The Severed Heads mailing list ran, in various forms, for over a decade. It closed in February 2005, and so this manifesto for the list is essentially of historical interest only. In fact, at the moment the main reason it remains here is because it is referred to in the welcome message of the new exiles list.
Since the band is actively involved in the list, it deliberately has a scope greater than merely talking about the band itself (which, ultimately, would be pretty dull for them to constantly read about and participate in). However, newcomers to the list may well wonder what on earth the list is on about if it spends comparatively little time discussing the band it is nominally about. On the other hand, sometimes topics drift so far off course that murmurs of discontent start surfacing. The list is not moderated, as that would quickly either kill off the essential nature of the list and/or be completely unworkable. Therefore, from time to time when the topics drift too far, Tom steps in as a moderator and reminds people of the basic manifesto for the list. A typical example is as follows:
Statement posted to the Severed Heads mailing list on October 15, 1998.
Hear ye hear ye.
The owners of the list, namely Stephen M No Relation Jones and Thomas Temple Ellard speak thus:
- The list is nominally for discussion of the band (?) Severed Heads, but of course includes any topic that might conceivably connect with that including listening to, making, buying and selling electronic music in general, the Australian music scene, industry, history etc. The intellectual underpinnings of the above. The alcohol and other abuse substances employed thereby.
- It is always welcome to discuss your own achievements, hopes, listening patterns and so on. It is supposed to be a two way street.
- It is a vehicle for criticism of the band Severed Heads. Criticism of Tom Ellard (e.g. Ellard you are a fat shit) is allowed. But criticism between other users should be muted. Criticism should be entertaining.
- Further, the list discusses electronic media arts including gaming culture, new technologies especially those connected with music, forms of art that can be electronically produced and communicated. Argument as to why Pac Man is sexier than Laura Croft is always welcome.
- The list is run like an Australian public house, where the public is welcome and a bit of rowdy is allowed but things must not get out of hand. We are a group of people who should not need moderation, even when the Coopers Ale is dry. You always have your bozo filter [...]
That's about it.
As a manifesto it is noticeable for a certain degree of idealism. But, ultimately, the list failed to live up to the ideal. The idea was to create some sense of distributed online community. Since real communities also exhibit factionalism and disagreements, we tried a policy of "use the delete key" so that people could say their piece and if others weren't interested, they could just ignore it. But this only works if the signal to noise ratio is high enough for most members. When people find that they want to delete more than they want to read, then it is clear that there is something wrong with the mix.
Perhaps the list fell victim to good old cultural differences. Resorting for a moment to stereotypes, while the australians are maybe more rowdy than the poms (and the other europeans), they probably do share some sort of cultural reserve and prefer to apply some sort of filtering to what they will talk about in the pub; as opposed to the american style of openness to complete strangers with an accompanying confessional monolog where any stream of consciousness is fair game to share with everyone. The result being that half the list was fed up with the other half, which was crying "censorship" when some restraint was asked for.
It is never easy to please most people, quite impossible to please everyone, but when a large proportion of the messages were clearly boring many people and the list was losing and likely to lose more of its most long-term subscribers, it was time to close it down.| Bernie Maier | $Date: 2008/03/18 $ | $Revision: #9 $ |