use rules for internet mailing lists

JQ Johnson jqj at
Wed Jul 2 13:16:42 EDT 1997

As the discussion on web4lib has become increasingly strident and the
signal to noise ratio has decreased, I've begun to wonder whether a change
in the posting policy would be in order.  I suggest this change not just
for web4lib, but also as a topic that itself is worthy of discussion on the
list, since web-based access to discussion lists is within the purview of

Many courses at the University of Oregon use email discussions.  One of the
recommendations I make to faculty setting up a discussion is that they set
parameters for student participation.  In addition to a small grade
component being assigned for participation, I always recommend that the
faculty member set both minimum and maximum participation limits
(depending, on the number of students in the course, naturally).  I've seen
a strong correlation between such limits and successful pedagical use of
computer mediated discussion.  For example, a typical recommended rule for
a 100-student class (adapted from one faculty member's syllabus) is:

  Each student is required to post a minimum of two thought-
  provoking messages to the group.  In order to avoid having
  the on-line discussion become unmanageable, each student will
  also have a maximum number of posted messages of 2 per week.
  Also any given message should be no longer than 50 lines of

My questions:

1/ What guidelines can librarians suggest to improve the quality (and
information content) of electronic discussions?
2/ for web4lib, would it be appropriate to have a similar max limit to the
one my faculty member imposes, perhaps phrased as a guideline rather than a
hard limit?

JQ Johnson                      office: 115F Knight Library
Academic Education Coordinator  e-mail: jqj at
1299 University of Oregon       voice: 1-541-346-1746
Eugene, OR  97403-1299          fax: 1-541-346-3485

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