Design of Conversational Spaces – S12 – Shirky


We set out to create a giant email list, where one person a day would be chosen to send an email to the rest of the list. We called it The Listserve. Our goal was to launch this at 10K subscribers and we reached that goal in much less time than we had anticipated: 5 days. Much of that is due to help from our professor Clay Shirky’s Twitter follower base.

We started by creating a short pitch video in which we asked people what they would say if they could speak to one million people. (And we created the Zena font — my own handwriting!) We got varied answers and a lot of pauses. The video, the site, and just everything implemented was truly a collaborative effort among my groupmates Greg Dorsainville, Alvin Chang, Yoonjo Choi, and Josh Begley.

Here is the video:

The content of the emails has varied, but most have to do with advice on living life well, eating and drinking well (recipes), being thankful, believing in causes, and more. Our aim was to never curate the list, and to never provide a traditional “white comment box” on our site for people to go to. We wanted to see where people were going to take the conversation without this box. We realized that there are already so many existing forums for people to read and participate in. Why recreate it? Subscribers are taking their comments to places that are already comfortable for them, that are literally outside this expected (white comment) box.

It’s been interesting to see the reaction to this project. But I think it’s a bit early to go any further into how I am interpreting this social experiment. And I don’t want to speak for my group too much.

This is my bare bones documentation of what has happened for this project, so far.

Oh, here is an amazing pinterest board that Greg put together with pins to all the press it’s gotten.