Africa Film WebMeeting

Message from: Steve Smith (african-cinema-conference@XC.Org)
About: admin, logistics and history of our conference

Wed, 15 May 1996 13:01:07 -0400

Originally from: (Steve Smith)
Originally dated: Wed, 15 May 1996 13:01:07 -0400

Dear subscribers:

I'm Steve Smith, your moderator. I set up and have maintained the
conference the last few months and I look forward to doing for a long time.
I write this message to ask for your feedback on the conference to make it

First a bit about me and logistics. As most of you know, I am the owner of
DSR, a 15-person for-profit/non-profit mixture company in Columbia, MD, USA
that sells and services Toshiba laptops, and exports computers overseas -
mostly to Africa. That is where my living comes from. Also we distribute
African social message videos. Now we have 55 titles and have sent out
about 20,000 videos over the last half dozen years directly and via about a
dozen affiliate distributors. Computers earns enough profit to cover the
loses in video sales and provide me a wage.

Originally we set up a "email press release" group to announce new titles
available, etc to about 100 people worldwide with email addresses. This got

cumbersome, so after a long time searching we found that MAF (Mission
Aviation Fellowship) had a system going that we could use to set up a this
conference and expand our limited email press releases into a real means for

getting out lots of information about African Cinema - much more useful to
much more people. The cost is $52 a year - negligible.

In the beginning we had a lot to learn. I set up the conference as a
"Moderated" conference so all messages had to be OK'd by me before being
released to the group. I spell check, fix lay out problems, and filter out
about 10% of them that are "please subscribe me" or on the wrong subject or
directed to specific individuals. I've learned many lessons - lots of
messages went out with <no subject> headers, we repeated a few, and other
garbage snuck in. I went on vacation for a week, and to Kenya for a couple
weeks and passed my responsibilities to others at DSR and learned a few
lessons. I think that all has worked out now. But I would appreciate any
feedback on any such editorial errors you see in the future. I still spend
about a half hour a day working on email listserver business, but I've
worked it out so I can do my duties in a few minutes if necessary.

Now, I'd like your feedback on a couple potential developments that might
improve our conference.

1. Elizabeth Mermin suggested we have a "digest" conference. Basically
this could be a separate conference that would only have press release and
information type postings, and when we have discussions - like erotic
African films or FESPACO distributor's awards - I'd wait until the
discussion tapered off and then put all the comments in order, cleaned up
and in one posting to the digest group. Do you think this would be useful?
Is my definition of "digest" the best possible or should we include more or

less in the digest postings? I would see the digest conference for those
that only want the minimum number of emails. It would contain nothing that
the main (current) list didn't have.

2. Also we've thought of putting all the history of postings on our WWW
server to make them more easily available. Currently you can get them from
the listserver MAF operates with a few commands, but it complex and
difficult. Would it be worthwhile to you to have easier access to the past
discussions on a WWW site? (DSR has a WWW site - mostly for our Toshiba and

other price sheets, and academic discount software, but also for the
synopses of our video titles and other African cinema information. We are
slowly building links between it and several others that have information
about African cinema too.)

3. I'm worried sometimes about sending out long messages (like this one),
as I suspect many of you have to pay by the byte for information. Is this a


4. Similarly, do you think the conference has too much traffic or would you

want more if it developed? I know I belong to several conferences, and I
hate the ones that inundate me with 30 messages a day - mostly of junk.
Originally I was hoping for a couple messages a week, now it seems to be a
couple a day. Is that OK?

5. Do you feel that messages take too long to be posted? I often don't act

on OK'ing postings until the next day, as I'm too busy to do it during the
daytime. Is this a problem?

6. Originally I thought it might be a good idea for subscribers to
introduce themselves and what they do related to African cinema - like at a
meeting where we go around and all say a few words about who we are first.
Shall I encourage that? Do you think it might be useful and spark direct
communication between individuals?

7. Is there anything else that you would like to suggest to make our
conference better. We have about 150 subscribers now from all over the
world. Many are friends I've known for years, but most are people I don't
know. When we started the conference I marketed it widely to many groups.
I guess I'll print up a sheet of paper and hand it out at the next FESPACO,

but other than that, I don't advertise the conference, but send individual
notices to people I hear of that might be interested. I'm happy with 150
subscribers and I would hope we stay at that level or grow slowly. My goal
is to make this conference a great source for information and keep up the
flow of interesting and useful African cinema related news among us. Any
suggestions to make this a better conference are welcome. Either send them
to me directly at or send them to the group at

Thanks for your involvement,
Steve Smith

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