Back in the day, before Al Gore had even understood the full impact of his new invention, the Internet was raw and without form. It took the efforts of early technology pioneers who could envision the scalability and acceleration of historic processes. Eric Thomas was an engineering student in Paris back in 1986 when he invented a software program that automated the management of email lists: LISTSERV.
LISTSERV facilitated the ability of an individual to send an email to a list address that would then transparently resend that message to all of the members on the list. Now for those of you under 45 please note that TCP/IP was only introduced four years earlier, so this was at the time an important step in the evolution of social media. One might argue all that has really changed since 1986 via text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, et al are the means and acceleration of transparent communication.
It’s the latter which has probably had a more dramatic impact on the popularity of email discussion groups. The process is slower and more often void of the drama and hyperbole associated with in your face communication we so much enjoy today (yeah, tongue planted firmly in cheek).
Sometime back in the early 90s, I believe, I came across such an email discussion group: HEALTHRE, which was hosted out of the University of Kentucky’s LISTSERV service. The discussion group attracted a wide variety of stakeholders in the healthcare space: nurses, physicians, patient advocates, think tank analysts, university professors – all with a shared interest in discussing and debating healthcare reform – back before it became really fashionable.
For me, what I found incredibly valuable about HEALTHRE was the varied insights from different perspectives – of often challenging and difficult topics to understand. In today’s world where each media outlet is desperate for even modest increases in attention it is nearly, if not, impossible to gain a meaningful and useful understanding of healthcare reform. You never really understand until you’ve challenged your thinking to the point of accepting how little you know about anything.
A few years back that list outlived its usefulness and ability to attract new participants. But a few of us banded together to create a new list – HCPolicy. Unfortunately, the list has not grown and continues to limp along only by the shared refusal of its participants to let go of the hope to what it could become again. Our firm, Artower Advisory Services, has continued to underwrite the list as an open, free and non-commercial email discussion group.
Over the next six months we are going to put forth a renewed effort to grow the list back to where it was in the high days of HEALTHRE. If we can’t, then we will close it down and submit to defeat at the hands of the expression over thought paradigm that pervades more popular forms of social media. Please consider joining us in keeping our list alive by simply clicking on the link below.