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Re: Usage guidelines for theosophy lists

Nov 19, 1997 11:10 AM
by M K Ramadoss

All the points and issued mentioned are appropriate.

>From a novice point of view, I wish to add the following:

1. The lists all have a small subscription. So instead of telling every
newbee the guidelines or whatever etiquette, telling him/her that the list
is most open and feel free to post anything you decide to post is the most
welcoming msg one is likely to hear. In the world where you usually hear
about what one should or should not do, this is a very welcome change,
especially the younger generation.

2. The openness and freedom of speech and action encourages a positive
attitude to t/Theosophy, IMHO.

3. The unwritten etiquette develops and evolves over time. If there is some
noise along the way, that is part of life.

4. Internet is a totally new medium and defies the traditional approaches.
Don't we all recall when AOL (I think) barred the use of certain words as
inappropriate, they ran into a ridiculous situation. One word barred was
"breast" and suddently those women discussing breast cancer (and many of
them were seriously ill) were shut off from posting any msg which contained
the word breast and after a day or two the ban was lifted when the *banners*
found the unforseen consequence.

5. Did we not see how difficult it is to even legislate any changes. The
federal law was ruled unconstitutional when it tried to impose some
restrictions on Internet.

6. In any real life activity, it is a fact that the a handful few who are
responsible for much of the activity, not the masses. This appears to be a
law of nature, one will find few participants posting majority of the msgs.
It is not their fault. It is the lack of interest or time to post by the
lurkers. So we have to live with it.

7. All the participants are grown up and mature ones. They are also
intelligent to understand and act in the best manner they think appropriate
and even their actions change over a period of time.

8. Changes are in the natural order of things. So if some changes are to be
brought about, the question is how one goes about. But such principles as
freedom is not subject to change. 

So I am all for free and open discussion. No one needs to be afraid of Truth
and if Truth hurts at times, it is not the fault of truth, but ourselves.


PS: Even on this topic there were only a couple of responses. It would be
nice to hear from more of the lurkers!!!

At 07:27 AM 11/19/97 -0800, Eldon B Tucker wrote:
>>>From day one, Theos-xxxx lists have never had any guidelines, rules or any
>>>restriction of any sort and had done very well. 
>>Varied topics on theosophy, theosophical organizations and theosophical
>>personalities have been discussed at various time. While everything that
>>goes on may be not have satisfied everyone, still it is serving its purpose
>>very well. Also from time to time, due to the openness and lack of
>>guidelines or rules, subscribers have posted information which are
>>unavailable from *any* other source. Some of the information some may not
>>want the world to know about it. But Truth needs no defenders and it can
>>take care of itself.
>>I am for status-quo, and if it is not broken, don't fix it. Let us not
>>tinker it and possibly ruin it.
>Trying to understand how it works does not mean tinkering with it and
>possibly breaking it. There *are* guidelines or norms of behavior in
>operation. Because they haven't been articulated, they are implicit 
>rather than explicit guidelines. They are established and maintained
>by the consistent behavior of the list participants. There's nothing
>wrong with attempting to articulate them, turning them from secret,
>underground, unconscious rules into something that can be understood
>and talked about.
>The only new argument against coming out into the open about how 
>things are operating, that I've heard lately, runs something like this:
>"If you write a guideline about how theos-l operates you're
>externally imposing an authority on my freedom-loving soul that'll
>bring me to fight you or flee the list. But -- ha, ha! -- you can't
>because John Mead owns the list and would never let you!"
>I can't follow the logic in this line of thought since the 
>attempt to understand implicit norms of behavior on the list *is not*
>the imposition of either guidelines (voluntary) nor of rules
>I've heard some discussion on theos-l in the past about how it
>has been a problem that theosophical organizations have implicit,
>unspoken rules and expectations of their memberships -- about how
>this is bad, how issues should be aired and worked out by
>people in the open. Is this something that we can only talk
>about when it deals with other people?
>A group -- lodge, organization, even mailing list -- tends to 
>maintain its status quo. Many members are followers, listeners,
>lurkers at meetings. A handful like to monopolize the air time
>and control the direction of discussions and programs. That
>handful is the group's "leadership". It maintains the status
>quo by providing the group with programs along lines that it
>likes and by keeping the group "on topic" or resisting the
>introduction of new ideas by newcomers, if those new ideas
>give the group a new direction. (That new direction is
>perceived as a "takeover" since it may take power away from
>the existing leadership.)
>On a mailing list with no moderation and no explicit guidelines,
>the implicit guidelines are defined and enforced by the
>most-active participants. The statement "you can't tell us to
>change" in response to any questioning of the status quo is
>really saying "we're happy with how we're currently running
>things, so shut up!" The status quo (implicit guidelines) is
>enforced by both punishment -- a barrage of critical messages
>both posted and privately sent to the offender -- and by
>rewards -- a number of positive, glowing statements in 
>response to people supporting the party line.
>So ... back to my original questions: What are the currently
>guidelines or norms? What are the pros and cons, the good and
>bad in them? Why are things the way they are?
>One point made was that there may be highly useful information
>that may come out, information that may have been censored
>or discarded as useless in an unmoderated list. This is given
>as an argument against moderation, with the assumption
>that a person moderating a list would not be bright enough
>to see how important something is, or would be too prejudiced
>to allow it out.
>An example of a guideline would be to not use language
>that might be considered as sexist and offensive to some
>members. This is a guideline since it's a recommended 
>behavior, but not a mandatory rule, since no one would be
>kicked off the list if his writing failed inspection by
>the "language police".
>Another example of a guideline concerns the
>discussion of theosophical historic figures (e.g. Leadbeater).
>Some people were as pissed off and outraged at this discussion
>as others were about sexist language. At the time, there was
>a guideline established that the historic discussion move to
>theos-roots, so as not to appear on theos-l and be seen by
>and continue to offend them. This guideline held for a while
>and then was ignored. 
>A third guideline is that the list not be exploited for
>the commercial gain of anyone, that it not be filled with
>ads selling products or soliciting funds.
>A fourth is that purely personal communications, being of
>little or no interest to the overall list, be sent as
>private email.
>What else do we see that is going on?
>-- Eldon

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