Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A poll and a note on e-mails

First, Eli suggested a new poll.

"What is your favorite movie?" is the question.

Guidelines, from me, you're limited to one choice only. If you list more than one, I'll either grab the first one listed or toss out your vote.

Please feel free to explain why you chose the film you did if you're comfortable with that. And please note if it's okay to quote you on that.

Your choice will stand. After it's blogged, there will be no changes to it.

After a post is up, I don't go back and change my remarks. (If Shirley says something is really not clear, I'll try to clarify. I'll also do corrections on typos.)

But five people wanted their choices for book changed. One wrote, "Someone named Charlotte's Web and I didn't even think about children's lit so I need you to go back and add this."

I frequently think of something after I've written. Something I should have said. But, to quote Kat, "It is what it is." And I really don't think it's authentic to go back and change a post because someone's response, for instance, made you decide you should add a book. (One person wanted ten books added.)

It is what it is.

I offered a new post where we could comment that these were replies to the other posts. But the five didn't want that. What they wanted was for the original post to be changed.

I'm not doing that. I'm sorry. To me it seems dishonest. Someone else says something, you wish you'd said something similar but you didn't, and now you think it's okay that your comments are changed. I don't think so. To me, it's dishonest.

A number of people named books that I wished I had named. I didn't go back to my response to Beth and change mine. I took it as, "Well that's one I should have thought of."

There were no "right" answers. You were listing what came to mind for you. Beth wrote in, "Wow, there are some really smart people. I wished I'd thought of some of those choices." Me too. And I think Beth has the right attitude.

The point of sharing is not to come off as the smartest in the room. The point is to share. Rebecca picked Valley of the Dolls. She's blogged on the response she got (that others liked it as well but didn't want to name it) and similar e-mails came in here as well.

A number of people (seven) wrote in that they were surprised my choices did not include Maxine Hong Kingston's book since it had been excerpted. I honestly didn't think of it at that moment. But I didn't feel the need to go back on Sunday (when I did think of it as I read through the e-mails to put the list together). It's a book I wished I'd named, but I didn't name it. So it would be false of me to go back and rewrite history.

There were also complaints about a list that went way over six. I understand that. Which is why we're only doing one movie. If you list more than one, you'll have to list it somewhere else.
My choice will be posted later.

This post and other posts that go up are done in advance. Look at the bottom of the post and it will note whether this was written in advance or not. When this posts, I will already be out of town and away from the computer. A friend has been kind enough to go in and post things saved to draft. Kat swears she will post on Thursday. At least once but she hopes three times.
Fingers crossed, that will happen.

About e-mails. We're now way over five hundred a day. Responding to each one is taking too much time. All are read but in the future (should start if you e-mail right now) an automated respone will be sent out. I'm stealing the idea from The Third Estate Sunday Review.

If something else is needed, I will respond.

This is not to discourage anyone from sharing. Please continue to share your comments, and if you want them shared on the blog, they'll be shared here.

You can send your poetry (or any other writing). Just to share with me or (as with three in the past) to be shared with the community. I'm not trying to stop that.

Your comments that you don't want posted are still welcome. They do have impact.

But coming back Sunday to over a thousand e-mails, I really didn't think I was ever going to be able to reply to all of them. And I'm very "things to do list" in my personality. So it irritates me if I don't reply. Hence, the automated reply.

Frank in Orlando gave permission to share an e-mail exchange.

Frank in Orlando: Good point? I write you a 25k e-mail and you respond basically "good point?" At the very least, your response should have been a third of my 25k e-mail.

Frank's e-mail was one of the many e-mails waiting on Sunday.

I'd stated a few weeks back (maybe a month ago), that I was going to attempt to be very brief in my replies. When I finished replying to Frank ("Good point. I think this is something we should address as a community? Is it okay to quote you?"), I was thrilled that after six hours, I'd finally replied to the last e-mail. Then I hit "check mail" and there were e-mails that had come in. (Only six but my whine/groan could probably be heard for miles.)

If we're going to share as a community, I can't be spending (as I did Sunday) more time on e-mails than on the blog. In a world with more time, Frank in Orlando would get a response that his thoughtful e-mail deserved. But my time is limited to the same twenty-four hours in a day that everyone else is limited to.

Frank in Orlando did make good points. (He doesn't want to share from that e-mail.) I enjoyed reading his e-mail. But I'm really starting to worry that replies to the e-mails are overtaking the community.

I expressed this when I addressed e-mails earlier. And it's no one's fault but my own because for two days, I did keep the replies limited and then quickly slid back into long replies.

Frank in Orlando has gotten lengthy replies prior. He was short changed in his Sunday reply. (As was everyone.) I'm sorry that the only solution I can come up with is an automated reply.

When I told Frank in Orlando that he noted a column by Daniel Okrent about how the Times got "80,000 e-mails or letters a year." And now I was doing the same thing as the Times?

If one person at the Times has replied to 1,000 e-mails in one day, my apologies to them.

They're a great person and far better than I am. But with e-mails now topping over 500 a day, if this continues, we're looking at 3,500 a week. Times 50 (I'm dropping the 2 weeks to make the math easier for me) weeks in a year, and, if my math is correct, that's 165,000 a year. Presumably, the Times has more than one person to answer the 80,000 (I believe Frank's figure is correct but I'm not going to go back through Okrent's columns to prove it).

We share here and the e-mails are the way we communicate because the community was against posting replies on the site. So the e-mails are very important.

The best entries have come as a result of the e-mails. That's both when an e-mail revolves around your responses and when it is inspired by your comments.

But there's only so much that I can do. I'm not going to farm the e-mails out to someone because I want to read them and need to read them to know what we need to be discussing and what we are thinking.

But I'm not going to be able to post to the blog, read all the e-mails and reply to all the e-mails.
On Monday, when requests for changes to the Sunday entry started coming in, I wasn't happy.
It was Monday and we needed to focus on Monday and instead time was taken up by a Sunday post. Not a response to a Sunday post. Not a request that we do a reply to the Sunday post. But that time be spent editing the Sunday post to change people's responses and add to them.

Keesha's comments about MLK were dead on accurate, but let me be really honest, I didn't do a single entry on MLK. I cited Democracy Now!'s episode (which is worth watching or listening to, so please do so if you haven't). But I had planned to do something on that. There wasn't any time for that.

I was caught going back and forth regarding changes to the Sunday book entry and also responding to the members who had written. I went to sleep that night feeling like I had accomplished very little. And it was a very non-Oprah feeling (in case Gina's wondering) that I had towards people who wanted to go back and make changes. (I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone with whom I exchanged e-mails on that topic.)

If you e-mail the site now, you'll get an automated reply. The reply will thank you for writing and note that if you wanted to be quoted, you needed to indicate that and indicate how you wanted to be referred to. So if you did want to be quoted, when you get that e-mail, you need to reply that you want to be quoted if you didn't include it in your e-mail. I'm not going to e-mail "Do you want to be quoted?"

If you have something that needs a reply, I'll reply. But otherwise, that's going to be it.

I also won't be e-mailing "heads up" that you're quoted in the post that just went up or a reply that it will go up later in the week. I wish I had a better answer, and if someone thinks they have one e-mail it in, but that's the best I can come up with. (And since I came up with it, it's probably a hideous idea. I did e-mail fifty-one people who e-mailed daily and forty-seven of them said the policy was liveable.)

I wish I had more time and, who knows, a lotto win or Publisher's Clearinghouse could provide me with more time. (I "too could be a winner" junk e-mails continue to trumpet. I'm not holding my breath.) This isn't a great policy and it's not one I'm in love with. But unless someone can think of a better way, I can't come up with any other ideas.

(Three people surveyed suggested letting others read the e-mails and tabulate them. To me that seemed only further distancing. I also think that pushing it off would quickly backfire because, though many might be able to handle the amount, at least a few would beging to feel, "Hey, I've got a life too! If you're not reading them, why should I?" And they'd be correct because once that's farmed out, the whole sense of a community goes out the door too.)

[This post was written in advance and saved to draft.]