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Why I Have Given Up On the Archives and Archivists List

I am certainly not the first person to chime in on this topic, and I certainly hope not to be the last. Inspired by two fantastic posts by Ben Bromley and Maureen Callahan, I have chosen to discuss the reasons why I have given up on the Archives and Archivists List. Unlike Ben and Maureen, who discuss why they choose not to post to the list, I'm also including reasons why I choose not to read or subscribe to the list anymore. For what it's worth, until yesterday, I had been on the A&A List for almost nine long years.

  1. I don't think the majority of the traffic is terribly useful. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially there's a question on topic you happen to know something about. Telling someone how to perform a Google search is not an adequate response.Given the signal-to-noise ratio of the list, useful or timely messages can be easily buried.
  2. Off-topic messages seem to be the rule rather than the exception. I finally snapped when the "Virtual Picnic" began. I know it's a fun tradition and all, but it's a tradition that many of us have neither the time nor interest in which to indulge.
  3. People can be brusque, mean, angry, unhappy, etc. Posters to the list can be insulting. I tend to have a rather thick skin, but it's still a bit inexcusable to see some of the adults interacting the way they do on the list. Also, if a casual observer came across the A&A List, I'm afraid it'd give our profession a bad rap as containing a lot of miserable people who seem to spend the better part of their work day complaining or overreacting about the state of things. (I know, pot, kettle, black. To be fair, it's no longer during my work day.)
  4. There are better professional resources out there. A recent thread disputed the value of the list over things like blogs and Twitter. Generally speaking, I get better professional advice from sources other than the A&A List. These include blogs and Twitter as well as other e-mail lists. There are plenty of section-, roundtable-, and function-specific e-mail lists that are likely a better competitor for your attention. Arguably, I will send someone to the EAD Listserv before the A&A List if they have a question about EAD.
  5. It is arcane and hard to interact with beyond reading and posting. Maureen suggests checking the list archives before you post a question. Unfortunately, the search interface isn't entirely intuitive. Changing your subscription settings isn't entirely straightforward either. How can we be expected to use this resource with any facility if the tools we have are so suboptimal?

I may not leave the list forever, but I'm certainly done with it for now. I am happy to contribute back to the online professional community elsewhere and I certainly plan to continue doing so. We need a better solution, though, so start preparing your alternate online fora as soon as possible.



  • 💬 LurkerArchivist at July 29, 2010, 05:05 UTC:

    I certainly agree with #4.

    I lurk on the EAD list and have noticed how helpful all the replies on that venue are. If I ever have a need to post there I'm confident I'll get a good reply.

    It is quite off putting to see professionals bad mouth newer forms of communication. Just because you don't find value in blogs or Twitter doesn't mean that others don't or won't if they tried it.

    Aren't archivists supposed to support the preservation of wide ranging historical records and not show bias against what one scholar finds useful or not useful? Are the "records" generated in these other venues any less valid that the "records" generated by the list?

    I suppose I'm simply not comfortable with people making assumptions about what is the "proper" form of communication and exchange of ideas in our field.

  • 💬 Christie Peterson at July 29, 2010, 16:50 UTC:

    Re: item 4, I wholeheartedly agree. I subscribe to the EAD list and the AT Users' Group, both of which are full of knowledgeable and helpful people. When doing an audio project, I relied heavily on the knowledge available through the ARSC listserv as well as an uber geeky audiophile list. So what other lists do you, Mark or others, subscribe to/recommend?

  • 💬 Christopher at July 29, 2010, 20:36 UTC:

    The flowers and picnic silliness don't bother me that much--as a matter of fact, if we could replace 10% of the posts with pretty pictures of random objects, I think it would be an improvement. What bothers me is the day-to-day rudeness of people who confuse the "right to post" with being willfully disrespectful to the majority of subscribers.

    I don't have any good suggestions for reforming the list, because the people who actually post to the list seem to like things the way they are. My only suggestion is for SAA to stop sponsoring it altogether, and maybe at most to replace it with something designed entirely for announcements, no "discussions" allowed.

  • 💬 Charles V. Mutschler at July 29, 2010, 21:29 UTC:

    Thanks for the posting. You make some good points. There is a lot of material on A&A which isn't particularly professional. Sometimes people behave in a less than dignified manner.

    Personally, I agree that blogs can have a substantial amount of useful information. Can, but don't always. So, the decision to read and or participate in a blog is much like reading and participating on a list like A&A. Some are worth the effort, some are not. Choose what works, and stick with it, drop the rest.

    I'm less enthused by Twitter - I don't use it. Got something to say? Please send me an e-mail. No, I don't want cute abbreviations, I want something easy to read in standard English.

    Social networking? No, thank you. Not my cup of tea.

    And, a last comment regarding the Virtual Picnic. It isn't my favorite thing. but I cheerfully delete all that stuff unread. Meanwhile, I note you have links to a bunch of enjoyed things on your page. Is that really much different than the virtual picnic? I don't see much difference. And, like the picnic, I probably won't open any of the 'enjoyed things' graphics. They don't offend me. They just don't appeal to me, either.



  • 💬 Andy at August 2, 2010, 17:14 UTC:

    Yeah it's funny--I actully unsubscribed myself last week for similar reasons.

  • 💬 holly at August 24, 2010, 19:46 UTC:


  • 💬 Jordan at September 13, 2010, 23:43 UTC:

    There are a couple of people in particular that treat the A&A listserv as if it is their personal blog. Then they go off on ax-grinding escapades that have nothing to do with professional issues, just their own. I scan the messages every now and then, but I stopped subscribing about 2 years ago.