Internet mailing lists for people with diabetes can get sick just like the people who use this high tech way to communicate. The mailing list called Diabetic got out of control this summer and lost a few dozen members. This discussion group, the oldest, largest, and most active of the 10 diabetes-related mailing lists, seems at press time to be staging a recovery.
Leading that reform movement was…Dr. Arturo Rolla.
Diabetic provides both information and emotional support for its some 750 Type I and Type II members. Created six years ago by Russ Hathhorn at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon, for his diabetic wife, in August 1994 the list went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Steve Roseman, senior systems and network analyst at the Lehigh University Computing Center, is the list owner. That means "helping people who are having problems subscribing or posting and monitoring the list to ensure it keeps working," Mr. Roseman says. He has been posting to Diabetic longer than anyone else now active in the group—since 1991—and has a diabetic son. Mr. Roseman manages the list with a very light hand.
Diabetic was riven this summer by flames and personal attacks unusual for a group that had shown remarkable civility. As the numbers of members surged and message traffic rose, the volume of chatty off-topic messages increased. Some newer members posted multiple messages daily. Advertisers, sensing the presence of a well targeted audience, also flocked to the group to hawk their wares.
Meanwhile, some long-time participants encouraged the group to practice self-control. When that failed, this old guard proposed a moderator or a group of moderators to restore control.
Leading that reform movement was Diabetic's key participant, Dr. Arturo Rolla, the only endocrinologist participating in the mailing list. Born 52 years ago in Corrientes, Argentina, Dr. Rolla immigrated to the United States in July 1969 and is assistant clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University School of Medicine. He is also a staff member of the New England Deaconess Hospital and a consultant in endocrinology and metabolism at the New England Baptist Hospital and Faulkner Hospital.
When his suggestions to bring control back to the list were hooted down, Dr. Rolla created The Diabetes List. A three-person Board of Overseers helps him enforce the posting guidelines. It isn't his first—earlier this year he created one for Spanish-language diabetes professionals.
The American Diabetes Association originally published this article in its Diabetes Insider magazine and subsequently on its Web site as the second of my “About the Internet” columns.
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