Saturday, April 15, 2006

[greatschools]: "uncle!"

After three days of having his Yahoo! Group email list deluged by me, Rene Amy sent me a polite back channel communique requesting a cease fire. He peppered it with minor digs and rationalizations such as
"it seems that you don't know a lot of answers to simple questions about the district that longer-tenured members are already somewhat painfully aware of"
"I hesitate to respond to many of your posts because I do not
wish to alienate list members by boring them with the answers"
But for the most part it was a respectful and tactfully worded letter full of phrases such as
"I don't want to appear to limit you"
"your enthusiasm and concern are most welcome to the list"
In a follow up email in which I agreed to contain my "flood of politeness", Mr. Amy consented to my publishing of his request, saying, "I've always adhered to the principle that one should never put anything in print that shouldn't be expected to show up on the front page of the newspaper."

By way of comparison, I posted 24 times during the flood, often with complex lengthy topics. My first post was Thursday morning, and his flag of truce came Saturday evening. In a public "housekeeping" letter that came to the list at the same time as the back channel request, he offered some statistics.

He said that his list had record volume last month averaging 23 posts per day. In the course of my three day deluge, there were about of about 90+ posts between the time I started and the time he asked me to stop. 24 of those were from me. The group has 288 members, but only a small fraction of those post with any regularity. By far the most prolific poster is Mr. Amy himself. During my onslaught, he posted 22 times, (mostly just pasting in news items with a topping of commentary). About 9 of those were responses to me.

For three days I kept up a relentless stream, reflecting back most of the open ended negative sentiments with posts like this:
"So are you advocating... what?

It is clear that you are good at pointing out problems. As I think we agree, watchdogs are a critical cog in a healthy democracy. But isn't it a bit like shooting fish in a barrel at this point?

Rather than glibly sounding off about the problems, what do you propose be done about this particular situation?

If you are at a point where you are utterly fatalistic about it, why do you waste your time?"
"Clearly the big picture is important. Thanks for fleshing out the details.

Belittling people attempting to engage in constructive discussion hardly seems useful though.

Would it not be best if we all consider what you requested of me, "that simple opinion not be the focus, rather that facts and educated analysis rule"? What do you hope to achieve by implying that Jerry, myself and others are "foolish" IYHO?"
I fully expected to take it in the neck from him, but amazingly, he restrained himself, and now has extended an olive branch of sorts. I am almost stunned. It could just be me getting acclimated, but I do believe, at least temporarily, the edge of hostility has been blunted in everyone's posts. Frequent posters, who freely sprinkled dyslogisms into their posts earlier in the week, are sounding much more constructive. If nothing else, I think I can say I was successful at pinning them down for three days using what hackers call a Denial Of Service (DOS) attack. Just by keeping everyone busy for three days, I managed to modulate the acerbic tone of the discussion. Now lets see if it will stick as I ease off the throttle.


  1. Jeremiah:

    I want to thank you publicly for your efforts! I tried, myself, to deflect conversations to more constructive vents than name calling but lacked your skill. The few short days that you "deluged" the greatschools list were by far the most productive the list has seen since I joined. I gained greater perspective over the past few days than I have in the month or two that I have been a member of greatschools. Funny, but Mr. Amy trumpets that his list has grown by leaps and bounds recently (the catalyst being a blind invite sent far and wide by some "unknown"). This being the case, why would you NOT want to "revist" information that is "readily available"? Most of don't know what goes on and that's why many of us newbies joined the greatschools list - to get another perspective. So, we have been shut out from receiving information once again. Although I don't often agree with some of the raw and sometimes uniformed opinions on the greatschools list, I have generally appreciated the alternative perspective because I believe it's important to hear all sides of an argument. So sad your voice has been quelled there. It was refreshing. I believe many on the greatschools list have a great deal to contribute if they would only agree to be a part of a larger conversation. I think their egos limit that possibility, sadly. Thank you for starting this blog. I will be a frequent visitor and will share it with others.

    -Bethann Buddenbaum

  2. Thank you, although I wouldn't say "quelled" or "shut out". I never could have kept up at that pace anyway. Let's just hope the 3 day flood had a cleansing effect.