From John in San Antonio:
This piece was once published on the web page of the Meeting of the Minds Group, which had an interest in the history of online AA.... They featured an "electronic journal." I don't know if it's still in operation (the group is, but I don't know about the histories).
ISSUE 1 -- SEPTEMBER 1993
The Lamplighters AA Email Group
In the United States, we have had an on-line AA meeting that originally met on GEnie, an electronic mail service provided by the General Electric Company, but now crosses over into many mail systems. It started about three years ago, with a dozen or so members. It only lasted a few months because of a lack of participation by members--basically there weren't enough folks to keep it healthy if everyone wasn't real talkative. a few months later, Jack sent something to the Lamplighters mailing list by accident, and the group was reborn. We started off again with a dozen or so members and have grown steadily and consistently so that today we have more than 50 members. GEnie only opened up to the Internet a few months ago, but in that short time we've acquired several Internet-only members, as well as members from another service, America On Line, and are always open to anyone who's interested in joining us in staying sober one day at a time!
We started off small and "nominated" (i.e. voted in while he was on vacation and wasn't around to object) our most organization-minded member to be secretary, and trusted him as our chief--and, for about two years, only--trusted servant. He did just what we needed to keep us alive through those initial growing pains: reminded us of our responsibilities to AA and the Steps and Traditions, and kept us talking so we wouldn't die out through silent apathy (a real concern for email groups). A few months ago, we finally felt the group was secure enough to expand slightly, and our first secretary was ready to step down; we elected Jack secretary, Laura as GSR, and a couple of other folks for jobs within the group, like helping newcomers with mailing lists, etc. Until very recently, we had to send group mailings using the 'blind copy' facility of email; an Internet -wise member recently set us up with a mail reflector address that sends the mail to the entire group, so we're able to do it with a single address now.
I guess you could say our basic philosophy has been to move slowly and not try to grow too fast; we don't want the group to necessarily get so big that we don't know each other, or that it starts developing the political problems that sometimes occur with rapid growth. We have a basic list of group conscience decisions sent out to new members, and to date we've grown steadily and without any big problems. Any problems that do crop up generally show us something else we need to discuss and maybe develop a group conscience on. It's worked out quite well.
When a new member joins, we send out an explanation letter, which is actually somewhat of a grass-roots hodgepodge of letters, and has been authored by many members over a period of time.
The Lamplighters meeting is a discussion meeting and starts each week on Sunday morning, although it's been known to happen late Saturday night or even Sunday afternoon. the person who's the chair for the month posts the week's topic. Then, during the week, everyone replies who wishes to. There's a lot of great sharing on topic; there's also a lot of other sharing, since anyone is free to bring anything to the group at any time for discussion/suggestion/sharing. Cross-talk is not only encouraged, but welcomed; the best meetings seem to be when we get a big dialogue going amongst the group. Occasionally, some of us will move to a bit of private conversation; but generally it's all sent to the entire group, for even the "lurkers" in the back of the room to read and enjoy. There's room for just about any discussion here--and it doesn't have to be all serious, it can include the fun and silly! Having an AA meeting available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in our own homes and workplaces is a particularly wonderful blessing!
We consider ourselves a "real" AA group in every sense of the word: we follow the Steps and the Traditions, and believe strongly in anonymity-- although not WITHIN the group; any member's identity is known to every other member. Because of the nature of GEniemail, which was our only home until recently, most of our last names are known as well. But no group mail is sent outside the group without (a) the permission of the author, and (b) the removal of any identifying information, such as names and IDs. In other words, we operate just like any other closed AA meeting;
"Who you see here,
what you hear here,
when you leave here,
let it stay here."
We have not worried about money up to this point; because we're spread over such a wide area, we just haven't come up with a comfortable solution to the financial stuff. Basically, each person is responsible for their own email account, and if someday we work out a way to send contributions to GSO, that's great. Right now, though, we're content to share experience, strength, and hope, and since that's gotten a lot of our members more active in live meetings and helped us all to stay sober, that's okay.
Today, we have members from all walks of life, at all ages, with lots of sobriety (some members have more than 20 years) to just a few months--but it's safe to say that we all can't imagine life without electronic AA anymore. Some deep friendships have grown inside the Lamplighters; some of us have even been able to meet in person. But whether we have met or not, we're there every day for each other. What a wonderful thing!
The group conscience is that we're a closed meeting for alcoholics only. However, as of right now, any member can introduce any new member to the group; we have no screening process other than making sure the prospective member has a desire to stop drinking before introducing him or her to the group. We've had several people who had the desire but hadn't stopped drinking when they got here, just as in any closed meeting. Some have gotten sober, others haven't, just as in any closed meeting. We have no sobriety requirements or anything else that would violate the Traditions. We consider ourselves a closed meeting in the usual sense of the phrase.
Our major concern is how to apply the Traditions in this format, in order to ensure that we're doing what the wisdom of millions of AAs over the years has taught us. That's the best guidance we could get. Unfortunately, in the medium of electronic mail, we have new problems that haven't been entirely solved to everyone's satisfaction. In a sense, we're helping to tread new ground. We suspect Bill and Dr. Bob would be thrilled to see AA spread throughout life in so many new and unique ways!
No rules and regulations have been created just because one person made a mistake. Our existing closed meeting format was, however, accidentally violated, which is something we all need to avoid in order not to scare away people who are more concerned about their anonymity than some of us loudmouth types. We've obviously learned a new lesson about another problem with anonymity in this medium that we need, as a group, to solve through the group conscience. We really do try to act just like any AA group--which means that all the Traditions apply. It's how to apply them that gets tricky, when all our names are showing in bold letters in living color!
We have also agreed to follow all 12 of the Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous as best we can, including the 3rd Tradition which says the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. The 12th Tradition is really giving us a problem, though. And we are experiencing some of the same problems with it the early AA's had. How far do we go? And to which extreme? We don't know! And we want to do it RIGHT! We are all alcoholics, after all, still learning how to live sober. Thank God we don't have to do anything perfectly and can strive for progress rather than perfection.
The Group has had a tremendous growth in numbers over this past year. And we have grown closer as a group, too. This group has been, and still is, atrue blessing for us.
AA is the place where misfits fit! The Lamplighters is another of AA's groups where this miracle continues.
## Laura, USA. ##
## Murray, USA. ##
This article was compiled from separate articles from Laura & Murray. Any mistakes are ours, and not the fault of the writers.
Laura Part 1
Note from Chuck 7/11/99:
The following was sent to the biz list January 16, 1998
Fellow Lamps Bizzers,
This is an extra-long post so I'm sending it in two parts because it bounced trying to send the whole thing at one time. :)
This is just a reconstruction from one person's rapidly failing memory of how our GC and Netiquette evolved. Please feel free to correct any events I've misremembered. But I thought it would be worthwhile having something in print so there are no further accusations of group secretaries rewriting things to suit their whim. It's kind of a wander down memory lane, and a long one at that, but it's probably a real good idea I get this on paper. Do we have an archivist who wants to hang onto it? :)
When Lamps formed in July of 1991 in its present incarnation, a group conscience was taken amongst the eight or nine people involved. I have hard copy of some of those early GC posts, saved by our first secretary, Murray L., printed off of GEnie, the system where Lamps was located (now defunct, I believe), and faxed to me last year.
At the time, we decided that Lamps would be: A closed meeting; the only requirement for admission would be affirmation of the Third Tradition; we'd have a weekly meeting, with volunteers chairing for a month each; we'd be a general discussion meeting; we'd elect a secretary (in fact, we elected Murray Secretary-for-Life because we all trusted his love and respect for AA and exceptional nagging abilities to keep us all going, although he insisted on resigning a year and a half later in the spirit of rotation <g>) and off-topic posts would be welcomed. Flaming simply wasn't addressed; we weren't an argumentative bunch. We were too afraid of losing what we'd just set up.
From 1991 until 1993 or '94, when Lamps set up its list at our present listhome, this informal group conscience was how we operated. We grew from those original few members to about 45 or 50, and I have to say we did not have *one single* flamewar in those early years. I think we were all concerned that if Lamps fell apart, we'd have *no* online AA -- except for the Fidonet echoes and local BBSs, AA online was severely limited -- and we were respectful of this new medium's fragility. Lamps in its original incarnation died quickly because of the way it was structured, and so we really wanted to find a format that would work. I like to think we succeeded. :)
Additionally, up to this point, our *only* Trusted Servant was our secretary. We didn't have a central mailing list, so had no need for listkeepers, a treasury, greeters, etc., etc. We just wanted to make sure our little meeting survived! Each person kept their own list, and the secretary sent out additions/changes as needed and we were each responsible for individual upkeep of the group list for ourselves. New members' names were sent to the secretary, who introduced them to the group as a whole.
Our second secretary was Jack M. It was during Jack's tenure that GEnie hooked up with the Internet at large, and one of our members, Chris H., volunteered to set up a mailing list out of his personal account at Software Tool & Die, otherwise known as world.std.com, our home to this day. At that point, he became our unofficial greeter, as new member names were sent to him and he contacted them for their Third Tradition affirmation, and then introduced them to the group. After a year, I became backup listkeeper; he gave me access to his personal account, even, and I learned how to send files by ftp and maintain the list. It was a very powerful feeling. <g>
When I became listkeeper is probably where the very first beginnings of our Netiquette originated, because I wrote and sent a copy of a welcoming letter to each new member that included the basics of what we were and weren't. The "Crosstalk is not only welcomed but encouraged" language is a *DIRECT* quote from that original welcome letter to Lamps. So if anyone wants to blame anyone for anything, blame me, I wrote the damn thing! But it was an expression of where our group was at that time, and certainly nobody objected -- I sent the letter to the group as a whole, as I recall, for editing/suggestions before adopting it as a greeting letter.
Lamps went through a very shaky period at this time. Jack M., the secretary, decided he didn't like central mailing lists -- they were too impersonal, to quote him -- and didn't want his name on the list. So after a few weeks, when he'd send mail to us all (via his own list, maintained who-knows-how) but received no mail from us, it became pretty clear he'd abdicated his job as secretary. So we elected a new secretary, John H., but he left the group shortly thereafter, and we started floundering -- no leadership, a lot of bickering, no direction, no ESH.
It was during this period that my husband reports he signed up for Lamps; he lasted about 36 hours and fled for his life and sobriety. <g> The chaos was truly frightening!
I can distinctly remember at this point feeling so disgusted with the group and figuring that apparently online AA was just not going to work, because people simply were *not* acting responsibly....and then I got mad and decided I was *not* ready to give up on this group, and collected a group of us who cared, and called for an election of officers, and we held a new election. And we elected Stewart as secretary. He'd only been with the group a short time, but he obviously had great organizational skills, which we desperately needed.
.....to be continued.
Laura Part 2
....continued from Part 1:
I believe this is also the time, if not before this, when we moved the list out of Chris's private account and opened a Lamps account of our own, so as to not be dependent on one member and to be self-supporting. I believe the business list was also set up somewhere in this period; I can't clearly remember when it started. But we opened it shortly after establishing the main list since many members didn't want to participate in the group business meeting. Labeling subject lines just wasn't working.
At this point, Stewart suggested creating the trusted servants list so as to not bore everyone with administrative detail. And the people holding service jobs with the group started growing. We established a treasury. We divvied up the listkeeping job; I'd handed it over to Chris B., and he got *totally* burned out trying to listkeep and greet and welcome. The group was at 150 and growing rapidly. I took the job back, and we added greeters, and then they added welcomers. I then passed it on to Cheryl D., and she passed it on to Bob T., and he passed it on to Jere, our current Esteemed Listkeeper. Sorry if I remember the listkeeping history most clearly, it's what I was most actively involved with!
At this point, we also started revising the Netiquette, which was the name we adopted for what had been my welcoming letter. It was rewritten and revised at some length on the business list, as I remember, and has continued to evolve as Lamps has continued to grow and change.
We also long resisted having a formal Group Conscience document, I know on my part for a very specific reason: When another online group, Meeting of the Minds, formed with a lot of assistance and input from several Lamps, the founder, Eddie, wrote a long and elaborate GC document to start the group off with the help of a few founding members. I joined that group for awhile, and watched it become a *major* battleground over the GC document...and so it seemed that flexibility was probably a better thing for Lamps at that stage in our group.
But in the last two years, it reached the point where our Trusted Servants simply HAD to have something in writing they could point to and say, "This is the formal, official Group Conscience of Lamps as it stands today. It was enacted on such-and-such a date and will be eligible for a revote on such-and-such a date, six months after it was enacted." The group was simply too big and growing too rapidly not to have records any more.
The six-month rule was also enacted at this time to prevent what was happening: Newcomers joining Lamps and a week later moving to change the entire format of the meeting to on-topic shares only. After that happened about once or twice a month for several months, we got *real* tired of beating that dead horse and voted on the six-month rule so we could actually *accomplish* some other business.
So we started taking formal, numerically counted votes on what up to that point had been arrived at by consensus. Consensus is how *all* business on Lamps was conducted until about two years ago, but with a group this large and diverse, it eventually became unworkable.
If you'll notice, though, even though a lot else has changed, the original founding group conscience provisions are still alive and well! Lamps has maintained a specific direction over the years in spite of growing 10,000% or so in size and becoming worldwide. (I can remember how excited we were to get our first non-US member, a Canadian, and how "international" we felt! <g>)
This is just one person's memory of events. I'm not trying to suggest that because Lamps has always done certain things one way, we should never change; I get really peeved at oldtimers in f2f groups who do that, and I don't want to become their online equivalent. <g> But I did want people to know just how our group conscience has evolved in a general way.
I hope that as this group continues to evolve over the years, people don't forget that what we're doing here was once very new and more than a bit scary and we were all floundering trying to figure out how to handle it. Lamps has led the way for many, many online groups; I can name at least a dozen meetings that are direct spinoffs of Lamps or founded with hefty input from Lamps members, and that follow a format very similar to ours.
We have generally been the first to do just about anything online, and have often found the solution that works -- such as having a password-protected list, for example, to maintain Lamps as a closed meeting. As such, we've made plenty of mistakes along the way. But I want to believe that our Primary Purpose is alive and well, and I have great faith in this group to meet future challenges as well as it's handled them in the past!
LGCD What is this?
On Mon, 2006-12-18 at 21:27, Cynthia Claytonroberts wrote:
> It's also about an internet netiquette being called a "group conscience", and Al Black, we need to talk. Did you know what you were doing when you proposed that sleight of hand, or did they put you up to it because you were barely dry?
Nah, it was something I did on my own. When I brought the motion foreword, some of the people you are thinking about were for it, some were against it. <shrug> it was an interesting discussion, and a few people changed their mind.
The interesting question is why I did it, and what it was about. I don't think I've ever really talked about it here, so guess I should be open.
After all the voting and review, the document certainly wasn't an Internet Netiquette, it was too specific to the group. It wasn't even an netiquette, instead it covered how we operate, service structure, rules for unsubbing, location of group resources, along with some usual netiquette type stuff. I was also a greeter at the time, and saw how a few new people would come in, not read the document because is was just "another netiquette" that they thought they'd read before, and then get clobbered. Clearly it was the wrong name for the document.
But what to call it was another question altogether, because it contains a whole bunch of things. So I started talking to few old-timers with a long service tradition in area about it. (Recalling these fun talks is part of the reason this response has taken so long! It was interesting for them too.) Some of the content in the lamplighters group conscience document is the stuff that usually is common knowledge in face to face groups -- the how things are done -- like elections, the service positions etc. Other things like the format of the meeting, are written down on the paper guides the chairs use. Now the rules about unsubbing etc, they differ from ftf on the surface, but many groups have a sort "unwritten rule" about what is done when people are disruptive.
Talking to these old timers the one thing that emerged is that, be it in face to face meetings or lamps, decisions about all these things is the result of a group conscience, be it a vote on the list, a vote at a business meeting, a consensus arrived at over a coffee or in the kitchen of some group. The name is Group Conscience Document is meant in that sense. It documents the decisions and motions of the group. It is not the group conscience itself; that resides somewhere between all of us.
Now where our group conscience document differs from ftf groups is that it is so damn explicit, to a great extent precise, and thorough. (Gawd we have succession rules!) This aspect in the naming of the group conscience document was deliberate on my part.
At the time, I was beginning to understand the importance of the kind of honesty in step one and hinted at in How It Works, and realized that it underpins the traditions too. (What was I 3-4 years sober at the time, just getting a hint of a clue.) By naming it the group conscience document, it means that the document contains the decisions of the group. For better or for worse, its who we are and how we've decided to do things, and its out there open for all the members to read. It makes me smile when I see people talk about changing it, if there's things in there that need changing, then we should have a vote on it change them. And then be explicit about it.... That kind of honesty for a person or a group is healthy from what I've seen. Somehow, calling the document the netti or whatever doesn't have the same kind of honesty about it.
(Mind you I think of myself as a "drunk" rather than an "alcoholic", because the former conveys what an asshole I was before sobering up better than a mere "alcoholic".)
So there you go Cyn, the complete download on my thoughts and motivations around the name changing motion. Fortunately, the senility forced by doing house renovations has crept in and I now longer have the brain power for that kind of deep thinking!
the best to all you,
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