Well, things have been quiet on ADVOCATS of late so I'll take a crack at
a response. Let's start with the last question first: what are listservs
for? Like any human-devised vehicle for communication, listservs can
serve many roles. They can be focused topic areas where people of
diverse backgrounds but similar interests can come together to discuss a
fairly specific topic or topics. Or, they can be created by a group of
people of similar backgrounds to discuss a variety of topics of interest
to the group. That is, the focal point of the listserv can be based on
the topic or on the members, or on any combination of the two.
Listservs can also be set up as a central meeting point for a small
group of people who are working on a particular project, specific to a
particular place or business. These "work" groups are very useful for
the participants because they can save time usually spent putting
together face-to-face meetings. ADVOCATS is this type of listserv. It
has a specific focus and a small group of participants who use it to
work out technology issues related to a particular campus.
Many of the members of ADVOCATS are also interested in general
technology issues and are subscribed to a number of listservs where such
issues are discussed. In fact, many of us are fascinated with the role
of technology in higher ed and our culture, and in how it will shape
both that culture and our future history. As a vital part of sharing and
expressing those interests we subscribe to a number of listservs and
newsgroups and discuss such topics.
But we are also working people who use technology, including listservs,
for our day to day work. That's where ADVOCATS come in. It was set up
not as a list to discuss technology and education in general, that is,
it was not set up as a topic list, but rather as a specific working list
for a specific group of technology workers to get some work done.
Given that circumstance, and given the fact that, as tech folk who
participate in a number of listservs and newsgroups and are pretty
familiar with the range of postings that are made to such groups,
including spam, trolls, divergent discussions, neophyte questions,
private postings that are mistakenly sent to the group, etc., the
posting titled "privacy issues" should perhaps not have taken us by
surprise. However, as it seemed to be a private complaint from a library
worker about a particular patron, it is not surprising that the first
reaction from some members of the group would be to wonder how a message
on a topic so seemingly unrelated to ADVOCATS managed to stray into this
list. Given the recent increase in spam on many lists, it is also not
surprising that some members would be concerned about this small and
very function-oriented list being overrun with postings unrelated to the
business at hand--hence the flurry of responses regarding the list
So, the function of this particular listserv, being as it is a "working"
pragmatic group and not one devoted to IT discussion of a more
theoretical nature, generally leads the participants to not expect
postings from non-UVM posters on general IT topics. Most members
probably just assumed this was a stray posting by a person who mistook
the function of this list, a common enough occurrence on the web. Others
might have assumed that such a posting, given its loose structure and a
source from apparently outside the group, was a deliberate troll. In
either case, most probably assumed a reply was not looked for or expected.
Of course, if the topic of your posting was to elicit a general
discussion of the responsibilities of people working in the public
sector regarding eccentric patrons, and not one specific to a particular
library (who is Mr. Irving?), that's rather interesting, though not
particularly IT-related, and not germane to this particular list.
Perhaps a search of lists for one related to library/IT topics might
yield better results. Good luck in your search!
Amanda Lay wrote:
> . . . I DID post something which is IT related last month and I
> didn't get very intellectual answers of such... I mean what are LISTSERVs
> for, huh...