Will Harp-L go away for good in October? IMPORTANT.

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William Lifford, CP

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Aug 15, 2012, 8:25:21 AM8/15/12
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Hello all Harp-L'ers,

(obligatory harmonica content:  I thought I was really awesome at playing the harmonica, until I joined Harp-L and found what truly awesome players can do with a harp.  Boy, that was a rough couple of weeks, adjusting to my non-awesomeness.)

I'm not a prolific poster on Harp-L, but have been a member for many years (and I even produced one of Harp-L's compilations a ways back) and I enjoy the list greatly.  But I need to remind all of you about something.

Our listowner is RETIRING in October 2012.  He mentioned this a year ago, and some discussions about what to do were bandied about on the Harp-L 'Meta Discussion' Google groups list, but they kind of died out -- and currently there is NO succession plan.  Basically, Harp-L will cease to exist by November 2012 if we do not band together and do something about it.

I am am willing to volunteer to become the new Harp-L listowner.  But I cannot even come close to fulfilling all the responsibilities of the job, because I'm not well versed in computer stuff.  The only way I could do this would be if I had the help of others.

Hopefully my sounding the alarm will cause someone way more qualified than I to step up and say "I will be the new listowner", but maybe not.  I therefore ask all of you:

1.  Do all of you want Harp-L to continue?

2.  Do any of you have any experience with Listserves or any of that stuff?  If so, is there a concrete list of tasks that need to be done on a regular basis to make this list continue to stay viable?  Please tell me so that we can find people to help with these tasks.

3.  Would some of you be willing to partner up with me or somebody else and keep this list running?  I read pretty much every post and certainly could help with moderating.  But I am simply not qualified now (though I am willing to learn) to do the computer-end of stuff required to manage Harp-L.

4.  Are all of you willing to put up with the mistakes I will invariably make while learning to manage the list?

Thanks for listening/reading.  I think Harp-L is just too good to let it die out.

Bill Lifford




-- 
William Lifford, CP
Progressive O&P, Inc.
1111 Willis Avenue
Albertson, NY 11507
516-338-8585
www.ProgOandP.com

El Rey de los Super Mochomos

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Aug 15, 2012, 12:34:03 PM8/15/12
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harp-l would have died out long ago of the model hadn't been shifted.
Why we have existed is to provide connections for people. It used to
make me crazy that prolific posters would get upset and then take
their marbles and go home. They weren't actually going home they were
going off into corners to converse in relationships they had formed by
belonging to harp-l. The end all be all of harp-l is not the
conversation it's the connections you can establish.

This is what worries me. Just a couple of people seem to understand
this. That and the no meta rule. By and large most people would
favour allowing meta. The persistence of the off topic rubric as a
means of trying to introduce meta to harp-l is proof of this.
Allowing meta would be the effective end of harp-l. We'd become
Modern Blues Harmonica. That ecological niche has already been filled
and quite nicely by Adam and his members

So I wasn't born knowing any of this. I learned it on the fly and in
the process I made a lot of mistakes. Nothing like beating your head
against a wall to help you figure out that stopping makes the headache
go away.

Today so far I've had one post to harp-l saying cool great time to
migrate the list onto a forum framework. If that's what people want
then they don't need the subscriber list or the name. They can just
start one up and go head to head with Adam. Good luck with that one.

We talk about web 1.0 versus web 2.0 versus mobile platforms. Harp-l
is web 0.2 or just about there. We don't translate well on to smart
devices. The last time I checked we had 2300 some odd subscribed
addresses. We cull actively so that's a good count. Remember
Netscape, AOL, My Space? All either gone or mere shadows of their
former selves. Generally speaking they didn't do well when the world
moved out from under them. That we still exist tells you it isn't
about the technology it's about the connections.

Perhaps there is no free lunch but harp-l is as free as we can make
it. No ads, no subscriber costs and very little moderation and none
of it in advance of your posting. No culture that reflects the
ownership of the list. I really try hard to be invisible.

William Lifford

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Aug 15, 2012, 12:43:59 PM8/15/12
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That's exactly why it is so important.  Because the connections to people are the key.  I don't see the point of going to a forum, either, because that niche seems to be filled by MBH.  And the tone of MBH is quite contentious at times. 

Now we are up against the deadline, though as you mentioned to me there might be a small bit of wiggle room with that.

Can you help point us to where we need to be in terms of personnel and responsibilities?

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Michelle LeFree

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Aug 16, 2012, 12:13:03 PM8/16/12
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Hello all, and fjm in particular-

I just want to openly offer the opinion that Harp-L */does /*indeed
belong to the set of of "all things harmonica." It is certainly a
significant part of */my /*harmonica world and I know I'm not the only
one. I for one applaud William for making his plaintive and generous
post on Harp-L!

fjm, your iron-clad insistence that discussion of the groups demise is
not permitted on-list severely restricts that discussion as only a
handful of members have complied with your condition of joining the meta
discussion group (to which I also sent this message). It is my opinion
that such a severe restriction, especially now that the group is truly
on the "precipice" will help assure a negative end result. I find this
confounding. Are you actually willing to have the ship go down by
insisting on this ideologically-rooted framework to the bitter end?
After your long and storied history of singular extraordinary efforts to
keep Harp-L alive, it seems to me contradictory for you to take that
hard of a line at the time when the group is already "shipping water."

Another thing. I think I understand the basis for your long-stated
opinion that a forum platform is not the way to go. However, having the
groups only real leader for the last decade and more taking that
position to the exclusion of other solutions that may help save the
group is similarly confusing to me. What difference does it make what
the platform is as long as the group survives?

fjm, I feel that if you cannot change your apparent course of
obstructing the group's ability to save itself, you should step away
from your role as the group's philosophical leader and let the
membership try to save itself with whatever means it can, including
discussing the group's very fate on-list.

So there. I've said it. Please know, fjm, that what I've said here in no
way diminishes the magnitude of my appreciation for all you have done
for Harp-L over the years. I'm just asking you to do this one last thing
for it.

Gratefully and Respectfully,

Michelle


first last

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Aug 16, 2012, 12:57:32 PM8/16/12
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Michelle, a years notice with several warnings to the list at periodic
intervals and a public place with an accessible discussion seems
pretty darn transparent to me. Regarding all things harmonica,
talking about the list on the list is by definition meta. If we had
continued on our previous course harp-l would have folded 5 years ago.

If someone wants to start a forum more power to them. They don't need
a domain name or a subscriber list to do so. harp-l allows
announcements and we've never restricted access to the subscribers'
inboxes and more than a few start up forums have leveraged our
infrastructure to bootstrap their projects. Yourself included by the
way.

I think the problem here is more pragmatic than you're making it out
to be. In 3/4's of a year's time nobody has engaged in any kind of a
sustained discussion regarding how to keep harp-l going. I think a
lot of the problem is harp-l costs nothing, people have this belief
that it's like the air and that it will always continue. My simple
requirement that people join a group to discuss this meta topic is not
much of a hurdle. Pulse and a keyboard, not the kind of discussion I
want to be involved in.

I would think that you of all people would be able to understand the
no meta discussion rule. I have been aware of your dissatisfaction
with the state of the list in earlier times. That problem has been
largely solved by the no meta rule. Parsing every single fine nuance
of the conversation is a virtual death sentence for a listowner. It's
simply not sustainable. Witness Adam's abandoning his day to day role
on MBH ceding it to minions.

Michelle LeFree

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Aug 16, 2012, 2:07:39 PM8/16/12
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On 8/16/2012 10:57 AM, first last wrote:
> Michelle, a years notice with several warnings to the list at periodic
> intervals and a public place with an accessible discussion seems
> pretty darn transparent to me. Regarding all things harmonica,
> talking about the list on the list is by definition meta. If we had
> continued on our previous course harp-l would have folded 5 years ago.

fjm, I completely understand the motivation for and the positive results
of the no meta discussion rule -- in the normal day-to-day running of
the list. My point is that these are not normal times. An extraordinary
situation is at hand; one in which the fate of the list is in the
balance. I'm just suggesting that right now heavily enforcing the NMD
rule is detrimental to the survival of the list.
> If someone wants to start a forum more power to them. They don't need
> a domain name or a subscriber list to do so. harp-l allows
> announcements and we've never restricted access to the subscribers'
> inboxes and more than a few start up forums have leveraged our
> infrastructure to bootstrap their projects. Yourself included by the
> way.
It's not just a matter of starting another forum. It's the preservation
of the list, its membership, history (to include the archives) and its
world-wide prominence.

You're spot on about my history with starting a new forum. It's a steep
uphill climb, especially when it has to compete with Harp-L. That may or
may not be the case in how many weeks? And after 3/4 of a year I'm not
expecting any tsunami of new meta-discussion group member applications
anytime soon.

And, I don't want to hear about the Dirty-South forum. It's nothing but
a locker room with a bunch of bullies and poseurs. It started as little
more than an Adam fan club (and still is to an extent). Now its, well,
you know... Not even a consideration in this discussion.

> I think the problem here is more pragmatic than you're making it out
> to be. In 3/4's of a year's time nobody has engaged in any kind of a
> sustained discussion regarding how to keep harp-l going. I think a
> lot of the problem is harp-l costs nothing, people have this belief
> that it's like the air and that it will always continue. My simple
> requirement that people join a group to discuss this meta topic is not
> much of a hurdle. Pulse and a keyboard, not the kind of discussion I
> want to be involved in.

Aw come on. :-) You know the guys on the L. Most of them operate on the
"if it doesn't hit me in the forehead with a new amp or a pretty girl I
don't give a damn" level. If you can't hit 'em in the forehead on the
list, it won't come up on their radar. Period. Almost a self-fulfilling
prophecy.

> I would think that you of all people would be able to understand the
> no meta discussion rule. I have been aware of your dissatisfaction
> with the state of the list in earlier times. That problem has been
> largely solved by the no meta rule. Parsing every single fine nuance
> of the conversation is a virtual death sentence for a listowner. It's
> simply not sustainable. Witness Adam's abandoning his day to day role
> on MBH ceding it to minions.
I guess the question, when you come right down to it, fjm, is just what
your role should be at this point. You are the captain of a sinking ship
who has elected (with full blessing and a debt of gratitude for your
long selfless service) not to "go down with the ship." In fact, the
strong possibility, indeed the likelihood of the ship going down is a
direct effect of a personal decision that you have made (again with the
full blessing of and a hearty thank you from all the passengers). The
fact that you have operated at a level of anonymity and secrecy for so
long makes it incongruous for you to now retain such a heavy hand at
this late stage when the ship is headed towards a certain reef. I'm
saying that, in stepping down, you should now begin let go and let the
foundlings seek their own destiny. To a certain extent, you have
abdicated your responsibility to police the list. I'm asking you to look
at the possibility that continuing your long, honored, and valued
service at such an invasive level at this dire moment in its history may
now be a detriment to the survival of the L.

My answer to the question posed in the above paragraph is that I would
hope that you would take a step back in leadership in in a way that
would promote new leadership to emerge and then to offer a helping hand
to any efforts to propagate the list after October.

Thanks again, fjm.

Michelle

metanymy

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Aug 16, 2012, 8:30:31 PM8/16/12
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Bill, I answer "yes" to 1 and 4 but can't help with 2 and 3. I think
that it will work better if a single person takes over primary
responsibility for administering the list, rather than trying to build
a committee from people who volunteer to do the part(s) they like at
times when it's convenient to them. My impression is that fjm has had
a couple of rarely-glimpsed technical advisors who have helped when
more difficult hardware/software issues came up, so it hasn't been
just one person behind the curtain. That is hard-earned wisdom about
connections being the goal and avoiding meta, and I think those
principles are why this small dinosaur remains viable.

Continuing Harp-L is best discussed here because the extra step of
joining this meta group helps identify those who can and will actually
do something to keep the list going. I seriously doubt that the
transition process would be any further along if the floor had been
open to discussing it on Harp-L this whole time.

Thanks for volunteering, Bill.

Stephen Schneider

On Aug 15, 7:25 am, "William Lifford, CP" <william.liff...@gmail.com>
wrote:
> Hello all Harp-L'ers,
>
> /(obligatory harmonica content:  I thought I was really awesome at
> playing the harmonica, until I joined Harp-L and found what truly
> awesome players can do with a harp.  Boy, that was a rough couple of
> weeks, adjusting to my non-awesomeness.)/

John Concilus

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Aug 16, 2012, 9:36:30 PM8/16/12
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Bill, I answer "yes" to 1 and 4 but can't help with 2 and 3. I think
that it will work better if a single person takes over primary
responsibility for administering the list, rather than trying to build
a committee from people who volunteer to do the part(s) they like at
times when it's convenient to them.

I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. There could be one person with primary responsibility, and hopefully a fair degree of technical comfort with Mailman and/or the other technologies used, and also several other list members volunteering to distribute post approval and "mod" roles like on a forum. 

The management tools for mail lists are generally simple, stable and used by folks with pretty minimal tech skills.  I've attached some screen shots of Mailman (one I am familiar with), but the way they work is pretty standardized and does not require a single superuser.

Regards,

Johncn


mailman_101.jpg
mailman_101_3.jpg

first last

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Aug 16, 2012, 10:03:21 PM8/16/12
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Very little moderation required. The vast majority of moderated
addresses have been spam botted. Mailman is easy to use, harder to
configure but no it doesn't require a superuser.

Used to be a lot of listowner intervention. Migrating the culture of
the list solved that. I can teach someone else how to do this. It
really truly works. Current subscribed addresses are at 2324. The
trend is slowly up not down. Post volume is down but so is noise.
The signal to noise ratio is as good as it has ever been. Rather than
using nautical metaphors I think actual metrics might be more useful.


Michelle's provocative posts have me thinking about all of this and I
think I can provide some clarity on what my goals for this transition
are and perhaps address what it is Michelle is really trying to
communicate. Still pondering these two issues. I'll be following up
in a day or two.

Larry Marks

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Aug 16, 2012, 10:19:29 PM8/16/12
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Hi,

I am new to this list, although I have been on Harp-L for a long time. I
find Harp-L to be a most useful list, not only for me but also for my
students who are trying to learn how to play diatonic harmonicas well.

I am not new to email listserves. I have acted as moderator for several
lists. I am certainly willing to do part of the work of keeping Harp-L
running. While I have played and recorded as a professional, I have to
admit that I have, for the most part, wasted my entire professional
career - some 47 years now - in computers.

I believe that it is possible to share the work of running the Harp-L as
I have done successfully on other fairly large lists. Here is how it works:

1. There can only be one list owner, and that person makes the final
decision. Harp-L currently has rules and they probably don't have to be
changed, but that is the list owner's prerogative.

2. There can be many moderators. Generally moderators, acting under the
general direction of the list owner, can approve member applications,
and suspend spammers, trolls, flamers and others who display anti-social
behavior. (removal should be done by the list owner.) Moderators can
also halt off-topic threads.

3. Moderation can be seen as shift work. Each moderator is assigned some
period(s) of time during which s/he is expected to monitor the activity
on the list and act on any threats to the list. Moderators are expected
to either work their shifts or enlist another moderator to sit in for them.

4. A side channel - another list - is set up for the express purpose of
management. It is hidden and does not accept requests for membership.
The list owner will manually add or remove members of this list when
they become or cease to be moderators. Using this list, moderators
report to the list owner and other moderators anything done or
encountered during their shifts.

With a few volunteers, it is possible to operate the list without anyone
having to be constantly vigilant or do a tremendous amount of work. Just
observe occasionally during your shift. Loss of Harp-L would be very sad...

-LM

first last

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Aug 16, 2012, 11:04:19 PM8/16/12
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I'm telling you if you do the work upfront very little effort is
required for moderation. The meta model. works and so does the
invisible listowner model. The hard work is in understanding why this
all works because it is not how we've been taught to enforce order in
our worlds. Oddly the more you let go of power the more control
you'll end upmhaving. That and remember that gravity does not
negotiate. It just is. Again this is why the meta model works because
it isn't arbitrary. It stops the arguments. If you spend your time
trolling the list for miscreants you will have a very unhappy time in
running list of this size. You'll end up like Adam, blaming the
phases of the moon.

fss...@yahoo.com

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Aug 19, 2012, 1:20:12 AM8/19/12
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  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. No
  4. Yes

 

I agree.  Most effective harp education, communication, and connection forum ever.  Screw “technology”!!  Don’t people still use e-mail?? If it works, keep it.

William Lifford

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Aug 21, 2012, 6:16:12 PM8/21/12
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I definitely agree with the "no meta" line as the boundary of appropriate-ness for posts to Harp-L.  It has worked very well for so long...  Let's all agree to keep it as our "line in the sand".

As for the invisible listowner, I'm assuming that is doable, quite easily, as long as the listowner doesn't divulge his identity publicly.  Either way, I am ready to help.  Let me know what I can do.  If the list needs me to be the owner, I'm willing to learn, or I would be up for helping on any way. 

I just don't want to have another philosophical discussion without forming some sort of action plan.  Let's keep at it and figure it out.

Or are things moving along external to the meta list? 

Bill

El Rey de los Super Mochomos

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Aug 21, 2012, 10:04:58 PM8/21/12
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I'm not discussing anything with anyone outside of this venue.  I do have a parallel discussion with someone regarding funding but it's on hold until after the 24th.  As I mentioned a couple of days ago I have an idea about how to add some clarity to this discussion.  I have other things going on right now but I'll get that out as soon as possible.  

bluesmandan

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Aug 23, 2012, 9:48:43 AM8/23/12
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Why don't we move the list to Facebook? We can set up a closed group, appoint a few moderators, and be up and running. Facebook notifies you through email of new posts. You can link videos. Posts can easily be edited or deleted. The no-meta rule would be easily enforced. Basically, everything we're doing right now on harp-l. I run a discussion group for a summer camp I administrate, and it's easy. You don't need equipment or servers or constant monitoring to make things happen. It's plug and play. I'd be happy to set up the group, but I'm not "connected" to anybody from harp-l on facebook. 

I need some harp-l people to "friend" me first. Richard Daniel Hazen, New Albany, MS.

first last

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Aug 23, 2012, 9:58:42 AM8/23/12
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I've been busy so I haven't posted my follow ups to Michelle's
questions etc. I'll try to get to this in the next couple of days.
If someone wants to set up a facebook group and call it harp-l more
power to them. I won't be handing over the subscriber list though.
There actually is a harp-l facebook presence already. It has maybe 5
members. Personally I think one of the fastest ways to drive a wooden
stake through the heart of harp-l would be to take it to facebook.
You will absolutely lose all of the people who don't trust that
empire. It's all filled with ads so you won't get my buy in and the
model is entirely different. Nobody has to trust me with anything but
a working e-mail address. Facebook requires a lot more out of their
users. I'm also not very convinced that facebook will be around in
5-10 years. They've really fumbled the smart devices migration.
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William Lifford

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Aug 23, 2012, 10:07:49 AM8/23/12
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Not into the facebook thing at all.

I am committed to not using Facebook,mainly on the grounds that if I really wanted to know what the people in my high school homeroom are doing twenty years later, I would have just kept in touch with them. 

bluesmandan

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Aug 23, 2012, 10:33:29 AM8/23/12
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Type Harp-L in the Facebook search line. Request to join. Easy.

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