“What you take from the Net you must give back,” said the young in altruistic and sanctimonious tones back in the early days of the Internet. And before long, as use of the Internet became ubiquitous and everyone just got too busy, all of that was forgotten. Everyone just took it for granted.
Most discussion groups try to encourage subscribers to introduce themselves, asking for their participation, but those pleas almost never go beyond mere lip service. Sacramento area lawyer Jonathan Stein, who developed Solo Marketing, http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/solomarketing/, a list designed to discuss marketing ideas for solo and small law firms, two and a half years ago, decided enough was enough, and he laid down the law a few months ago. He not only broadcast the list’s rules to subscribers, but his enforcement of those rules caught subscribers’ attention. And in the process, he conquered list bloat, making a reduced number of subscribers value the list and contribute.
Stein’s rules were easy enough to follow. Subscribers were required to complete the database, revealing their names, city and state, practice area, phone number, and website. They were required to introduce themselves to the list within a week of joining it, reveal their real names when sending e-mail, and include a signature block containing their names, locations and phone numbers. The business of posting to the list wasn’t simply a precatory matter, but a mandate. He enforced the rules by deleting those subscribers who just wanted to sit back and lurk. Those list subscribers who were content simply to be passive list members, assigning about a much value to the list as one might attach to a copy of The Watchtower left at the doors by the ever-thoughtful Jehovah’s Witnesses, might have been piqued at first, but Stein’s approach of “Give back or get out” worked.
The days of altruism in mailing lists may not be over after all.