10 Year-Old Proposal to Archive and Edit Rabbinic List Serves
Inspired by reading a recent interview in HEEB with Douglas Rushkoff "New Commands, Old Programs", I wanted to share ran old proposal I dug up that I thought of while reading the Rushkoff article.
It's a proposal I had made to a nascent (and never fully flowered) body that was promoting collaboration among rabbinical organizations across denominational lines. There was a bit of interest, as I remember, but the proposal never went anywhere.
To this day, the rabbis groups each have their own list serve, none with a usable or much used archive. There is great potential for the hand of a contemporary database-enabled Talmudic editor to take the hidden knowledge and and allow it to become shared wisdom.
I wrote the proposal in October of 2000 and then edited it and submitted it, via the RRA, in February of 2001. Here it is:
Turning Rabbinic E-mail Mailing Lists into Valuable Resources:
A Proposal for A Contemporary Talmud Project
February 12, 2001
Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative rabbis have been participating in separate e-mail mailing lists for three to five years. The rabbis in each of the groups have:
- Provided practical and emotional help at the request of colleagues
- Shared and debated ideas on the full spectrum of their work in particular and Jewish life in general
- Discussed classic and contemporary Jewish resources
These conversations are not currently archived in any useful way and are therefore not available to rabbis who may be seeking similar wisdom currently. Rabbis are constantly re-inventing the wheel when help is just an e-mail message away. If only it could be found!
The Talmudic Nature of E-mail Mailing Lists
Internet technology closely mirrors the method of the Talmud in its emphasis on dialog and banter. A unique opportunity exists now to harvest the wisdom of contemporary rabbis and to do it in a modality that resonates deeply with longstanding Jewish methodology.
What Needs to Be Done
- Messages from the mailing lists need to be logged into databases.
- Messages need to be cleaned up; there are all kinds of formatting problems.
- Appropriate subject titles must be designated. The key to sorting the material by topic will be the assigning of appropriate message titles to the individual posts. Key words and categories will be linked to each post.
- Formats need to be developed for best presentation and search capabilities for effective retrieval by rabbis using the world-wide-web interface.
- The rabbinical organizations need help in setting up the infrastructures to process messages in an on-going way for easy later retrieval so that such a large project will not have to be undertaken in the future.
Note that "1" and "2" can be highly automated. "3" will require much "hand" labor.
Collaborative Nature of the Project
The RRA, CCAR, and RA would take on the project collaboratively. Each group would retain proprietary control of their material. However, the technical methodologies would be immediately shared; the project managers for each group would work together. And finally, each group would designate certain threads of conversation, with the permission of the authors, to be made available to the other rabbinic bodies.