TRDEV, communities, and connection

Several people, including Ray Sims and Jane Bozarth, have noted the closing of the Yahoo group that in turn succeeded the long-running listserv, TRDEV-L.  David Passmore of Penn State founded the original list.

Passmore saw himself as a sort of referee.  In an email, he said, “we try to stay in the background and let play continue. It’s a little like hockey. We let ’em go, unless they really hurt other players, the on-looking fans, or refs.”

Nine years ago, Passmore suspended the list, in part because of what seemed to many list members spamming by another site.  (You can read the details here.)  This left thousands of people without the list’s posts, or its daily digest, and several members started a successor using Yahoo groups.

Now the Yahoo version has closed, though Don Clark (of Big Dog Little Dog) is reviving the listserv version.

I stuck with TRDEV for a long time.  I’ve said often that 90% of it had no value whatsoever, but I couldn’t predict when the 10% would arrive (which mades it a lot like Twitter, without the character limit).  For a time I was one of the co-ordinators, though I eventually decided that wasn’t a role for me.

I think one reason for the list’s longevity, and its thousands of members (most of whom have never posted once) is that professionals want a community like children want to play: it’s how they become their true selves.

I visit a fair number of blogs, but not that many by people who work full-time in training or learning jobs for organizations.  Many, many corporate training folks are the only people in their departments directly charged with increasing skill and knowledge.  They don’t have others to turn to.  They don’t have face-to-face partners, or even distance ones, to help them make the best of a situation where management is already charging toward the next learning-related Bright Shiny Object.

TRDEV and its kin provided some sense of other people out there, others dealing with similar problems, some suggesting useful approaches, some bloviating (gee, that’s like the blogosphere, too).  Its ups and downs are a reminded that the tools we enjoy wielding right now aren’t necessarily permanent.

Passmore had an almost unshakeable faith in the marketplace of ideas.  He believed that the nonsense, rants, ax-grinding, and other discussion on the list would help people discover value for themselves.  Not a bad vision.