Every list seems to go through the same cycle:
1. Initial enthusiasm (people introduce themselves, and
gush a lot about how wonderful it is to find kindred souls).
2. Evangelism (people moan about how few folks are posting
to the list, and brainstorm recruitment strategies).
3. Growth (more and more people join, more and more lengthy
threads develop, occasional off-topic threads pop up).
4. Community (lots of threads, some more relevant than
others; lots of information and advice is exchanged; experts help other
experts as well as less experienced colleagues; friendships develop;
people tease each other; newcomers are welcomed with generosity and
patience; everyone -- newbie and expert alike -- feels comfortable
asking questions, suggesting answers, and sharing opinions).
5. Discomfort with diversity (the number of messages
increases dramatically; not every thread is fascinating to every reader;
people start complaining about the signal-to-noise ratio; person 1
threatens to quit if other people don't limit discussion to person 1's
pet topic; person 2 agrees with person 1; person 3 tells 1 & 2 to
lighten up; more bandwidth is wasted complaining about off-topic threads
than is used for the threads themselves; everyone gets annoyed).
6a. Smug complacency and stagnation (the purists flame
everyone who asks an 'old' question or responds with humor to a serious
post; newbies are rebuffed; traffic drops to a doze-producing level of a
few minor issues; all interesting discussions happen by private email
and are limited to a few participants; the purists spend lots of time
self-righteously congratulating each other on keeping off-topic threads
off the list).
-- OR --
6b. Maturity (a few people quit in a
huff; the rest of the participants stay near stage 4, with stage 5
popping up briefly every few weeks; many people wear out their second or
third 'delete' key, but the list lives contentedly ever after).