Saturday, December 1, 2012

Still Life With Robin: The Listserv by the Numbers

by Peggy Robin

The Cleveland Park Listserv celebrated its 13th birthday on Friday. My, how it's grown -- from 26 members at the end of its first month of life, to today's substantial number, 12,653, which makes it the largest neighborhood email list in the US. I thought this would be a good point to pause and look back at some of its defining facts and figures.

Daily message count: On a typical day the listserv posts about 19 messages. On a busy day it can be as high as 25 or 30, and on a quiet day it can be as low as six or seven. Those who receive their listserv messages in digest format will note that earlier this year Yahoo has changed the formula for creating a digest and now sends out a digest after 15 emails (rather than 25) have been posted in the last 24 hours.

What are all these messages about? Here's a content analysis of the last 200 messages, starting from Message Number 82516 posted yesterday  going back to Message Number 82316 posted on November 19th, not quite two weeks ago:

First of all, we talk about the neighborhood itself. Of the past 200 messages 54 (27%) were comments or replies on matters such as parking, the Connecticut Avenue service lane, the neighborhood zoning overlay, bicycle safety, crosswalks and pedestrian safety.

The second biggest listserv message category, 51 out of 200 messages (25.5%), was that old listserv standby, recommendations -- both requests and responses. In past years this has been the top-ranked category on the listserv but looking just at this past batch of 200, it fell three messages short of number one.

Free stuff:  22 messages (11%) offered free things or let list members know that the free thing had been taken. Lots of couches and TVs went to good homes in the past two weeks!

Ads (Part I):  21 (10.5%) messages came from our listserv sponsors -- your neighborhood merchants, real estate agents, restaurants, and service providers, whose continued support keeps this listserv going.

ISOs:  19 (9.5%) messages came from list members seeking some tangible thing (not a recommendation). List members seek items to borrow or buy, or a room or apartment to rent. And the listserv usually comes through for them.

Ads (Part II): Not all ads come from listserv sponsors; each list member gets to post a few free for-sale ads per year, usually for household items, furniture, and tickets. We also provide limited free advertising for nannies and housekeepers, and 12 messages (6%) fell into one of these free advertising sub-sets.

Listserv columns and features: Washington Tweets, The Tech Column, The Events Column, Real Talk with Rachel, and of course, the column you're reading right now, accounted for 11 of the past 200 messages (5.5%).

Notices: 10 of the past 200 messages (5%) were notices to let list members know about lost and found pets, neighborhood events, and other news.

Well, that accounts for 100% of the listserv, and we've enjoyed it, perhaps not 100% of the time, but close! Thanks to all who read and participate and help to make the listserv the healthy 13-year-old that it is today.


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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