The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 43, October 9, 2005, Article 21


At the request of Roger deWardt Lane, last week we
began reprinting parts of my recent Asylum article on the
birth of The E-Sylum. We finish this week, starting with
the first two of what I called "The Seven Commandments
Of The E-Sylum:

One: Thou Shalt Have A Regular Publishing Schedule.
Computer bulletin boards and automated mailing lists serve
a definite purpose, but have many drawbacks. While it's nice
to have a forum that pretty much runs itself, human nature
usually sees to it that the end result is anarchy. At times, days
or weeks may go by without any posts to an Internet forum,
and then you get such fascinating exchanges as "Hello  is
anybody there?," followed by replies of the ilk, "I'm here 
it's been pretty quiet for a while." "Yeah, it has." Scintillating.

At the other extreme, you can have times when the forum
erupts into ceaseless chatter, some of which is often enlightening,
but the majority of which is simply noise, making one long for
the days of prolonged silence. To avoid these problems, any
newsletter must have a strict publishing schedule. In the case
of The E-Sylum, I chose a weekly format. Why? A month
seemed too long to go between issues, and daily was just too
much work. A week I could handle, or so I thought at the time.
This schedule represented a significant speedup in the
communication with NBS members as opposed to the
quarterly Asylum publication schedule.

Two: Thou Shalt Have A Human Editor. The other problem
with automated forums is the lack of a human editor to exercise
judgment and impart style and organization. Automated forums
are lightening fast publishing tools, but all too often serve only
to spew mindless prattle across the globe at the speed of light.

[To read the remaining Commandments, see the full article in
The Asylum, Summer 2004 25th Anniversary issue. -Editor]

As mentioned above, what came to be known as The E-Sylum
was originally intended to serve fairly narrow needs of the NBS
organization. But the power of the medium became apparent
early on as the publication morphed into a broader role,
addressing not just numismatic literature, but numismatic research
in general. It was also convenient to include mentions of numismatic
articles appearing in the general press. By the early issues of the
2000 volume most of the elements seen in today's E-Sylums
are present: new publication announcements, research requests,
comments and stories from readers, new or amusing stories
relating to numismatics, the occasional editorial comment or
"quick quiz", and the featured web site. The E-Sylum has also
managed to break a few important stories, which later in the
week appeared in the mainstream numismatic press.

Although The E-Sylum is a publication in what was at the time
an entirely new medium for its audience, it is really nothing new
under the sun. One of my favorite sources for contemporary
accounts of 18th century numismatics is The Gentleman's
Magazine of London. Begun in 1731, it is considered the first
modern magazine and was the most influential periodical of
the eighteenth century. Reviews of contemporary books and
news accounts were regular features, as were letters from
readers which sometimes amounted to lengthy articles on a
wide range of subjects by the most learned men of the day.
In America, another favorite numismatic source is The
Historical Magazine, begun in 1857, a scholarly journal
devoted to historical research and criticism, which exhibits
some of the same properties. The E-Sylum is similar to
these publications in several ways, but at its most basic it
serves as a means of both formal and informal communication
among far-flung devotees of the subject, with an immediate
flavor of the times. It's like listening in on the conversations
of hundreds of today's numismatic personalities at a giant
weekly gab session. Perhaps in years to come researchers
will look back on The E-Sylum as a ready source of
contemporary accounts of the state of numismatic research
in the early 21st century. But all that matters right now, is
that the forum is a useful and entertaining way to keep in
touch with our fellow numismatic bibliophiles and researchers.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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