Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Listservs are sooo 1995

Ah, institutional inertia. We physics educators might pride ourselves in innovative techniques and strategies, but in the end, we're likely as bad as anyone else.

So it is with listservs. When email was an emerging technology, the listserv provided a means by which people with similar interests could broadcast emails to each other. Responses were similarly broadcast, and conversations took place. Listservs were good. At least they were in 1995. The physics teaching community weighed in strong with the Physhare and Phys-L listservs, not to mention the AP Physics listserv.

Time and technology march on, though. So these days, people with similar interests typically communicate via online forums. These are webpages that fill with threads comments from individuals. Not strings of email to clutter up your email storage space. Webpages that occupy their own webspace. Brilliant! And de rigeur for online communities since about 2000.

Examples: The DPReview Forum (for digital camera enthusiasts) and the JREF Forum (for skeptics).

So here it is 2007. Physhare and Phys-L continue apace. But where are the true online fora for physics educators? If I had the skills, I'd set one up myself. Clearly, there are physics educators out there with the skills. It takes time, talent, and energy just to keep the listservs afloat. But listservs are yesteryear's news. Reminds me of ye olde BBSs: great in their day, but their day has passed.

If they're out there and I'm too dim a bulb to find them, please light my way! And if you can tell me why a listserv is better than a true online forum, please do. I'm clearly ranting here, but I'm open to education.

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