I read the following article with interest recently:
Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once Vibrant, Fight for Relevance
Jeffrey Young cites T Mills Kelly as arguing that academics are unsubscribing from email listservs in greater numbers and logging onto blogs, wikis, and social networking sites (such as Facebook and Twitter) in preference. Mills Kelly says email lists will become increasingly irrelevant. While this is debatable, it appears that there is less lively discussion on the lists.
I have to say that I wouldn’t mourn their passing. While some of the messages on email lists are useful, much of it is not relevant. For very active email lists (or periods when there are heated discussions) I choose a daily update so my inbox doesn’t get clogged with incoming messages. However, this has its disadvantages as the messages can be tedious to scroll through. I would much rather access some of the useful discussions in a wiki or blog. They’re more appealing visually and are much easier to search. With email lists I tend to press the delete button rather than scroll down trying to pick out anything interesting with a glance. If there are many subscribers the messages back and forth can get unwieldy as they refer to previous posts.
I think another point previously mentioned on this blog (but not the subject of this article) is that newbies are less likely to take part in discussions via email lists. They can be a bit daunting, especially if the newbie wants to ask something that the more experienced would regard as too basic for the list. This is where a wiki is invaluable. Newbies can check out the basic information and the more experienced can discuss the more complex, which in itself becomes a valuable source of knowledge. Blogs also give the option to comment anonymously if the commenter doesn’t wish to be identified.
Twitter is good for the latest happenings but I wouldn’t regard it as a replacement for listservs. As for Facebook, I haven’t seen much activity in the groups I belong to. It still very much appears to be a personal networking site. Nothing much happens on more professional sites such as LinkedIn either. I have to admit to not logging on there for that reason. It’s more of a directory than a social networking site. Blogs and wikis are more useful to me as a source of information.
What do others think of listservs? Do you read every message or engage in discussions? Do you think blogs and wikis are a better way to go (with the option of email notification)?