The Anatomy of an Electronic Discussion …

The Anatomy of an Electronic Discussion List for Librarians, KUTUP-L: Bibliometric and Content Analyses of Postings :

“Electronic discussion lists are widely used as a professional and scientific communication tool since late 1980s. Analysis of messages sent to discussion lists provides useful information on professional as well as scientific communication patterns. In this paper, we present the findings of a bibliometric analysis of some 20,000 messages sent to KUTUP‐L, an electronic discussion list for Turkish librarians, between 1994 and 2008. We test if the distributions of messages and their authors conform to Pareto, Price and Lotka laws. We then analyze the contents of 977 messages based on a stratified sample. Findings indicate that the number of messages sent to KUTUP‐L has increased over the years along with the number of authors. Two thirds (1,232) of about 1,900 list members posted at least one message to the list while the rest preferred to be so called “lurkers”. Some 35 authors posted almost half (49%) the messages while 20% of the authors posted 83% of all messages. The distribution of messages to authors conform to Price (“the square root of all authors would post half the messages”) and Pareto laws (so called “80/20 rule”), respectively. Of the 1,232 authors, one third (as opposed to 60% predicted by Lotka’s Law) sent only one message to the list. Results of content analysis show that 40% of messages sent to the list were off‐topic. Issues about or related with information management services (32%), library and information science (23%) and professional and scientific communication (19%) were discussed more often in the list. The intent analysis of the postings shows that three quarters of the messages were initiatory while the rest were reflexive. That’s to say that the majority of messages posted on KUTUP‐L to initiate a discussion did not seem to generate enough interest for others to reflect upon them by sending follow up messages, suggesting that professional and scientific communication taking place on KUTUP‐L on certain subjects can be characterized as more of a one‐way communication than a participatory one.”