The Monkees Mailing List was founded Feb. 1995 by Brad Waddell. That was
the beginning of the list, but it wasn't the beginning of online interaction
between Monkees fans. That had begun sometime earlier.|
Fans first began meeting in the late 80s and early 90s in chat rooms and via bulletin boards on the commercial online services (Prodigy, NUN, GeNie, AOL, etc.) These were isolated groups, as fans could chat only with others on their own servers. Those fans whose access was provided by a university or employer had no access to these chats/boards, at all.
By late 1992, those Monkees fans with Usenet access were already posting to boards such as rec.music.beatles and had expressed a desire for a Monkees Usenet board. It was a niche in need of filling. Cynthia Bell, then known as "firstname.lastname@example.org" rose to the challenge of filling it and AMM (alt.music.monkees) was born.
Early AMM was very different from the AMM of today, in fact, the net was very different. Aside from the less-crowed population on the net, in those days, the average Netter (and average AMMer) was described as male, 25 to 35, IQ and income well above average, highly creative and "techie." The description of the average female netizen differed only by gender.
Conversations on AMM were entirely on topic. Relaxed, intimate, fun and friendly. Even the most heated debates were stimulating and intelligent, punctuated with natural wit and humor. Suggestions, insults and attacks of a personal nature were not a part of these debates and AMM became known as "The Friendliest Place in Cyberspace" because of its members' ability to disagree passionately, but politely. The conversations of AMM were highly regarded on the Net. Even Nez and Micky Dolenz were subscribers, posting as fellow members, not as superiors.
As 1994 drew to a close, commercial online services began to expand, moving into smaller communities and advertising in general interest magazines and on television. The net grew and so did AMM. The intimacy of AMM was lost as the general public began to join the net and AMM in what would be but a tiny first round of such influxes.
The Net was no longer a geek's hideaway from the vast masses, it was a public forum. Fans were now keenly aware that Usenet lacked any degree of privacy. (ANYone can lurk on Usenet without anyone else knowing and posts are permanently archived on searchable databases.) The conversations began to shift as the forum grew and the description of the average netter/AMMer changed. Fans were starting to express a desire to protect the intimacy, intelligence and tone of those early discussions, which brings us back to the beginning of this Listory and the beginning of The Monkees Mailing List.
When Brad founded the list, he intended to bring the on-topic discussions of AMM into a more intimate private setting and open them up to those who lacked Usenet access. That's right, according to a number of the folks who were there, the list was originally intended to be an ON-topic forum. Fan's interests, though, had begun to turn inward. What made us tick? What did we have in common? AMM did not afford the privacy to explore this new interest, but the intimate, private nature of a mailing list environment was a perfect setting. Brad changed the list's intent to allow personal and off-topic content within reason and so long as it originated from on-topic conversation.
The first group of 40 to 50 listers brought all three mindsets to the list, friendly on-topic discussion/dissection/debate, the desire to get to know one another and the whimsy of the romp-like chats. The majority of the original listers were professional or professional-level artists, writers, musicians, designers, techies, etc. Sounds like a pretty geeky, boring bunch, eh? Not at all. These were intelligent, classy, highly talented, creative folks with a natural wit which shone through even in the most serious on-topic post. It was that wit which set the list apart from other music lists, which, when strictly on-topic are often notorious for being bland or worse, flame-ridden. It was for this reason, (not the off topic fluff, as many people think,) that the list quickly became known as "The Other Friendliest Place in Cyberspace"
In those days, as well as now, large lists with any fluff content were somewhat less than respected and doomed to fail. The Monkees List survived the addition of fluff because of the listers' ability to exercise self-control in relation to the list-owner's wishes. It was a respected forum often cited as a shining example of a well-rounded, successful self-governing community.
The Three Faces of Monkees List
What made the early list special? As I said earlier, it was our tone. It's what made AMM special in the beginning, it's what made the list special in the beginning and since it always came naturally for fans, (and not just those early listers and AMMers,) it's what makes Monkees fans special. In those early days, whether we were on or off topic or balanced delicately between those two points, we had a friendly, light hearted tone to our conversations. Only on Monkees List could a serious discussion about the short comings of an album be an enjoyable, even humorous read, instead of drawing flames or snores. We let our personalities shine through naturally, in even our most serious on-topic discussions. We never needed the off-topic chatter to accomplish that and, sadly, the off-topic chatter is what silenced it in the list's darkest hours.
So, what went wrong? If it was so wonderful, why is the list an on-topic list, now? Each successive generation of new listers had quite a legacy to live up to. We old timers were pretty proud of our creation. Even we didn't realize what really made it special until it was too late. New listers wanted to fit in and they did what everybody does to fit in. They did as they saw others doing. If we posted a little personal content, they added to it with their own. If we went off on a silly tangent, they went off on their own silly tangents. Then more would join, adding still more and so on. After several generations of this, the list wasn't special anymore. It was like any other large list which allows fluff. It was overburdened by it.
Whenever the list would cycle away from being primarily on-topic, list subscribes would drop rapidly, the list itself would become a topic of discussion and flame wars would erupt until the list would quiet down and a few brave souls would post a mix of on and off topic content. At the worst of it, dozens of new subscribes each week were unsubbing within hours of subbing, more than a third of our existing subscribership left quietly and less than 5% of the remaining subscribership posted, at all. Most posts were entirely fictional and personal posts contained "too much information." It was time to break the cycle.
Flash Forward to Feb. 18, 1999.
Another flame war was brewing after a few months of quiet in the wake of the last off-topic cycle. Brad had decided to close the list and he offered it to me for the salvage. After much thought and discussion with my husband, I decided against taking it. Why? It no longer served a unique purpose in Monkeedom. (There were and still are countless newer Monkees e-mail discussion lists which encourage or are dedicated to off-topic discussions.) The rules weren't working, fans were leaving, the list's respect and good reputation were gone. Why continue to lure fans to The Monkees Mailing List when it wasn't what its name suggested? After nearly 4 years as a lister and three as the list's sysop, I had to concede that its day had passed.
Then, as I was composing my mail to Brad, I remembered something. I'd happened to bump into someone I'd known from the list. She had said something I'd been hearing a lot. She'd thought of something Monkees she wanted to bring up for discussion, but couldn't find an appropriate forum. How many times had I heard that? I thought of all those new subscribers we'd lost a few months earlier. Were they looking for on-topic discussions, too? They obviously weren't looking for personal or fictional content. What of the hundred or so listers who left quietly? Shouldn't THE Monkees List be a place where people could expect to discuss the Monkees? Fans had proven time and again that they could discuss the Monkees rationally and intelligently and they were telling me they wanted to. Perhaps we'd come full circle. Perhaps it was time for the list to live up to its name, to the purpose for which it was created. A private, relaxed, conversational on-topic discussion list... in the immortal words of The Monkees, themselves, "...and when you see the end in sight, the beginning may arrive." I accepted Brad's offer.
We began anew with fewer than 125 members and my decision to give it a year. Since then, the list has flourished, enjoying steady growth and a lot of Monkees discussion among our (now) 400+ members. I look forward to discussing the Monkees with you, too! Welcome to The Monkees Mailing List.
Special thanks to Ken for providing details and accounts of early AMM.
"The Monkees Mailing List" is the original Monkees mailing list on the net, founded Feb 1995 by Brad Waddell, owned and operated by Melhi since Feb 1999. Unless otherwise noted, all graphics, text, site design, etc other than sponsors' ads are original Melhi creations, copyright Melhi and may not be used without permission.