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FAQ for the Web Sociology List

What is the purpose of this list?
My goal as moderator of this list is to create a supportive, respectful, and intelligent atmosphere in which people can feel free to discuss social issues on the web.

What is Web Sociology?
Awhile back we all had a discussion trying to answer this question, and we realized that web sociology was at once active, reflective, and interactive.

You can discuss topics like gender, religion, sex, politics, personal growth, etc., online, with people from all over the world, all ages, male and female, parents and non-parents etc., and actively work to achieve synthesis by listening to different perspectives, disagreeing perhaps, and then learning from them.

Active web sociology occurs when people from Australia, Israel, Sweden, Japan, India, Canada, and the United States meet in an online community and find a synthesis in the way they view issues personally important to them.

There is also the reflective part: talking about social interactions and structures that actually occur on the web. We do that here a lot, too. Among the topics we have discussed in this vein are Prisoners on the Web and Drug Culture on the Web.

And there is an interactive part: real-life social trends are amplified on the web, and the web in turn influences our existing social ideas.

How do I know whether I am on-topic or not?
The phrase "on-topic" is not really as relevant here as it is on a list about something like programming, where the subject is easily defined.

Members are free to wonder about things, whether they be issue-oriented or personal in nature. You can talk about what is on your mind and discover new ways of looking at things. That process of discovery is more important to me than the topic of conversation. And the emphasis is on the things people can discover when they treat eachother´s feelings with respect.

I am fascinated by the thoughtful interaction that takes place between people who meet by chance in an online environment. What wisdom will this specific combination of discussants define? Finding the answer is web sociology. :-)

What is a typical discussion like?
A valued list member observed that many lists he joined started out talking about the topic they were created to discuss and ended up talking about something entirely different. And I thought, yup, list discussions seem to do this.

Recently, a discussion we had started out about design ethics, traveled on to ballet, then to New Orleans politics, and ended up at the NBA. :-)

And then I realized that the way discussions travel is web sociology, too. This list embraces that journey and recognizes that the journey is a group creation.

How much mail will I get?
You might get more than you want. I have had a few people unsubscribe with sincere regret because of the volume of mail. I would say the list is averaging more than 30 messages a day.

Some of them are long because sometimes you can´t make a reasoned argument or tell a story in two paragraphs. I don´t have an opinion on the size of people´s posts. I am more interested in the way they think.

There is a digest version that will give you a few 32K­sized messages per day, so if you wish to subscribe via your work address, this might be the better option.

But it is my sincere recommendation that subscribers use their personal email addresses for this list­­especially if they must report to a boss on how they are using their time.

Is there anything at all that is not permitted on this list?
This might be a little too rosy for me. I live in the real world.

Three years ago, we took a vote and decided that the list would not be a place to advertise your services or to ask for a review of your professional web site. However, over time, talking about work and asking advice has become a natural part of the discussion. A work-related post on Socks could focus on anything from nuclear waste cleanup to installing NT to web design. So, in the context of life, we decided professional posts were fine, and quite different from advertising. I suppose we have evolved.

If you include a link to a web site in a post, it should be to provide fuller editorial context for your philosophical point, or, perhaps if you find something side-splittingly funny, uniquely interesting, or helpful to another list member. But the website link should not be self-promotion for financial gain.

Copyright Law
In the spirit of preventing harm to the owners of words and other forms of intellectual property, we take the copyright laws seriously on this list.

List Rule:
Please refrain from posting copyrighted material, whether it be in written, graphic, musical or any other format you can think of.

Exception 1:
An attributed quote of 2 or 3 sentences may be used as something on which to base an original piece to the list. This would fall under the definition of Fair Use.

Exception 2:
Reprint permission. If you have obtained reprint permission for copyrighted material you feel is pertinent subject matter, please state this prominently with a note from the author, and the phrase, "the following is reprinted here with permission from the author," before you post the piece.

Reprint Permission Request Procedure
Many people are starting to get ideas about other artistic and educational ways they can showcase Socks. This creativity is a vital life force of our community. So that these projects can proceed smoothly, I am providing a procedure to request reprint permission from Socks authors for not only their words, but for using the Socks characters in a fictional representation.

  • Collect the texts you would like to use with the authors' names and email addresses.
  • Write individual email letters of permission to each author. In these letters, describe the purpose of your project and where it will be displayed, and include the quotes you wish to use.
  • Have the authors include your permission email in their reply stating their decision. Then you will have a written record that you got permission to use the stated text for your stated purpose.
  • Then separate the "yes's" from the "no's", and GO! Total Score. :-)

Two issues of privacy came up on the list. Our discussion traveled to the hurt people carried with them from their personal histories, and we shared a lot of our hearts with eachother. It was a beautiful thing. I loved it. But then someone thought of another angle.

What about privacy?
I think email to a list is "publishing," and as such is covered under the Berne Convetion on Copyright. Email is defined in terms of permanency and recoverability and is clearly the copyrighted property of the sender.

(ie, out loud) can be reproduced by anyone, to the best of my understanding. But what you print is protected. And how private is a message anyway, when it is broadcast to a list? These are all questions members must factor into their decision over what they want to reveal about themselves when posting here.

Crossover Membership
The Web Sociology List is also on the same page as The Web Design List, which has 2000 designers on it, many of them professionals. The two lists do not duplicate each other in what they provide members. However there is crossover membership.

A person´s revelation on The Web Sociology List might have professional reprecussions for those using the Web Design List to make professional contacts. It is a risk I must acknowledge, and that I hope members of Web Socks take into account when making a decision about what to post.

Although many find it therapeutic to talk about their personal emotions and receive support from our online community, you must make an "informed decision" about how much risk you are comfortable taking. These are just some of the ones that came up here. I wanted to mention them to new, and potential members, so they can have the benefit of the wisdom that was shared on the list before they came.

The Negative Stuff
I am no fan of negativity. But I have to recognize that there are certain behaviors that harm list communities.

I cannot anticipate all the situations that would come up. I can only think of situations mentioned by list members and things I have seen before in other online experiences that really bothered me.

If something I hadn´t thought of comes up, we will all deal with it then. So I am including some negative questions and answers for this purpose.

What would be better kept private and not posted to the list?
If a married person decides to have an affair with someone else on the list (married or single), I would prefer they do all that stuff in private mail.

I do not judge people on those issues. They are none of my business, and none of anyone else´s business either.

I mention this because a list member once posted that the public display of romantic sentiments between two married people irrevocably harmed another list she was on, and I have no intention of letting anything harm this list.

What would get me kicked off this list?
This is a sad question for me.

I have no intention of kicking anyone off. I have no intention of creating an atmosphere where people are afraid that if they have an opinion on a topic, they could get kicked off, but there are realities I have to consider. I hope everyone would agree that they would not want to be subjected to these types of dysfunctional behavior:

Hate Speech
Two examples: If a person starts a thread entitled, "All Jews Are Nazis," I will throw them off.

Similarly, if a person uses the N-word in an agressive, abusive manner to signify a racist sentiment towards another list member, I will throw them off.

Violent Sexual Fantasies
If someone uses abusive sexual language towards another member in a hateful way and/or posts a violent sexual fantasy about them to the list, I will throw them off.

Unsubscribing a member without his or her knowledge
The decision to subscribe or unsubscribe to a list is private. If someone goes to a list web page and unsubscribes a member without prior consent, and I find out who did it, I will throw them off.

False Email
If someone sends email under another member's name with the purpose of misrepresenting that member's views for prurient interest's sake, I will throw them off.

Email Harrassment
If a member, participant or lurker, subjects another member to malicious email harrassment based on what they have posted to Socks, and I find out about it, I will throw them off.

After being spammed by an errant member, we have decided to formally adopt an acceptable use policy, which explicitly prohibits junk email. Not only was this trespasser removed from the list, but letters were written that got him removed from his ISP. In addition, transmitting email in any such way as to disguise its point of origin will also result in getting that address removed from the list.

When people join Web Sociology, they do so to discuss what is on their minds. They do not join to be exposed to sociopaths, so, as moderator, it is my duty to assure people who are considering joining our community that I will be vigilant in dealing with dysfunctional behavior when it is exhibited.

However, an intelligent discussion about sociopaths on the web would be something that we would probably discuss at some point, and I draw a huge difference between being a sociopath and talking about the sociopathic communities on the web in an intelligent, thoughtful manner.

If anyone has any further questions, they are welcome to send me private mail at barbara@panix.com.

Hope we piqued your curiosity.

If you decide to give us a try, welcome to Web Sociology. :-) top of page

You may subscribe at topica.com

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