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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.