[mailhist-discuss] Discussing email history vs. discussing news about email history?

Thomas Haigh thaigh at computer.org
Thu Jun 14 10:13:51 PDT 2012

I think that would depend on 

1) The extent to which the purpose of the list is to produce a specific
deliverable (the IETF working group model) versus supporting the
establishment and interaction of a community with a common intellectual
interest, and

2) (pragmatically) Whether sharing updates related to public representation
of email history is more likely to energize people to document its actual
history or distract them from doing so.

I do have a comment regarding the recent discussion of how the
noteworthiness of possible milestones might be judged. My perspective as a
historian is that researchers of 50 or 100 years time will still be reading
and writing about email history of the 1970s, just as my colleagues continue
to write about telegraphy in the 19th century. 

So any timeline you produce will be a preliminary, transitory first draft of
history. It's still worth doing, and may catalyze the preservation of
records, but in the long view posterity will make its own judgments. 

On the other hand, future historians will not have access to all the papers
in your attics, memories in your heads, etc. Therefore, in my view, the most
useful thing you can do is to make sure that you document your memories and
get your papers into a suitable archive (e.g. the Charles Babbage Institute,
the Computer History Museum, or some kind of new electronic repository). 

With respect to the timeline, what this means is that you should err on the
side of documenting everything. Maybe two views -- one with all events, one
with "key events". That way no irreplaceable data is being thrown away, but
you can still present a manageable version without excess detail for current
needs. The issue is that what is a key event and what isn't will change
according to the perspective the researcher is taking. Also our ideas of
what are and are not crucial events tend to change over time.

In cases where you disagree about something, include both versions. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Crocker [mailto:dcrocker at gmail.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 12:08 PM
To: Thomas Haigh
Cc: mailhist-discuss at emailhistory.org
Subject: Discussing email history vs. discussing news about email history?

On 6/13/2012 8:21 AM, Thomas Haigh wrote:
> I'm resisting the urge to keep spamming the group with updates on the 
> increasingly bizarre public career of email history.


the activity is "about" email history, but not to the stated purpose of this
list.  It's important but, actually, off topic.

my real concern is that it distracts from that stated, productive purpose of
the list.  but it's importance warrants /some/ venue for postings.

my current thought is to split off a separate list for something like
mailhist-news or somesuch, to distinguish our semi-scholarly activity from
media activity about the topic.


  Dave Crocker

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