Herding Cats

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Sat, 24 Jan 2004 17:33:22 PST
Dear All,

I've been giving some thought to Ken Hixon's question to me found under 
Yellow Delphiniums.

>         In other words, what do you see as the role of the PBS list?  It
>surely serves different people in different ways.  Running a list is
>"about like trying to herd cats" to quote someone, but which ways would
>you like to herd these cats?

It is true that technically I "own" this list along with Arnold and 
Jennifer who help me, but I don't think any of us really like that term 
very much. I see my responsibility more as helping people who need 
assistance getting signed up or figuring out how to go to no mail or get 
the digest or to figure out how to send text messages, etc. It is important 
to me that our list be friendly and inclusive and open to anyone who is 
interested in the subject at hand. I see it as a source of information 
about geophytes, so that includes information about where they are found 
and the latest in what the taxonomists would like us to call them. We have 
a gardening focus so  there will be conversations about soils, 
microclimates, fertilizers, diseases, pests, and plants we can grow with them.

I believe most of the time people do stay on topic and when they do not, 
usually it doesn't last long. We have people from all over the world and we 
have a mix of beginners, gardeners who grow a few bulbs but that is not 
their primary focus, experienced growers, garden writers, taxonomists, 
collection holders, botanists, people who work at botanical gardens, and 
people who make their living selling plants (including bulbs or seeds and 
other plants as well.) We also have a large number of lurkers who I don't 
know anything about at all. I have been impressed at the helpful thoughtful 
responses that come from our members. With such a broad mix there will 
always be topics that will appeal more to some people than to others.

Over time I think when you are on a list like this one where you are 
sharing with others you become a community or as Dave Fenwick once said 
like family so I expect that sometimes information will be shared about 
other members of the community so we can reach out to them. If someone is 
traveling to an area and wants information about where to go I see this as 
another example of turning to the people in this community for assistance.

As for what specifically we talk about, I think that will be whatever 
people choose to bring up. I just can't imagine I'd have much control over 
that and so the term "herding cats" seems a great analogy.  If anyone has a 
question about anything geophytic, then it is fair game. I'm not going to 
say to anyone that they can't talk about Clivia because there already is a 
list for that or Trillium, Lilium, Oxalis, or any of the other genera that 
have their own list. I never know what will be of interest to our members. 
In choosing topics of the week I go by suggestions made to me and my 
knowledge of whether we might have a resource person in our group who can 
provide us information. At first it didn't look like yellow flowered bulbs 
was going to be very popular, but then it took off and from my stand point 
was one of the best discussions with offset topics on color. That was 
partly because so many different people participated. I'm already looking 
forward to discussing some of the other colors later in the year, but it is 
entirely possible that when I do not many people will respond.

I try to pull people into the conversation as many of you have noticed when 
I know they have answers to questions. I'm not always successful in this 
but I try. Everyone is encouraged to turn the conversation to what they 
want to talk about. Sometimes you'll get something going and sometimes not. 
Sometimes if no one responds the first time, they will if you ask again.

So if you want to discuss geophytic Salvias, Fuchsias, Geraniums, 
Pelargoniums--you name it, it is allowed. If I think about the private 
messages I have felt I needed to write as administrator of this list I have 
had to write only a couple of times asking people to keep the tone polite. 
I asked someone who was appending jokes at the end of a post not to. I 
frequently ask people not to include the whole previous subject in their 
post alas! I occasionally remind people not to be commercial since that is 
not allowed on ibiblio. Most people are really good about writing private 
messages privately instead of posting them on the list. If that got to be a 
problem I'd try to address it. But I do think we can all use the delete key 
for those messages that are not of interest. Every now and then some 
message that should have been private touches someone else so something 
good comes out of it.

I am very appreciative of our wiki. It means we can all be together on our 
list regardless of whether we have a fast connection. Those people who are 
interested in seeing examples of what we are talking about can go look at 
them and those people who could care less can just delete the post. It also 
gives people who do not have a web site of their own a place to add their 
pictures and makes it easy to find the information and a picture later 
after the discussion.

The pbs list in my mind belongs to everyone who is a member of it and so 
what it becomes depends on all of you.

Mary Sue

PBS List Administrator, Wiki Worker, TOW Coordinator (Whew!)

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