Date: 5/9/19 11:26 am
From: <clearwater...>
Subject: [obol] This curious phenomenon called OBOL
I've been subscribed to OBOL on & off for about 20 years. It has been a contentious place as long as I can remember.

Topics of passionate debate in the first decade included global climate change, alleged urban head islands, cows and ranchers, photographers chasing owls, whether or not Laura Bush was really a birder, whether the invasion of Iraq might be beneficial for marsh birds there, whether the publication schedule of Oregon Birds was a national disgrace, and whether or not naked photos of the OFO president could be expected in the next edition.

Here for example is a robust exchange on the first topic, from the archives for April 2001:

Birder #1: "I asked a meteorologist acquaintance of mine [OSU faculty member] about the subject of polar ice as determined by a submarine transect of the Arctic Ocean as a measure of global climate change, and the urban "heat island" effect, and these are his answers: ..."

Birder #2: "What does this have to do with birding? Why are you continuing this thread? Look ... why not tell everyone that the one true source of scientific
knowledge is ... and be done with it? The scientific consensus is nearly unanimous on the issue of global warming. The fact that you can cherry-pick an opinion from a single friend ... who happens to be a faculty member at a second-rate university is hardly a compelling reason to ignore that scientific consensus."

Things are a little different now. No one still tries to claim that global climate change is a hoax (at least not on this list). No one wonders out loud whether the First Lady might be a positive influence on her husband's environmental policies. OFO has changed its name to OBA and we seldom hear complaints about its internal politics.

But there are still arguments, joined (with passion if not always glee) by both long-term and newer subscribers. Some people claim that they don't like arguments, but somehow they still want to register their opinions. This is also not a new thing.

There are people who assert that OBOL should only be about bird postings -- what's been seen and where to find it. But some don't want to hear about common backyard birds, just the rarities please! Some want to discuss details of bird ID at length. Some want to tout the latest apps. Some want to talk about data gathering methods. Some want to talk about bird conservation. Some want to talk about county listing accomplishments. Some like to reminisce about experiences with old birding buddies.

I'd guess that each of OBOL's 1600+ subscribers would rather not read postings in one or more of these categories. And indeed, there are plenty of other options. There's eBird for people who just want alerts of rarities that they "need" for their county year list. There are a dozen or so local birding lists around the state for people who want to share sightings of yard birds and other birds of local interest. There are Facebook groups for people who just want to share and look at bird photos.

Yet people keep signing up on OBOL, despite these other options. People who express dislike for particular topics or the tone of certain discussions still stay around, year after year. It's a curious thing -- what is it that causes OBOL to keep going and even growing, when none of us seems to agree entirely on what it should be?

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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