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Title: Re: 16.894, Disc: Abolishing Fund Drive
Submitter: Karen Ward
Description: I disagree with the proposals to charge for Linguist services.

I've been reading the Linguist list since its first year, I believe, when it was just a labor of love carried out by a couple of profs in their "spare" time. I've contributed to the fund drives since my graduate student days, and I'm happy to do so. As a broke graduate student, however, it is unlikely that I would have subscribed to a for-pay mailing list. In fact, it is unlikely even now that I would pay a fee for a service that had not already proved its value and quality to me. Keeping the list and site free allows us to attract subscribers and users who might eventually decide that it is worth paying for.

I agree that a for-fee service might be fairer on the surface, in the sense that everyone using the list and web site would be contributing monetarily to its upkeep. For some of the folks that use this list and the associated web site, however, even a modest fee would represent an insurmountable difficulty - and, of course, these will be precisely the people who would have the fewest alternatives should the list become inaccessible to them. Some of us just plain can afford more. A voluntary contribution allows those who can to subsidize those who cannot.

Also, I am concerned that charging for access would impoverish the resource in other ways. Much of its value to the profession (and to the corporate entities that help subsidize the list operation) lies in its large subscriber base. Would the discussions and request for information be as valuable with a quarter or a tenth the number of subscribers? Would the corporate contributers be as willing to pay for the smaller number of eyes? I submit that even the free-loaders and the passive readers contribute with their mere presence (although their money would be nice as well!).

That said, I do not deny that the current system appears to be creaking, at least. I think it might be worth asking whether the scope of the effort can be scaled back somewhat. Don't get me wrong - I am in awe of how much is done and how many students are supported with the relatively modest amount of money budgeted. But if the money simply isn't there, can we do less and still have a valuable service? Is it all or nothing?

Karen Ward (ward)
Visiting Assistant Professor of Computer Science
University of Portland (@up.edu)
Date Posted: 28-Mar-2005
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
LL Issue: 16.940
Posted: 28-Mar-2005

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