[b-hebrew] Bullying, Challenging, and Appeasing: The Patterns of B-Hebrew

John M. Linebarger jmlineb at comcast.net
Thu Apr 16 13:18:20 EDT 2009

Hmm ... would you mind teasing that out a bit, Isaac?

What's interesting to me are the number of off-list replies I have received in general support of my thesis.  Of course, the pattern labels aren't as rigorously determined as they would be if I had done a true ethnographic study.  But they were close enough to the mark that they seemed to resonate with several members of the list.

What I really should do is to provide some counts--number of messages either initiated by Jim or in response to Jim, versus all other messages.  In addition, I should also measure volume--volume of message text either initiated by Jim or in response to Jim, versus all other message text.  My intuition (supported by the intuition of others) is that the "Jim and contra-Jim" messages would dominate statistically, both by number and by volume.  But science progresses on data, which is hopefully forthcoming ...

My primary contention, which I submit to the list for approval or rejection (or something more nuanced in between), is that the B-Hebrew mailing list has been transformed into the Jim Stinehart blog.  He posts his voluminous blog entries to the list, and many people challenge him in comments to his blog entries (just like they do on Blogspot, for example).  Blog plus comments dominate other traffic.  This is ironic, because several people have recommended to Jim that he start his own blog.  But why bother when you already have your own blog, namely the B-Hebrew mailing list?  There is simply no incentive for him to find another forum.  We are feeding his dependency with our co-dependency, our unwillingness to exercise some tough love and cut off his abuse of the list.  To put it more dramatically, Jim is the Borg that is threatening to assimilate the B-Hebrew mailing list.

This phenomenon used to annoy me.  Now it just fascinates and amuses me.  I read the B-Hebrew mailing list like my wife watches telenovellas (Spanish Soap Operas), not to learn anything substantive about Biblical Hebrew, but instead to catch the latest installment of the Jim and Karl catfight.  To the extent that others read the list for the same reason, and are disuaded from posting themselves because their requests will be lost in the shuffle, the B-Hebrew has become dysfunctional with respect to its original intent.

----- Original Message -----
From: Isaac Fried 
To: John M. Linebarger 
Cc: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Thu, 16 Apr 2009 13:08:52 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Bullying, Challenging, and Appeasing:  The Patterns of B-Hebrew

Your observations, I am afraid, are facile and superficial.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Apr 15, 2009, at 2:57 PM, John M. Linebarger wrote:

> I'm a B-Hebrew lurker who occasionally posts questions, and has  
> also commented about the Jim Stinehart phenomenon.  However, by  
> trade I am a Computer Scientist.  My dissertation work was on  
> computational support for group collaboration patterns in a  
> distributed virtual environment for product design.
> So I'm both professionally and personally fascinated by the  
> patterns (ruts, really) that the B-Hebrew mailing list has fallen  
> into over the last several months (what I call the "Jim Stinehart"  
> era).  In fact, I am considering using B-Hebrew as a case study in  
> disfunctional Web-based collaboration and submitting the results to  
> a conference or journal.
> Here are my observations:
> 1.  Three patterns characterize recent B-Hebrew postings:  Bullying  
> (Jim), Challenging (Karl, et al.), and Appeasing (the moderators,  
> although George has adopted more of a Challenging pattern of late).
> 2.  The net effect of the Bullying, Challenging, and Appeasing is  
> that those patterns have drowned out the Question/Response,  
> Requests for Assistance, and Responsible Hypothesis Floating  
> patterns that used to characterize the list..  Statistically, they  
> simply dominate all other traffic.
> 3.  Not only do these new patterns dominate all other traffic, my  
> hypothesis is that it squelches and discourages other traffic  
> because questions get lost in the crossfire.  I know that I have  
> submitted questions from time to time recently that were never  
> answered, simply because all attention was focused on Jim.
> In short, it is hard not to conclude that the B-Hebrew is currently  
> disfunctional with respect to its original goals.  Sad, but  
> absolutely fascinating.  It will make a great case study.  Thanks!
> John M. Linebarger, PhD (Computer Science)
> Sandia National Laboratories
> Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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