Wednesday 24 June 2009

Important changes to 'Moneta-L' archived posts and some thoughts on forums

Robert Kokotailo, one of the moderators of the Moneta-L discussion list has just made an important announcement to members of the list. The archives of the list are as of now made public, that means the reader of this blog no longer has to join the forum to see them. That is great news. The Moneta-L list was originally created in April 1999 as a closed one where only members could see the archives (this was to prevent spammers using them to harvest addresses). Eleven years have passed and as Kokotailo continues:
Unfortunately, some aspects of the world we live in have changed, making it necessary to open the archives to the general public. That change arrived as small group of bloggers who joined Moneta in order to sifts the posts for information they could use against the coin collecting community. This is
not really a problem as long as they quote people correctly, in the context of what was said. Their problem is that there is so little of actual use for them in the posts, that some have taken to misrepresenting the statements of our membership by quoting either out of context, quoting incompletely, and occasionally simply lying about what was actually said.To give an appearance of credibility they provide links to the original posts, but seem to understand that most of their target audience are not Moneta members, and probably will not join Moneta just to view a single post. Since they have no reason to believe the blog is misleading, and with a closed list they cannot view the original posts to find out, most will just assume the bloggers are correct.
Personally I never assume superficiality in my blog's readers, I provide links so anyone who wants to see the source of what I am quoting, can (whether they do or not is not my problem, but certainly there is no intention to deceive). You will find that the majority of the ACCG-collector (in particular) bloggers like Wayne Sayles, Peter Tompa, Dave Welsh and others pretty consistently fail to supply such links whatsoever if the material referred to is from the critics of no-questions-asked collecting. They are presumably afraid their reader will read more than the little bit they want to direct attention to - that dreaded "context" again.

I applaud Moneta-L for making it easier for readers of this blog and others to peek in at the numismatic world and judge the assessments presented here in their wider context for themselves. [There is a thread on Moneta-L there at this moment about this blog - though as I have stated here, rather missing the point].

I suggest that the Canadian coin dealer is presenting a totally misleading interpretation of the methods and motives of some archaeological bloggers. I can of course only speak for myself. I started this blog because I was fed up of what was happening on the various forums to which I belong whenever the topic of artefact hunting and collecting came up.

So why join forums? As I have said here before, I think discussion forums give a great insight into what collectors think and talk about and attitudes, fifteen years ago to find out what "metal detectorists" talk about and do, you'd have to go along to a club in a pub somewhere. Few people really want to do that (I naively did in northeast Essex in the 1970s - depressing experience, probably very influential in my approach to tekkies today). Today without leaving their desks, anyone with a computer can drop in on the tekkies as they discuss their latest adventures and concerns about the evil doings of "the establishment" plotting against the innocent collector (sound familiar?). People in Wisconsin and Utah can see what the Woking Wreckers Detecting Group (made-up name) has been up to in the UK this week. In Warsaw I can listen in to a conversation between a Wichita collector and an erudite Canadian coin dealer about Roman coin die production techniques. Fascinating stuff (no sarcasm there). We can look in on what French heritage campaigners are saying about British archaeologists, and what British archaeologists might say about French campaigners. So I would encourage anyone interested in heritage issues to spend time examining the contents of these forums for the insights into the mindsets of artefact collectors and artefact hunters.

Artefact hunters and collectors do not particularly like it however when their hobby (or trade) is the subject of scrutiny. Every time the issue came up, no matter on what forum, all members were barraged with a cacophony of time-wasting totally irrelevant issues (including nasty personal attacks) raised by artefact hunters as a smokescreen. In such an atmosphere, discussion easily gets out of hand (and I cannot regard myself as without fault). Predictably there were also salvos of remarks of the type: "we don't want any of your kind here mate/ not that metal detecting stuff again" any time anyone opened their mouth on these forums about their thoughts on artefact hunting and collecting, or in reaction to something another member had said. Mr Kokotailo has himself in fact made precisely that sort of comment about me (all three types if I recall correctly - I might try and attach some links later) on at least two different forums. For this reason, after nearly a decade of this (OK, slow learner) and after briefly running my own forum dedicated to artefact hunting and its problems, I have given up participating in discussions on a number of archaeological and artefact collecting forums. Hence this blog and the book. Here I react in the way I want to what I see in the news, as well as on the forums. Things which I do not necessarily want to thrust under the noses of all the members of those forums, and which I am sure not all the members of those forums (some being no-questions-askers) want thrust under their noses. Some of them come over here out of curiosity, many (most probably) studiously avoid even the mention of this blog. But basically I see this is my own little private corner where I write for myself about what angers, frustrates, puzzles me and explore some of the issues by putting them down in black on white and trying to get the words I want to use and commas in approximately the right places.

So the Monetans have shown the world they have nothing to hide. Good for them. Take the opportunity to see what they've been discussing all those eleven years, there are some fascinating - and revealing - posts in those archives. Searchable too and numbered sequentially so any deletions will show up. Now what about all those other forums about portable antiquity collecting which hide all their discourse in non-public archives hidden behind passwords and listowner approval to even read the posts? When are the UK "metal detecting" forums going to show the outside world that they too have nothing to hide? Or perhaps they feel they do.

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