[nafex ibiblio list] [NAFEX] NAFEX question

david.maxwell at dal.ca david.maxwell at dal.ca
Sun Dec 18 19:03:15 EST 2011

I too have been a dues-paying member of NAFEX for some 30 years, and continue to be.  So 
my comments are not motivated by the ability to get information free via the Web, rather than 
"paying" for it in NAFEX dues.  I have been following this debate with interest for a 
considerable time, (long before it became apparent to the members of the listserv that 
NAFEX had actually divorced themselves from it).  As well, I have introspected a bit on my 
own use of both the listserv and the new NAFEX website.  (This is not say that my actions 
are any more valid than anybody else.  But I suspect that I am probably fairly representative 
of many, if not the majority.  And the fact that the majority of subscribers to the listserv are 
not NAFEX members supports this.)

I have in actual fact gone to the NAFEX website only twice - once to look at it to see what a 
fine job Deb was doing, (ie. a critical evaluation of the technical aspects of the website itself) 
(And, I would add that she really has done a superb job; she is a very skilled webmaster, and 
deserves a very hearty vote of gratitude for the immense amount of work she has obviously 
put into it.)  The second time was when I was trying to get contact information for NAFEX 
executive members - information I could not get from the listserv, or any other source. 
Parenthetically when I tried to look at the Forum on the website I was blocked by technical 
issues, (ie. I was unable to get into it), so I really have nothing to compare the listserv to.  But 
I suspect that even had I been able to access the Forum I would not in fact use it, for the 
same reason I virtually never use similar fora in other areas of my interest, to wit that these 
are all "pull technologies".  That is, one has to log on and go looking to determine whether 
there is material of interest, or even anything new at all.  A listserv is a "push technology"; the 
information is delivered to the end-user in a form which permits rapid and efficient 
assessment of the relevance of the postings, equally permitting one to stop at this stage if 
nothing of relevance is displayed. Call it sloth or call it efficient time usage, if you want to 
condition a response from me of explicitly logging on to the website, followed by linking to a 
forum, (a 2 step process), you are going to have to reward me with something I cannot get 
more easily elsewhere, with markedly less effort, and the reward is going to have to be 
predictable and consistent.  (I am not going to go looking "just in case" something new has 
been posted.)  So, at an absolute minimum, unless some form of email notification of new 
postings is implemented, this Forum is a lost cause.

Now, this is not necessarily a tragedy, (other than it having obviously required an immense 
amount of work on Deb's part, work which may have been mis-directed.)  It is my personal 
belief that the information-sharing function is best served precisely by an open listserv, such 
as the present one.  Personally I think the decision to divorce NAFEX from this listserv, and 
try to create what is arguably a competitor for the same function may not have been wise. 
(Another strike against the Forum is the increased technical complexity inherent in it.  It is 
unusable to me because I can't get into it, and this flows from this same complexity.  Even 
when Deb sorts out precisely why I can't get in, and fixes it, she will have lost a substantial 
number of potential subscribers who can't be bothered to pursue it, and she will still have a 
potentially unstable login process - unstable simply because it involves several systems 
which are expected to talk to each other seamlessly. (They never do))

So, my own bias would be to critically examine the functions which one is trying to serve, 
retain for the NAFEX website those things which can best be implemented in this setting, and 
leave for other technologies those things which are better performed through them.  (And this 
includes things like Facebook, which I have no interest in using, but obviously does serve 
some useful function for some others.)

But I was not in any way involved in any of this, and it is wholly inappropriate for me level any 
criticism of those who were charged with making these strategic decisions, and who I am 
certain did what they in their best and wisest judgement thought most desirable.

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