Date: 7/17/20 11:15 pm
From: Chuq Von Rospach via <chuqui=<>
Subject: [southbaybirds] (ADMIN) Late Evening thoughts on then Red Bishop, SBB Archives, and an SBB State of the Union
If I've learned nothing else in all the years of running lists and other things online, it's that you have to know when to ask for advice, shut up and listen to it, and get away from the keyboard to think it through rather than push forward in a hurry. I want to thank everyone tonight for the thoughtful feedback you sent me, it was all much appreciated.

I have a couple of thoughts based on an evening of watching pretty uninspired MLS soccer and pondering life.

First, a further thought on the Red Bishop and the sightings we've posted about it: I got a few emails that led me to believe some folks are upset and thinking they did something wrong by posting about the bird. Absolutely not -- everyone's activity here on the list involving this bird was perfectly fine. If I at all implied to you otherwise, I'm sorry. Nobody here did anything wrong, not one little bit.

The fact is, sometimes people do the wrong things with the information posted here and in other sites like eBird. Despite that, there is vast value in that information that more than offsets the occasional problems that also can occur, and it's important for all of us (including/especially me) to keep that perspective in mind. This list does a lot of good -- and it occasionally can do a little harm.

We do what we can to minimize the risk of that happening, but the fact that nothing in life is 100% perfect doesn't mean we shouldn't do things. It means we need to try our best, and if that's not good enough, see what we can to to mitigate the damage and do better next time. Since it's not clear that SBB was the cause of the problems in the first place in this situation, what I've been trying to figure out is where I think we are creating opportunities for problems that can be avoided. That's why I restricted access to the archives today, and to be honest, that was a discussion I was having with myself going back to the move from Yahoo Groups, and today I finally decided it was the right change to make: I trust the people on the list. I can't trust random strangers as much, and worse, I can't police those random people using the archives if it's not private. And, to be honest, if you use the archives and find value in them, I believe you SHOULD be a member of SBB and contributing back to the community, so I have no problem with restricting access to them as I did today. Anyone can still access them; they just need to identify themselves a bit. The internet has changed in the last few years, not in good ways, and where we could trust others or fly under the radar a bit more, now we have to be more vigilant what we share and how we share it.

Which brings me to the second thing, whether or not to cut off the Sialia digest site from accessing SBB. The strong consensus to that idea was it was a bad idea, that it was not likely to reduce this problem and those digests are a valuable resource. Having read and thought about that feedback, I agree, and so I won't make any change here. Having said that, I have issues with that site; for instance, while the groups system is really good at protecting your email address, the Sialia site does a poor job of obscuring email addresses, which means its leaking your personal information out there for someone to scrape. I wish a project could be pulled together to upgrade that site in many ways (but I'm not remotely going to try to get that one organized). I do agree it has value, but the technology is old and could use some significant updates. This would be a wonderful project for a group like Audubon California to take on and sponsor.

For those of you who asked what Sialia is: it's a site that pulls together list archives from almost all of the california state mailing lists into one location. It can be really handy if you're doing research for an out of local area trip (hey, remember when we did tho

Part of the reason I changed the access today was that I've been very aware of how the online universe has been changing and the wide access of that information has worried me even before today's fun. This was less the reason for that change than the alarm bell that it was overdue. To give you some insight into my recent thinking, about a week ago I wrote up a "state of the union" type email which I shared with the other people helping me as admins on this list. In retrospect, I probably should have shared it with all of you as well, so now I will, because I think it gives some perspective on my views that shaped the change I made today. It has been a crazy few months where I'm constantly finding myself needing to poke my admin fingers into topics and situations, which is very unusual for this list -- I've always prided myself on how well this list runs itself without me needing to intervene. That this stopped happening has worried me, and it's been one of the things I've been studying in the background to understand what it means and what (if anything) to do about it. The state of the union collects those thoughts and I think they will be useful context for some of what's gone down today.

I'd love your feedback on all of this, as always (especially where you think I've gotten it wrong!), but please send it privately, not to the list.


A bit of a quick "state of the union" note

I'm thinking right now it's a couple of inter-related things. One is that we've been making a conscious to tie these lists into SCVAS, which is turning this from a niche community you had to figure out existed, and so it tended to slip under the radar, into a bigger, more visible community serving a wider audience, but also having more impact.

I think this is a really good thing, but it implies we have to be more responsible about how this resource is used. The second is that because of that first, things that we might have let slide now have bigger impact and so we have to deal with. These recent nesting issues are things that a year ago we might have let slide -- and I know 3-4 years ago we definitely would have, and earlier than that they wouldn't have been considered problems at all.

The analytics of the birding site seems to back that up; a year ago, it was seeing 10-15 pageviews a day, when I made the migration it was more like 50+, and much of that was coming from organic search: we were being found by people not looking at us through traditional birding sites or SCVAS. It'll take a month or two on the new squarespace site for the analytics to settle down and be useful, but I expect in a few months we may do even better since I think we'll get better overall SEO from the new one.

I think overall the list is in good shape and things are working well. I love the new Squarespace site over my old Wordpress design, and it makes updating and extending it a lot easier. I need to start looking at adding in access to it to you other admins to allow you to poke at it and perhaps start working on it a bit, too.

A few months back Jim and I had started talking about him stepping into the lead admin role as part of the process to migrate this list into your hands, and that went on hold when things got a bit crazy. My sense is we're now through that crazy bit and it should settle down again into more routine things, so I'll be looking at starting that discussion again. I still haven't sat down (real or virtual) with Matthew on officially handing over ownership of the list to SCVAS, but I think both of us feel that's maybe a 30 minute discussion, not anything complicated.

I don't see any significant issues with the lists right now (well, other than the pandemic making us all really grumpy). The ongoing admin challenges I think we'll face are ones of enthusiasm over thinking through the consequences -- which sums up the nest issue in a nutshell. And that kind of problem is a good one to have, since we want people enthusiastic about sharing, and it's about nudging people into more constructive directions, not wading in and breaking up bar fights.

So I feel good about where the lists are and how they're working, and I'm really thrilled to see them becoming major resources for county birding over niche groups of the "in crowd", even if that raises the bar for how we have to be responsible about how the lists are used.

If you disagree with that assessment, please pass along your thoughts. I'd love to hear about things I might have missed.


Chuq Von Rospach
Email: <chuqui...>
Twitter: @chuq
Silicon Valley, California

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