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Mordecai CAC Google List-Serve Survey Results

posted Sep 17, 2010, 10:55 AM by Reid Serozi   [ updated Sep 17, 2010, 11:18 AM ]


Introduction

This document represents the owners/managers’ analysis of the recent survey that was conducted to evaluate the Mordecai Citizens Advisory Council (MCAC) list serve or Google group. This analysis includes several parts: Introduction, Managers’ Brief Summary Analysis of Results, List Serve Overview, Evaluation of Mordecai CAC Communication Channels, Complete Survey Results including detailed question responses, and Recommendations from the Managers to the MCAC, and a Request for Comments.

Manager’s Summary Analysis of Results

After the List Serve Survey closed on June 15, 2010, the managers reviewed the survey information. An impressive 98 of the 312 members took the survey representing approximately 31% of total members.  Five of the six questions asked simple “yes” or “no” questions and one question asked members to suggest posts they would like to see discouraged. For each “yes/no” question, the majority of members answered “yes” leading to the following conclusions: 
  1. A majority of  members (91.8%)  surveyed do agree that the list serve does function as it was originally set up to be.  A neighborhood forum for discussing items of community wide interest and MCAC issues.
  2. A majority of members (70.2%)  surveyed do  agree with the list serve’s policy of “no advertising” as a way to limit spam, keep daily posts to a minimum, and keep discussions centered on community wide issues”.
  3. A majority of members (83.5%)  surveyed do agree with the list serve’s policy of allowing people to post when their pets go missing, when they need a service provider recommendation, and when they want to leave free stuff on their front curb was sufficient.
  4. A majority of members (90.4%) surveyed would like to see some type of business directory located on the MCAC website and suggestions for ways that members be allowed to advertise the businesses and personal items for sale. 
  5. A majority of members (85.1%) surveyed thought the list serve was easy to join and representative of our neighborhood as a whole.

Each question then allowed room for comments and there were many. We attempted to categorize the comments into like themes and condensed them into easy to read summaries. From these comment summaries, we made recommendations to the managers of the list serve and the MCAC leadership on how to improve overall communications channels within the MCAC as a whole. With question #2 generating the lowest number of “yes” answers re: our “no advertising” policy, we have made a number of recommendations aimed at clarifying the proper role and definition of advertising on our list serve         

Please see Recommendations from the Managers to the MCAC below.         


 


List Serve Overview

 When the managers/owners created the list serve in 2005, we envisioned it as a place where neighbors could connect together and discuss items of community wide interest in a spam free environment. We did not see it as a political or religious forum or as a place to advertise one’s business, house for sale or rent, or sell one’s personal items. We saw it consisting of threads that consisted of a minimum number of  posts that were “to the point”, contained information of community wide interest, and  would not clutter members IN BOXES with a barrage of emails and unwanted advertisements each day. 

It has never been suggested that anyone’s free speech be limited on the list serve, but members have been asked to police themselves regarding content and to ensure that threads do not get out of control. Members are encouraged to take conversations and recommendations “off list serve” out of courtesy to others who may not be interested in the current topic. The current list serve guidelines are not complex and stress using “common sense” in knowing what and what not to post. It is felt  that the majority of members feel this way and it is desireable to maintain a minimum number of friendly, informative posts each day.     

In the past five years, the list serve has grown without much advertisement to contain 324 members as of this writing. Managers screen new members to verify that they do indeed reside at an address within our CAC boundaries. Once accepted, they are referred to the guidelines and reminded of our “no advertising policy”. Only occasionally are the managers required to step in and notify a member who has posted in error. For the most part, the majority of the members adhere to the guidelines. To be more neighborly, we expanded the guidelines to allow members to post when their pets go missing, to ask for a service recommendation when needed, and to notify neighbors when one has free stuff to give away on their front curb. And, while technically considered advertising, we don’t closely monitor teenagers who use the list serve infrequently to generate a little extra spending money


 


Evaluation of MCAC Communication Channels

In the beginning of this year, the managers met with the MCAC co-chairs and other leaders in our CAC to re-evaluate not only our list serve guidelines but all methods of communication within our CAC boundaries and neighborhoods. We developed a survey containing six questions which members took providing us with invaluable feedback. A summary of the survey are included below.



List Serve Survey Results and Comments

The managers of the list serve have analyzed the results of the survey and are happy to report that of the 312 members of the listserve, 98 members took the survey.

Surveys were limited to one response per computer, so we are fairly confident that, for the most part, the responses were from 98 separate list serve members.

The quantitative results were basically how many members checked “yes” for a question and how many checked “no”. Members who made comments were not identified as answering “yes” or “no”.  The comments were categorized to detect similar themes and then condensed to provide an easy to read summary. The results were as follows.


Question #1

Do you agree that the list serve functions for the purpose for which it was originally intended - -to be a neighborhood forum for discussing topics of MCAC and community wide interest? If not, please explain. 

91.8% checked yes 

8.2% checked no

There were 17 comments summarized as follows:

  • General comments about the list serve ranged from “It is great!” to it ran well for the most part to it has become more of a personal function for individual members than a community one. 
  • One member suggested that it include discussions of broader issues affecting the city and county such as recent school issues. 
  • Several thought there was too much bickering, but some wrote that if we were to limit personal opinions, some members may unsubscribe. 
  • A number of comments suggested reigning in threads where members lecture other members or make personal attacks. 
  • Others suggested taking comments off list serve or using the delete button or digest feature to help regulate the number of daily posts.

Question #2 

Do you agree with the list serve's policy of "no advertising" as a way to limit spam, keep daily postings to a minimum, and keep discussions centered on community wide issues? If not, please explain.

70.2% checked yes

29.8% checked no

There were 53 comments summarized as follows:

  • Many wide ranging comments were offered including, “If it costs money, it shouldn’t be on the list serve” to “I have no problem with advertising as long as it is limited to people and businesses in the neighborhood”. 
  • One member suggested that we allow advertising and dispense with the endless debate while another said they would rather read an advertisement than a complaint about one. 
  • Another said it is okay to promote local businesses but not their products. 
  • One said only occasional business posts should be allowed while another said to “Relax and enjoy the news!” 
  • Several comments spoke about the fine line between what was and was not advertising and the need to define it more clearly. 
  • Some indicated that, the rules were “wishy-washy”, while another said not to put more restrictions on advertising by creating more guidelines. 
  • Another recommended a separate list serve for advertising while several agreed that some type of site should be created for people to advertise separate from the list serve. 
  • Several recommended checking with other list serves to see how they handle advertising. 
  • Others liked the value of unsolicited recommendations where a few said it was just another form of advertisement.
  • Several stressed taking recommendations off list serve as a way to limit posts responding to requests for service providers while others wanted to see the recommendations posted. 
  • Quite a few agreed that the definition of advertising was tricky and may be hard to moderate. 
  • One recommended that advertising new businesses and asking for recommendations was okay, but that direct advertising from businesses was not. 
  • Many recommended using the digest feature and the delete button to manage list serve advertisements.
  • Several said that monitoring the number of posts in a thread was a good thing while others said it limited free speech and may cause the loss of members. 

 

 Question #3 

Do you agree that the list serve's policy of encouraging posts for missing pets, asking for recommendations for home service providers, and giving away items for free on one's front curb is appropriate and sufficient? If not, what other posts would you like to see ENCOURAGED? 

85.3% Yes 

14.7% No 

There were 27 comments re: posts that should be ENCOURAGED summarized as follows: 

  • Some comments suggested loosening the rules on recommendations while others suggested tightening the rules and that all recommendations be taken off of the list serve. 
  • Two comments encouraged posts that recommended community service opportunities and volunteering to help neighbors in need. 
  • Many wanted to encourage posts about new businesses and allow businesses in the neighborhood to advertise. 
  • Many stressed that only those businesses within the neighborhood be allowed to advertise. Some encouraged only CAC posts and posts of communitywide interest. 
  • Others said that property and rental ads should be allowed but within the neighborhood only. 
  • Some people wanted more community activity news and “what to do” in the neighborhood, downtown, and within walking distance. 
  • Several comments stressed keeping posts short and to the point while one suggested not encouraging certain posts implying that all other posts would be discouraged.

 

Question #4 

What type of posts would you like to see DISCOURAGED?

There were 56 comments summarized as follows.

  • There were many comments suggesting that members refrain from posting long narratives, philosophical discussions, and perpetual threads where the same thing was said over and over and someone having to have the last word. 
  • Lengthy discussions about dangerous persons and suspicious persons were the focus of several comments along with no racial profiling or jumping to conclusions about people. 
  • Many disliked personal attacks and arguments about what was appropriate to post or not post. 
  • Others suggested that if you did not want to read certain posts or threads to just hit “delete”. 
  • Several mentioned discouraging anything political or religious. 
  • Blatant personal advertising, free materials, missing pets were listed. 
  • Whining, complaining, and those posts containing “rumor, hysteria, and conjecture!” were emphasized by a few. 
  • One said allow nothing but CAC posts while another said allow all posts. 
  • Others say they do not want to hear recommendations or restaurant reviews. 
  • No advertising except for kids. 
  • No requests for certain items, no “mooching”, or commercial solicitations.


Question #5 

Would you like to see a business/professional directory for list serve members added to the MCAC Website which would include neighborhood businesses? If not, how would you suggest that list serve members be allowed to advertise their businesses, professional services, and personal items for sale to their neighbors?

90.4% checked “Yes”

9.6% checked “No”

There were 42 Advertising Suggestions summarized as follows:


  • Many comments indicated that a business directory would be welcome. 
  • Some worried that a directory might get lost if not in the proper location or difficult to find. 
  • One recommended including schools, churches and other non-business enitites. 
  • Several recommended that we contact other list serves to see what they offered. 
  • Several liked the recommendation section on the Pilot Mill website and the Joke/Junk section on Oakwood’s site. 
  • Many of recommendations were offered as to specific formats and what types of listings should and should not be allowed. 
  • One felt that the CAC should not get into the business directory business and just focus on community issues while others believe the CAC should do something to encourage the support of new and existing businesses. 
  • Another suggested easing up on the advertising rules and let business use the list serve to advertise their businesses. 
  • Another recommended using existing social media sites like Facebook. 
  • Several recommended an open forum where folks could post anything that was not allowed on the list serve. 
  • Others thought a directory would be hard to maintain and keep current. 
  • One suggested having a site sponsored by businesses or allowing businesses to offer coupons. 


Question #6

Do you think that the list serve is easy to join and is representative of our neighborhood as a whole? If not, can you recommend ways that the list serve be better publicized and made more accessible?

Yes 85.1 %

No 14.9%

There were 35 comments summarized as follows:

  • Many comments indicated that it was not easy to join the list serve and that one had to persevere to join. Others had no problem.
  • Flyers on peoples porches advertising the list serve was a common recommendation. 
  • Many suggested trying to reach out to certain specific areas like Capital Park, the newer town home developments, and the apartments next to the railroad tracks on Courtland. 
  • Some suggested postcards and mailers. 
  • One person commented that they would not belong to the list serve because it did represent the neighborhood as it claimed. 
  • One questioned the term “list serve” as being the appropriate name or correct terminology. 
  • There were several comments about the list serve being for only those who were involved in community business and somewhat cliquish. 
  • One suggested more word of mouth, telling neighbors and newcomers. 
  • Several who were initially wary about a list serve because of “inane posting” had joined and now like it. 
  • One suggested a membership drive. 

 

Recommendations from Managers to the Mordecai CAC

  1. Given that an overwhelming majority of members who took the survey answered yes to Question #1, we are confident that most members agree that the list serve does function as it was originally set up to be a neighborhood forum for discussing items topics of MCAC and community wide interest. Based on the comments we received, we recommend that the guidelines be updated to emphasize “the community wide information” thrust of the list serve and to remind members to submit posts that conform to this goal. We would also like to see it emphasized that posts be kept friendly, to the point, and not contribute to long, ongoing threads. While members may use the digest feature or their delete button and we encourage that if someone wishes however, we believe that many prefer to see posts in real time and simply do not wish to read posts that do not have community wide relevance. Therefore, we would like to stress that when members post to use the guideline, “ Ask yourself before posting - - Is this post 1) information of true community wide interest and 2) is there any aspect of this post that is a form of advertisement for commercial purpose or other special interest.”

  2. Question #2 asked members if they agreed with “the list serve’s policy of “no advertising” as a way to limit spam, keep daily posts to a minimum, and keep discussions centered on community wide issues”. This question generated the lowest percentage of members who checked “yes” at 70.1%. Since a majority answered “yes”, we further recommend continuing the “no advertising policy”. However, because of the lower percentage of “yes” questions and based on the largest number of comments generated by any question, we recommend that the guidelines be updated to include a “clear as possible” definition of advertising and perhaps even present clear examples of posts that are “allowed” or “not allowed” to provide some clarification. We recommend that we, as managers, be consistent in enforcing the no advertising rule as needed. Based on the comments, we ask that the guidelines allow “bricks and mortar, open door businesses” located within the MCAC boundaries to “announce” their opening or reopening on the list serve and to provide their website for further information. For all other businesses, we recommend that the MCAC create a separate venue or directory on which members can advertise their “home” or “closed door” businesses, property for sale or rent, and personal items for sale. We would also like to encourage the Moredcai Historic Park to advertise its programs and events on a regular basis directly on the list serve.

  3. 85.3% of members who took the survey checked “yes” when asked if the list serve’s policy of allowing people to post when their pets go missing, when they need a service provider recommendation, and when they want to leave free stuff on their front curb. With a substantial majority checking yes, we recommend that these posts be allowed to continue on the list serve. The comments generated were in answer to “what other posts might be ENOURAGED?”. Based on these comments, we recommend that no posts of an advertising nature be permitted because of the results of question #2 above, but recommend that the following posts be encouraged:

    1. posts asking to volunteer or seeking volunteers for community projects that improve the quality of our neighborhoods 
    2. posts announcing the opening or re-opening of open door businesses within our CAC boundaries (also covered in Question #2) 
    3. Any single, “free” community wide event located with our CAC boundary that is not of political or religious nature. Ongoing free events such as the “Music on the Porch” series should request permission to use the list serve to get started, but once established, will need to create their own email list to send out ongoing announcements.
    4. We also recommend including a clarification of “recommendations” which states: It is permitted for any member to ask for a recommendation when needed, but that members should refrain from giving unsolicited recommendations about service providers, restaurants, and other types of businesses. For example, if a member just had a great experience with a carpenter, wait until someone asks for a good carpenter to respond with that recommendation.

  4. Question #4 was a follow-up question to number #3 asking those who took the survey what posts they would like to see “DISCOURAGED”. Since posts pertaining to advertising have been covered under recommendations #2 and #3, we recommend that the guidelines be updated to include a section on posts that should be discouraged. They are: long narratives, drawn out philosophical discussion threads, threads where the same thing is said over and over and someone having to have the last word, “lengthy” discussions about dangerous persons and suspicious persons, racial profiling, jumping to conclusions about others in the neighborhood, personal attacks, posts of political or religious nature, ongoing whining and complaining. We recommend that these type discussions, if begun on the list serve, be taken off list serve as soon as possible if members would like to continue to discuss among themselves.

  5. Question # 5 asked if members would like to see some type of business directory located on the MCAC website and for suggestions for ways that members be allowed to advertise the businesses and personal items for sale. We recommend that the MCAC leadership explore different methods for potential advertising due to our firm “ no advertising” rule on the list serve. Please see recommendations listed in comments sections of Question #5 under Survey Results. 

  6. Question #6 asked members who took the survey if they thought the list serve was easy to join and representative of our neighborhood as a whole? 85.1% checked “Yes”. Based on the comments where members were asked to recommend ways in which the list serve could be better publicized and made more accessible, we recommend that once the list serve guidelines are updated, the MCAC leadership conduct a “list serve” membership drive reaching out to all neighborhoods, homes, town homes, apartments, and businesses within our CAC boundaries. This could take the form of publicity flyers, mailers, announcements on the website, etc. We also recommend evaluating the term “list serve” as being the appropriate moniker for our Google Group, and coming up with a more appropriate name, if one is desired, before the membership drive is begun.


 


Request for Comments

Please feel free to post any comments about this survey analysis in the space provided. A Request for Comment period will continue for 30 days after which all comments will be provided and summarized and released for another 15 days for additional comment.

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