alt.fan.pratchett : The Best Of AFP

Brave New AFP


Date: 4 Dec 1998
From: Peter Ellis

I think the main "problem" with afp is one of sheer volume.

It's been noticed by anthropologists for generations that tribes always contain at most a few hundred people -- this seems to be the "natural size" of a herd of humans (for we are, quite simply, a herd species). There was a fantastic Desmond Morris program on this a few years ago -- demonstrating the difference between a "village" mentality and a "town" mentality.

In a village, everyone knows everyone else, everyone cares -- if they see someone lying on the pavement they will stop to help. But in a town, in the great faceless crush and press of urban life; this is lost, and the program showed film of how people would not stop, just glance and move on. If all English people lived in hamlets of a couple of hundred inhabitants, there would be no homeless begging on the streets...

In some ways, the move to a "town" is a good thing - with the greater anonymity comes privacy, and reciprocally a willingness to let other people be themselves on their own, without interference.

But in that odd middle ground, as a group expands, there comes a time when it's too large to hang together as a coherent unit any more, but must either fission, like some unstable nucleus, or must collapse inth the
ghostly, lonely anonymith of an urban sprawl.

Neither of these should happen to our beloved afp, but it will unless we Take Steps.

Running I-Spy (a freeware program available from the CIA website) on my server logs shows that at present afp comprises:

Running the same program on the DejaNews logs for 1994 shows:

It seems clear that quite a lot of the angst in afp stems directly from this massive increase -- indeed the same is happening (to a slight degree) on IRC , but IRC channels are easily created and removed, and the much more labile nature of the medium means that much of this problem is self-correcting.

Therefore, it seems that the best option is for us to split the newsgroup into a number of seperate groups -- all with the same remit as the original afp.

I propose to newgroup alt.fan.pratchett.1 , alt.fan.pratchett.2 and so on up to six. This should of course not imply fragmentation by age, sex, religious belief or whatever, since this would merely create a "cliquey" feeling.

Thus, I have run a randomising script on the I-Spy logs, and everyone here should expect an email in the next few days assigning them to one or other of the new groups.

You will only be allowed to read / post to your alloted group -- if you wish to switch from (say) afp5 to afp3, you must contact someone from the other group and arrange a swap.

This should alleviate the immediate problem, by giving several groups, each with much the same composition as the original afp. I'm a firm believer that we're not all that different really, and I'm sure you'll soon learn to love your new companions, even though the original "Old Farts" may be scattered among all six, with many middling farts, newbies and random lurkers.

However, this is at best a partial solution -- we need a means of preventing the groups expanding too much again and triggering the whole slide that Colm so rightly laments.

Thus, I propose the following, to maintain the numbers in afp.1-6 at reasonable levels.

Every 100 posts, a randomly selected lurker will be selected to receive a horse's head, thus encouraging them to stop lurking and Get A Life. Similarly one poster will have access rights revoked every 1000 posts, forcing them to lurk for a month.

If the number of active readers/posters (as measured by I-Spy) rises above a critical level (say 10% above datum), ten random lurkers will be subscribed to 100 mailing lists each, and two random posters will have their police files altered to render them "wanted". This should reduce numbers sufficiently.

If, and I emphasise this would be a LAST RESORT, the numbers remain at 10% above datum for a month or more, or ever rise 50% above datum; twenty lurkers and four posters will (with regret) be selected for termination. This will be painless and humane, and should not discourage people from posting to these groups -- the chances are of course very low. If this sad mechanism ever needs to be brought into play, the persons chosen will be given one week's warning, to give them time to tidy up their effects, write wills etc. During this week, however, they are fair game for any other of the "regular" posters -- inhumation of such persons by any means will render the inhumer permanently exempt from all penalties.

Many thanks for playing, and see you all in Brave New AFP 1-6!

Peter


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