Web 2.Oh!

Web 2.Oh!

Wow, what a couple of weeks it has been in the ADR World-Wide-Web! Over at the NYC-DR listserv someone two weeks ago posted a request for facilitators between a certain age range. This created a firestorm of response. Some were very well written and opinions from both sides were in depth. Trying to keep my opinion aside (for as long as I can), there was a noticeable amount of people on the listserv that objected to all the opinions being raised. To keep things in perspective, there are approximately 1,500 people on the list.

The web, in this case a listserv, is a valuable resource that allows many different people, from many different places to express many different opinions. When is ‘many’ too many though?

If you want to read the original message and some of the featured responses, read my posting [here].

So how do you properly run a listserv that meets the needs of everyone? I’ll answer that very quickly by saying it is impossible to make everyone happy all the time. The listserv statement does clearly say the following:

Before going into the changes suggested by members, I wanted to look deeper into the issue. There are actually two issues the way I see it. First, the issue is the original post and if people thought it was fair to put such a limit on a request (it was age restrictions in case you old people forgot!). The second issue is I think is the massive amount of replies it received resulting in issue two- should such discussions remain on a listserv?

Perhaps the ‘Word of the Day’ is autonomy. “The Greater the autonomy we exercise, the greater the risk that our actions will be perceived by another person as impinging on their autonomy.”
[1] Roger Fisher’s passage here is spot on. One side was suggesting it continue as they enjoyed the conversation. The other side, not enjoying it (to put it mildly in some cases), wanted it moved away.

Those who liked it suggested people for those who did not to simply delete the messages or subscribe to a weekly digest.

In a ‘Web 2.Oh?’ moment, I found it shocking that in this day and age one’s email inbox could reach capacity from the back and forth responses. A certain subscriber gave the real example stating AAA tried contacting her for a case but could not as her AOL inbox was full. Just an aside, I do not suggest using AOL for work email, make the change to a service like Gmail where the storage capacity is much larger.

I wonder if any of these suggestions are done with empathy? Were people looking to continue their interests while meeting the others as well? This seems like an obvious example of a dispute with a partial basis on varying interests. Initially, I think a false consensus bias might have played a part as well.

The above comments I think applies to the other side as well. Suggesting it be moved over to a blog to continue the in depth discussion rightly solves their own inbox flooding problem. However, is there the chance the other can view this as fixing a problem that does not exist? I met the wishes of this request by posting the original posting and some responses (see it here) and as I said privately to one member via email something along the lines of, “I honestly do not think anyone will post their comments here [at the blog] as the suggestion was made not by the people commenting but rather those who do not want to read the comments. They did not ask for this and because of potentially being viewed as them being pushed here (without choice) I think they will shun it.”

That is exactly what will happen. I did receive many emails privately thanking me for posting it and there was a peak in visits to the blog (not hard to do when it is just dad and mom reading this usually) but zero public comments or discussion. Perhaps chalk a line on the ‘no one likes being told what to do’ column.

So what is the next step? Maria has made some suggestions. I suggest before reading them, ask yourself the questions I ask below and compare it to what she suggests.

Of course I cannot end this without mentioning my opinion. I am not really choosing sides but what I do want to add is this discussion I believe allows us to interact on a peer level that usually is only found, if you are lucky enough, after spending a couple of hundred bucks to attend a training or conference. This engagement is accessible to all. There is no fee charged by Maria to be a member.

There are many topics I would think would be ripe for such powerful, thought provoking responses. Caucusing, certification and hybrid models are three off the top of my head that I think are interests that would appeal to the majority of members. Is the preliminary question where should it be held though?

We are all knee deep in what we are supposed to do as professionals- stopping the cycle of verbal pushing, name calling (arguably happened) and self serving suggestions to search for a solution where everyone’s interests are met. I am the first to admit it is much easier to be a neutral than a party involved in these types of situations as there is for the most part a void of emotions compared to being involved.

Additionally I am not poking at autonomy- theirs or mine. I hope that for all those involved (bystanders too) this will allow you to reflect on what would you do if this issue was brought to you as a third party neutral? How will you handle all the emotions? What could you do to get each side to empathize? What is each side’s BATNA? Are the relationships, on the many different levels, important?

[1] Fisher, Shapiro (Penguin, 2005 Beyond Reason) page 74

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