I am on a particular writing listserve that I don't use much. It's a listserve for a specific writing community, and I haven't read much on it lately that was mind boggling or interesting. I receive a nightly notification about the posts of the day, click on, and click off. I have never posted a comment myself.
As far as I have seen, not much has happened in recent months, though through the posts, I've kept abreast of the upcoming conference. So I was very surprised when yesterday I received an email containing the newly minted and slightly draconian rules of this listserve. They were so particular and restrictive, I wondered if anyone would be able to speak at all, ever. Here is some of what was contained in the message along with my reactions:
The general discussion listserves should not be used for blatant self-promotion, including "buy my book" or "take my course" posts, reviews, book excerpts, services provided. No "XYZ" listserve should be used to post requests for charitable donations other than XYZ and XYZ Chapter-sponsored fundraisers. Signature lines should be no longer than four lines in total (one line for the name of the person posting and three lines of text containing personal, promotional, or link information). Posts regarding personal achievements and one-liners such as "me too," "thank you," and congratulatory posts should be made on the XYZ "WritersLife" listserves.
--After I read this first rule, I realized that my signature line actually has three lines. One more line and I'm at the limit. Two more, and I'm toast. I have a few writer friends who have quotes in their signature lines, so they would be out! I have seen some fairly ridiculous signature lines, ones with titles, links, and even emoticons in them. So, okay, yeah. Maybe a little bit of a suggestion should be made. But to limit a signature line? Hmmm.....
Harvesting of e-mail or other addresses for promotional or other purposes is strictly forbidden.
--This is get, though I am listed on a site for California authors, and people have contacted me through that site. I know because it's a relatively older email, one that I don't use much these days at all. I don't mind, actually, because the contacts have been useful to me. But if I started getting Viagra ads because of a listserve, I might be more upset.
The following types of messages should not be posted: virus warnings; agent/editor bashing; jokes or chain letters; comments that could affect one's reputation in the industry or ability to do business; attacks on a person's character, ethics, or beliefs; insults; name-calling; put-downs of a writer's chosen path of publication.
--So I guess gossip is out on this site. I understand all of this as well, but isn't one person's bashing another person's praise? How will the line be determined between the two?
Posts should maintain the "social, congenial" atmosphere of the listserves and should not be intentionally controversial, inflammatory, disruptive, malicious, or defamatory. Except where they specifically pertain to the craft of writing, posts should not discuss religious beliefs, politics, terrorism, race, ethnicity, and "hot-button" moral and social issues.
--No Obama promoting on this listserve. No anarchists. No abortion, war, terrorism. No "I think you are wrong." This was the one that gave me the most pause. Yes, the listserve is about writing, but, again, how to define the most general of these, the notion of "controversial"?
With the exception of notices regarding XYZ Chapter contests, conferences, and workshops, no post may be forwarded to any XYZ listserve on behalf of another person. Subscribers may post links to articles and items of interest.
--I get that. The members are the only ones who get to play.
After reading this and more (there are a series of punishments that accompany infractions of these new rules), I thought of a tea party, one where the women sit in a circle, all wearing print dresses and hose and black patent leather pumps. They are sipping their tea, wearing gloves, and no one says much of anything, lest the hostess ask them to leave. I think that some moderation is necessary in all forums, even redroom.com, but what has been going on that has caused such a set of rules to come out?
All I know is that more than ever, I know I have nothing to say in this listserve. I will read what comes down in all its banality and click away. While I don't want people bashed or hurt or defamed, I don't want a muzzle, either. I would want to be able to ask writers to help me promote my classes at UCLA (did you see that self promotion right there?) or to mention that my book is out in stores, NOW! Writers should be able to support each other that way. I don't want to go intentionally anywhere where there is mud being slung, so I appreciate those restrictions, but mud is where it happens sometimes, and sometimes, we all need it.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org