[nafex ibiblio list] NAFEX fora

david.maxwell at dal.ca david.maxwell at dal.ca
Tue Dec 20 11:08:54 EST 2011

>       I have been signed up for the Nafex Ibibliio list for some time, 
> even though I was
>       not a member of Nafex.  Although NAFEX does not advertise it, they 
> appear to
>       accept all applicants. 

I have absolutely no insider knowledge of the history and politics behind all this, but I rather 
suspect that some of those who do, feel they are not at liberty to speak.  So I will give my 
surmised analysis, and the NAFEXers can respond or not as they feel appropriate.  

A previous NAFEX executive concluded, a number of years ago, that a forum for exchange 
of information would be a good idea, (essentially replacing the original round-robin letter roots 
of NAFEX).  They lucked into ibiblio as a host for their new forum.  (Ibiblio has nothing 
whatsoever to do with NAFEX, or indeed any other of the hundreds of special interest groups 
who use their - free -  service.  It is a public service run by "a collaboration of the Center for 
the Public Domain and The University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill".  They take no interest 
in the actual content, but provide the infrastructure to host the storage and distribution of this 
content.  Now, the forum was to serve the function of information exchange for NAFEX 
members, so it was, quite reasonably, named "nafex.iblio".  However, owing to the nature of 
ibiblio, which is completely open, subscriptions to the forum were not restricted to dues-
paying members of NAFEX, and over the years an increasing percentage of the subscribers 
dropped their NAFEX membership as they discovered that they still had access to the forum.  
NAFEX became alarmed when they realised that their membership was declining, and 
reacted by trying to recreate the function which was being served by the iblio forum - 
information exchange - but this time in a form over which they could exercise control - a web-
based forum, (rather than a listserv).  As I indicated in a previous post, my own personal 
opinion is that this format cannot compete with a listserv in ease and efficiency of use.  But 
the executive of NAFEX saw it otherwise and forged on creating their private forum, 
presumably in the belief that this was essential to the continued existence of the organisation.  
At the same time, to maintain a logical separation, they were obliged to formally renounce 
any association whatsoever with the iblio listserv.  So, "NAFEX does not advertise it" 
precisely because they no longer consider it their baby.  And, yes, the iblio forum does 
"accept all applicants", because that is the very nature of ibiblio.

NAFEX cannot kill the ibiblio forum, because it isn't theirs.  They have chosen to try to 
compete with it, I suspect because they perceived this as necessary to the survival of the 
organisation itself.  The "market" will determine the wisdom of this decision.  

   I re-joined Nafex recently, mainly to see what was going 
> on with their
>       web site.  I was not impressed by what I saw.  

As I said previously, my own feeling is that this is simply an issue of functionality and 
efficiency of competing technologies

>   Midfex is just now considering 
> such a move.
>        I plan to keep the Midfex forum on Ibiblio going, no matter what, 
> and I believe
>        the Nafex administrator is planning a similar thing. 

Now we get to the meat.  My own feeling is that a listserv serves this specific need better 
than a web-based forum which requires logging in, and Midfex might be wise to let NAFEX 
be the test of this.  That is, wait awhile before going down this road, and see whether NAFEX 
actually can make a go of it.  And, no, "the NAFEX administrator" is not planning anything 
one way or another in terms of keeping the iblio forum going, because it is not hers to 
exercise any control of.  It belongs to ibiblio, and they have neither incentive to make any 
changes, nor expressed intention of doing so.

And, as a wholly gratuitous comment, my personal feeling is that NAFEX, (and Midfex!) might 
be better carving out a "market" in things that are not served by any other entity, rather than 
trying to compete for a function that may be better served by some other entity.

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