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serving the needs of Lojban learners
I've just had someone else tell me he is leaving the list because of the
overwhelming volvume of too-technical discussions And the violume
this week is indeed AWESOME!
WE seem to have a few problems. bear with me while i compose/explain at the
Cowan is finishiung up the papers, and people are commenting on them, which
sometimes raises design issues, though more often than not the issues are
raised in terms of questions of usage "how do you say this". But beginners will
see these as design discussions partly because of abstruseness, and partly
becuae almost invariably someone makes a proposal which then gets discussed to
Then there are learners who make proposals and/or ask why the language is
the way it is. I view mark Vines recent proposal in this category. It
necessitated a fair amount of explanation of design principles. This also
got into usage issues, as when Goran started in on the specifics of the
tanru that Mark used as being very malglico. But since the discussions
start and generally end as design discussions, again these will not be seen
as interstingto many learners. Indeed questions of change of the language are
upsetting to many Lojban learners whoare concerned that their efforts are
at learning the language are going to naught because the desugn is chnging
even while they try to learn. (THis is why we are holding pretty firm
about the baseline, but we STILL are seeing a LOT of roposals.)
Jorge and And are no longer newcomers, and they seem to come up with problems
that overlap the above two categories - design questions that may have
tangential relevance to some problme of expression, but really are talking
nitty-gritty of the LOjban design, and making proposals for definition or
changes. The two of them go at it at great length and often swallow the rest
list just in trying to keep up with their deep discussions. And then God
help us if we respond. Jorge seems to generat a message in response to every
one of my postings, and I wonder when he sleeps since he also responds to all
the others %^).
The 4th category of traffic I would call "translation problems" The
Broken Phone game and mark Vines song lyrics are both exercises in translation.
Translation could be a good way to learn the language EXCEPT That, especially
for beginners, you quickly get involved in some kind of a semantics trap.
The more sophisticated Lojbanists respond,and discuss the tradeoffs, and then
all of a sudden we have another technical discussion - often times we even
forget what the starting point was (the ultimate example of this beingthe
debate that started with the English word "any" is a specific sentence that
I don't remember.
Then there are true beginner questions, where someone posts and asks about
some feature of the language because they don;t understand. Usually we do
pretty well with these, but they tend to be one-shot postings and not
lengthy threads, so they get overwhelmed by all the rest of the traffic.
In addition, the reference grammar esists and many time referring someone to
one of the papers is better than tryig to explain it yourself, but that makes it
even less likely to result in a learner-oriented discussion.
Finally there is straight Lojban text. Goran of course is the master of this,
using the langauge every moment that he can, it seems, and I heartily approve.
When he writes, Jorge and others often respond, and we have at times had months-
long"conversations on the list. Of course, the moment we get screenfulls of
Lojban, the average beginner is overwhelmed and doesn't try to read the text.
The result is a LOT of intimidated beginners, and they either give up and
go away, or they read patiently tioll they get enough confidence to post.
The ones who get confidence early, like Mark Vines, alas are also by the
same nature that allows them to overcome the intimidating atmosrphere, a
little brash and assertive in a way that jars on those of use who have been
around lonmg enough to be taught humility by this language which has grown
more complex and rich than even its makers can comrehend.
So most of the beginers fade away after a few days, amonth or a few months.
I can usually tell, seeingthe sign on and signoff messages, how interested a
person probabaly was. Someone who signs on and off within a couple of days
is probaby not all that aware of what the project is. People who stay a few
weeks or a month areintersted but to intimidated to even try to learn. and keep
hoping for inspiration. The people who stay 3 months almost vcertainly DO
make an attempt to learn, top read some of the posts, andsometimes they even
post aonce or twice themselves. But they find the list more work than they
can keep up with, especially when volume gets to its current level.
We need a better way to serve those of us who are not "design team" or
"LOjban proficient" or "certified iconoclasts" ( a category I reserve for
One person who names himself after an English conjunction %^), and especially
for beginners who want to learn the language or to exchange rather more simple
levels of text until they get confident. We also need some way to serve the
community that is simpoly waiting.
Poeple have proposed a newsgroup, or splitting into multiple lists. A
newsgroup would allow a little better control over what you read, and would
not fill you mailboxes with 30 messages a day. But it would also increase
spammage, and lead to some amount of inconcistent particpation - I almost
never respnd in real time to a newsgroup posting, unlike my email.
People have suggested a "Lojban-Announce list", but the bottom line is that
we aren't all that sure what is worth announcing to people who are not
actively nvolved on the net. Such a liost would probably get less than
1 posting a month, and we would probably get several dozen bad addresses for
every message that gets posted because people would sign up and forget to
unsubscribe. We also do not have a host for hosting a bunch of lists -
digex does not support mailing lists, and we have columbia only because we
have a nice friend with good contacts, and we must not presume too much on
the freebie. Most other mailing lists would cost money to run, and might
eb a hassle to manage - and still, in order to be meaningul, someone has
to write postsd for them.
We could also have a LOjban text only list, and I think the community is
almost ready for that, where all postings would be in Lojban or by agreement
limited to single-followups with translation or questions, byut the
questions would be moved over to Lojban List. This would work, I think, if
we had the listserver, but we would need Goran and a cou0ple of otherd to
commit to supporting it with traffic (management would probably be easy).
But we wouldstill need a host, and I am not sure this would meet the needs
The other idea I had just tonight, so lets see if anyone salutes.
This wouls be to have a couple of signup sheets on the Lojban WEb page
where people could sign up for
1)beginning Lojban 1 to 1 tutoring
2)Lojban 1 to 1 correspondence at maybe up to 3 levels of
difficulty - cal it beginner, intermediate learner and competent.
Beginners would probably just post an email address and one of a group
of erxperienced Lojbanists would take it on themselves to lead the
person through the minilesson and diagrammed summary, and get them to the
point wheere they feel willing to try exchanging text of longer than a sentence.
Internmediate learners would probably sign up and maybe even post a sentence
in Lojban so people know their competence level, and then would start a
1 to 1 "penpal" exhange, or even many-to-many exchange among those at
that level. The web page might work simply by giving a directory of
all the people at this level and you could write to one or all of them.
IN effect - the all-lojban list managed without an actual list.
Competent learners would declare themselves by posting a text of some length
as Goran often does, and people could respond with texts. At this point
volume might be small enough that this could be maintained by an archive on
the Web page, and people would simply goto the Web page and call up the last
few messages of text and se what is being talked about - again a form of
mailing list without the list, but rather different in that it keeps an
archive. ideally people would be able to add to the text archive by emailing
to a special address at Veijo's machine, andit would automatically be added
to the Web accessible stuff once a day or immediately.
Do any of these ideas make sense? Does anyone have other ideas? I especially
would like to hear from newe Lojbanists who have plowed throughthis message
saying whether any of these ideas would be valuable to you as an alternative
to the current list (or in addition). (Maybe we could even put up a poll
on a web site - "I would be interested in ..." - any takers on this?)
WE need to do something, and as Cowan and I fade into full time preparation
to publishthe reference grammar, we need to get the community better able to
stand without us, and yet not get bogged down into the semanticist mire.
Comments much appreciated.