcend simple electronic mail messages.
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