Are mailing lists essential to community building?
How many mailing lists or list-servs are you subscribed too?
Mailing lists seem to be the life blood of many open source projects. Here at Red Hat, there seems to be a mailing list for everything. There’s a company-wide memo-list to foster collaboration and connect with colleagues around the world and many special interest mailing lists like our home beer brewing list. Which got me thinking, are mailing lists only a way to communicate or are they essential to community building?
I started looking at all the mailing lists I’m subscribed to and am amazed. I belong to almost 20 Google Groups, several Yahoo! Groups, and countless Red Hat mailing lists. At work, some lists are for team communications, but others are for my own self-interests. Outside of the office, I’m subscribed to a variety of neighborhood lists in Raleigh, NC, user groups, and a few open government topics.
Every list is different, just like every community is different. On some mailing lists, I act as the owner or moderator. On others, I’m a lurker. For some, I choose to get every email; others, only the digest. Sometimes it’s about the purpose of the list, but other times, it’s about the signal-to-noise ratio.
I’m sure many of you are members of several mailing lists. And if you’re like me, you play a different role in each and consume them differently depending on your interest level.
Do you think mailing lists are simply a mechanism to foster communication or does it help create and build community? I’m happy to share some additional commentary after I hear from you in the comments.