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Sam, you are on too many mailing lists!

While I was working on the failed inbox zero project, one of my friends said something to me like Sam, I think you’re on too many mailing lists. You should unsubscribe [1]. I started taking notes on this essay when I received that message. I’ve come back to the essay after yesterday’s listserve chaos.

Why do I subscribe to so many mailing lists? Mostly because I garner valuable information from the mailing lists. I’m also a push person rather than a pull person [2]. So let’s consider what I subscribe to [4].

Most of the mailing lists are professional, so let’s star with those.

racket-users is a mailing list for people who use the Racket programming language. I mostly subscribe to see what people are chatting about, and for important announcements, and can quickly delete most messages. Being on the racket-users list has led me to hear about some conferences that I ended up presenting at, kept me connected to a project I find interesting, and given me a few ideas for teaching.

SIGCSE-members and SIGCSE-announce, are the mailing lists for the Association of Computing Machinery Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education. SIGCSE is my professional society, and there’s great discussion of all sorts of issues in CS education. As a department chair [5], I also find it useful to see what kinds of job postings are going out. I also serve as one of the two moderators of these lists, so it only seems reasonable that I should also receive them.

SIGCIS-members is the mailing list for the Special Interest Group on Computers, Information, and Society. From the SIG, you might think it’s associated with ACM. But you’d be wrong; ACM does not have a trademark on SIG [6], so other can use it. You might not be able to tell from the name, but SIGCIS mostly serves as a mailing list for folks who do scholarship or other work in the history of computing. Folks from the Computer History Museum and the Charles Babbage Institute are on the list. I learn many interesting things on this list; it may be my favorite list. SIGCIS-members keeps an archive, but since older messages seem to have been moved elsewhere, I find it useful to keep the messages that I find relevant.

SIGCAS-members is the mailing list for the ACM Special Interest group on Computers and Society. SIGCAS-members is usually pretty quiet, but when it perks up, there are some fairly serious debates. One of the more interesting threads was about whether or not SIGCAS should give Snowden an award.

I don’t know of any SIG mailing lists in which the SIG has some permutation of C, S, and O, or C, S, and U. However, given that I enjoy mailing lists with the C, S, and one of the other vowels, I’d probably enjoy those, too.

Internet Patent News arrives once per week and provides an insightful view into issues of patents and computing technology. I don’t always agree with the author, but I find it useful to skim, particularly since I teach Tutorials related to intellectual property and sometimes get tapped to serve on task forces at the College related to intellectual property [7]. Since Internet Patent News charges for access to its archive, I tend to save these issues.

ACM TechNews arrives a few times a week. I don’t think I ever officially subscribed to TechNews; it just comes automatically as part of my membership in ACM. I skim it quickly and delete it. Sometimes I find an interesting link and follow up on it.

The ACM Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems (aka Risks digest) arrives a few times a week. As you could probably tell from some of the earlier lists, I care about the impact of technology on society. Risks provides a venue for thinking about these issues. I tend to skim it. I’m not sure why I save the Risks digest, since it’s archived, but I often do. I should stop.

The Chronicle of Higher Education sends me a digest of sorts every day. I probably don’t need to see what’s going on in the world of higher education each day, even though it is my broader community, but I really enjoy thinking about these issues [8]. Once I read Chronicle, I delete it. On days that I don’t read Chronicle, I try to delete it anyway.

There is a Teaching Open Source mailing list, but it is rarely active. Since I’m active in the TOS community [9] (although less so than I’d like), I like to know what’s going on. The TOS mailing list tends to be my lead-in to meetups at conferences and other such things.

The BetaSaaSers mailing list is for folks who are teaching in-person versions of the Fox/Patterson Software as a Service Course [12]. This group should be one of my core teaching communities, but I am less active in it than I should be. Still, it’s worthwhile to see what folks are thinking about.

There is also a media computation list. It, like the TOS list, is rarely active. Since I have a media-computation-flavored introductory course, I find it useful to be in this group. However, I don’t tend to be very active in the group.

The Computing Research Association Bulletin arrives two or so times per week. I think I receive it because I’m chair of a CRA department. I tend to skim it for interesting news. I occasionally follow up on one or more of the things mentioned. I probably don’t read these in enough depth.

I also get some National Science Foundation Bulletins. I think I subscribed to news related to CS at some point or other. I should probably read these in more depth, but I usually just skim them quickly and then discard. But sometimes something catches my eye. I’m pretty sure that I heard about the program that gave the Grinnell Science Project its Presidential Award from this bulletin and passed it on to our Grants office (which then helped kickstart the process that led to us getting the award). That makes it worth reading.

That covers the vast majority of my professional mailing lists. I may be on a few others, but they are less memorable and probably arrive much less often. Beyond those, I subscribe to a variety of lists that either provide enjoyment or expand my knowledge [14].

I get a weekly newsletter from Keith Knight, one of my favorite cartoonists. I actually pay for this newsletter because I consider it important to support some of the artists I appreciate.

I subscribe to the Audities Digest which contains discussions of a genre of music known as Power Pop (think about descendants of the Who; good melody, lots of energy) as well as some related genres. Audities is much less active than it used to be. I’m pretty sure that conversations moved online and I did not follow them.

Every Friday morning I get my weekly dose of The Straight Dope. I’ve been reading Cecil Adams since the mid-1980’s or so (with some gaps), back when I lived in Chicago and read The Chicago Reader regularly [15]. Silly cartoons, somewhat strange questions, and somewhat sarcastic answers make a wonderful combination [16].

I get a daily digest from I need to get liberal extremism from somewhere. I tend to skim these, read an article or two, and then delete them.

I get five messages each day from Portside moderator, just to make sure that I get my a sufficient daily dose of liberal perspective. I tend to skim these messages and then delete them.

I’m not sure when, but at some point I subscribed to the Artsy mailing list. Artsy is an interesting company; they try to use a Pandora-like genome on modern art. Unlike Pandora, they do most of the classification of characteristics manually, using Art Historians [17]. What’s their economic model? Well, they classify new works for art dealers and provide a way for mid-level collectors to find pieces that meet their tastes. I subscribe not because I buy art, but because I find the newsletter and approach interesting. I also had a really wonderful conversation with their CIO when one of our majors had applied for a job there.

As long as we’re on the subject of art, I also get the AMA Newsletter. No, that’s not the American Medical Association; it’s something like Arts Media Agency. This newsletter seems to be for high-end art collectors. Even though I’m not a high-end art collector, I like seeing what kinds of things AMA thinks such collectors are interested in. A recent issue had a DATA: Robert Rauschenberg section that tracks things like the number of exhibitions by type and the number of articles written about him, as well as data about the distribution of recent sales.

I think it’s good that I get fewer non-professional mailing lists than professional mailing lists. But perhaps not. Beyond the professional and non-professional lists, I also get a few mailing lists related to Grinnell, including the Campus Memo, the grinnellparents listserve, the grinnell-family listserve, the bi-weekly Faculty News Digest, the csfaculty and csstuddents [18] listserves, and probably a few others.

Finally, there’s one I don’t know how to classify. Each day at 3pm Central Time, I get the Proofpoint End User Digest. Proofpoint is our mail filtering software. The End User Digest lists the messages that are borderline spam, so Proofpoint doesn’t want to forward them along, but also doesn’t want to filter. I’d say about 25% of those are messages I want to receive.

Okay, maybe I do subscribe to a lot of mailing lists. But I’m not sure which I’d drop, since I derive value from all of them [9].

[1] Of course, they said this while they had a Twitter reader up on their screen, with lots of feeds. I’m not sure there’s a difference, other that when you ignore your feed, the old stuff goes away.

[2] That means that I prefer to have things sent to me, rather than to seek them out. I’m rarely on Facebook or Twitter [3].

[3] These days, I go on Facebook and Twitter once per day to post the essays.

[4] I’m not going to include things like Pact Publishing, Oxford University Press, Lands End, or even StackSocial, which are companies from whom I have purchased something and who therefore feel obligated to send me regular email, since I don’t think of myself as having subscribed to their mailings. I’m also not going to include the various musicians who send me email because I’ve bought their music online.

[5] Okay, a soon-to-be-former department chair.

[6] Or its predecessor, SIC.

[7] I’m currently on a revised Task Force on Patent Policy. I think it’s my fault the Task Force was revived. The prior Task Force finished the Policy and passed off the task of writing process and similar documents to those who were to administer the policy. I wrote to ask about that follow-up work and the Task Force came back with the challenge to write those additional documents as well as to deal with a new section that the College attorneys insisted we add.

[8] No, that does not mean that I should become an administrator.

[9] Also the HFOSS (Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software Community) [10].

[10] Someone must have suggested FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) as an alternative to FOSS [11].

[11] Ah, Richard Stallman has written an essay on FOSS and FLOSS; he advocates for FLOSS.

[12] Grinnell’s CSC 321 is one such course, although each semester I seem to stray further and further from the core curriculum.

[14] Yes, expanding my knowledge also produces enjoyment and some kinds of enjoyment also expand my knowledge. I still find it useful to categorize them separately.

[15] I miss regularly reading The Reader. I also wonder if there’s an archive anywhere. There was this amazing article on Daddy G that I remember reading, but have never been able to track down online.

[16] David Feldman’s books scratch a similar, but different, itch.

[17] Including the legendary Remy Ferber ’14.

[18] I tend to refer to csstudents as Spam from Sam or just SpamR because of the volume email that I send or forward to that list.

[19] The life of an information junkie-slash-hoarder [20] is a difficult one.

[20] I planned to write information junkie/hoarder, but I hear the phrase with the slash pronounced explicitly, so I wrote it explicitly. I also expect that some portion of my readers think that / is a backslash, and I cringe at people pronouncing it junkie-backslash-hoarder.

Version 1 of 2017-03-10.