What would you say?
April 23, 2012 9:05 AM   Subscribe

the listserve is simple: one person a day wins a chance to write to the list of subscribers. The project is an "online social experiment" by a group of graduate students at NYU's ITP program.
posted by likeatoaster (31 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Samuel Farrow at 9:09 AM on April 23, 2012

I signed up when I first heard about it, and I eagerly awaited the list to start but the first message was some weird rambling "why am I not successful" thing coming from a stranger. I thought it was typical "send me $ plz" spam when I first got it, and it took a couple minutes to realize it was part of the list and I ended up unsubscribing as a result. They need an editor before stuff goes out to the list.
posted by mathowie at 9:12 AM on April 23, 2012

I've gotten six somewhat-disappointing days of the listserve so far:

- 1 short poem
- 1 long rant about software coders
- 1 exceedingly boring story
- 2 'these are some of my secrets for life' emails
- 1 email trying to persuade people to use the diva cup

it's cool that the sender's email address is included, so I could potentially tell them how much they wasted their '15 minutes'.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:14 AM on April 23, 2012

Whoops, apparently the sender's email address isn't always included.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:15 AM on April 23, 2012

What kind of listserv doesn't have an archive?
posted by demiurge at 9:17 AM on April 23, 2012

Wow, sounds terrible for the reasons mathowie and wbbd brought up.
posted by dozo at 9:17 AM on April 23, 2012

They need an editor before stuff goes out to the list.

Yeah, that's an interesting conundrum -- if they really intend to show what the average person would write in this circumstance then most of what's sent out will be boring, just because the majority of what anyone writes is banal.

What kind of listserv doesn't have an archive?

I expect that this is meant as incentive for you to sign up.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 9:19 AM on April 23, 2012

On the other hand, this would be a perfect venue for the Time Traveler spam.
posted by demiurge at 9:19 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Shrug. I've only gotten two so far, and I thought they were interesting enough to warrant the 5 minutes it took to read them. YMMV.
posted by likeatoaster at 9:21 AM on April 23, 2012

One of the things that I dislike about Facebook, Tumblr, and the other easy ways people have of sharing things is that they seemed to have killed off most of the "email-only" projects that used to be scattered about in the late 90s to mid 00s. It was neat waking up and finding interesting things in your inbox.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:27 AM on April 23, 2012

I think it's a good concept. Obviously, it's not for everyone. It's not the "best of the web" but rather a random sample. I treat it like the "incoming" pics at mlkshk or "most recent uploads" stream on flickr, but this time of email/text rather than images.
posted by mattbucher at 9:27 AM on April 23, 2012

On the other hand, this would be a perfect venue for the Time Traveler spam.

I'm disappointed that site leaves it until Theory #6 to suggest that this guy might actually be a time-traveller stuck in 2003. No wonder the poor fellow is having such a hard time finding a DWG unit with GRC79 induction motor and four I80200 warp stabilizers. People just aren't taking him seriously.
posted by rh at 9:36 AM on April 23, 2012

I think I'm gonna get a Diva Cup.
posted by Danila at 9:39 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like the idea and signed up, but in reading the last week's entries that wikipedia brown boy posted, I really think a character limit may be in order. Verbosity does not equal profundity.
posted by Debaser626 at 9:39 AM on April 23, 2012

I was convinced to sign up after reading the entries! I pray my email isn't chosen because I have nothing I really want to say, but I like reading what other people are passionate about. They're not particularly profound, no, but they really want people to see it so I'll look.

I guess this could be misused for advertising on the off-chance a spammer's email is chosen but that's just one email wasted. I liked reading the software rant and I feel the same way about switching to a new computer. This last time I switched was a catastrophe. Some things still don't work and it's been a year.

The only thing is, I can't abide short stories I really can't. I don't know why. I read the poem but not the short story.
posted by Danila at 9:45 AM on April 23, 2012

They need an editor before stuff goes out to the list.

I suspect that would undermine the entire point.
posted by kenko at 10:03 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

The lack of editing or any form of quality control is a problem, but this can be solved by the crowd as well. What if, instead of the lottery winner's submission being sent out to the whole list, it is instead sent to only say 10 people also chosen at random. Each of them then has the ability to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to the submission. A thumbs up gets the submission sent to 10 more people on the list, a thumbs down (or a non-vote) to nobody. This may result in interesting things showing up in your inbox less frequently, but that can be countered by just picking more lottery winners at a time. I realize that this would result in a completely different project/experiment, but one I'd probably be more interested in.
posted by AceRock at 10:09 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I actually love the combination of mundane and passionate that is shown in the examples. It returns us to what real conversations can be like.

There is a certain compassion to be learned in listening to others. I signed up.
posted by Isadorady at 10:12 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why Diva cups aren't used more. I mean, barring people who cannot use them due to one issue or another, they are (in my male opinion) the perfect thing!
posted by rebent at 10:14 AM on April 23, 2012

I'm kind of shocked at how banal those all are. I'm not sure if the people who wrote them understood what this project was all about and how many other people they could speak to through it.
posted by clockzero at 10:15 AM on April 23, 2012

I suspect that would undermine the entire point.

No, I'd rather get raw, unfiltered ramblings than some editor-picked honed text. You can't expect a purely random list from a lot of random people to result in a series of gorgeously written texts.

During the Arab Spring protests, we saw a lot of gorgeous moments of harmony and revolt; we also saw a female reporter being assaulted, other ugly stories, etc. Democracy and plurality and the multitude is a messy common united unfiltered rambling thing, by default. The answer isn't that "democracy will lead in some kind of gorgeous harmony", it's that more likely it'll be messier, more inefficient, more time-consuming, than an efficient, hierarchical 'editing' by a monarchy/tyranny/oligarchy/aristocracy/what-have-you.

Of course, within the context of some text and an email list, an editor isn't that much of a big deal. (plate of beans, etc.) But my point is - let's not be shocked when democracy happens to be ugly. Rather, I'd argue that our own conception of ugliness arises out of the inverse of "beauty", that is to say ugly is "not-beautiful". Moreover, "quality" and "beauty" are actually specifically hierarchical ideals applied onto non-political forms -- they're defined by a function of editing, excluding, culling, matching to a standard. In other words, thinking that certain things are beautiful is to already participate in a pattern of excluding, etc.

TL;DR: it's a big world and there are all kinds of people out there
posted by suedehead at 10:22 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I really really like this concept!
But I'm not going to join because I'm a bit shy (what if I got chosen?!) :x
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 12:01 PM on April 23, 2012

Then, The Biggest Dreamer, someone might read what you write!

I am reading what you wrote right now
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:45 PM on April 23, 2012

I signed up and have received three of them now. They've been a bit livejournal-y but that's fine. I suspect I'll glance at and then close 9 out of ten of these. I wouldn't expect any random person out of a population of 10,000 to have much to say that would hold my attention, but I think it's kind of a neat way to force myself to hear something other than my usual daily voices, however fleetingly.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:04 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

"1 long rant about software coders"

For its target audience, that was a fantastic essay.
posted by PueExMachina at 9:32 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Judging from his list of entries, I subscribed around the same time that wikipedia brown boy detective did. I've enjoyed them. They're a little banal and a little charming and a little all over the place, but that's kind of the point, I think.

The other thing that's been sort of interesting is wondering what I would do with my fifteen minutes. If I had 3 days to come up with one thing to send out to 10,000 people...what would I say?

The question is harder to answer than I might've expected.
posted by Phire at 10:09 AM on April 24, 2012

Aaaaand count May 8th as the day of the first* Religious Appeal. Whee!

*since being posted here
posted by davidjmcgee at 10:50 AM on May 9, 2012

Yeah, I wasn't too impressed with that, davidjmcgee.
posted by Phire at 10:55 AM on May 9, 2012

Today's message, in its entirety:

From: Bulldozer
Subject line: BuLLdozer
Message: To all the people of the list- buy a bulldozer.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:58 PM on May 15, 2012

I'm actually kind of scared of getting chosen. There are three strings pulling at me -- one for doing something funny like this, one for using it for some sort of self-promotion, and one for taking it too seriously and writing something earnest.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:31 PM on May 15, 2012

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