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18 April, 2006

Private grief

I'm a moderator (administrator, referee & enforcer) of a number of Yahoo! Groups.  One of them, devoted to trading unofficial recordings of a certain band, is used to organise distribution of CD-Rs/DVD-Rs and to solicit off-list trades.  It's analogous to noticeboard, definitely not a discussion group – communal conversation isn't part of the remit.

One member of the Group died recently, and a family member wrote to have the automated Group e-mails stopped. Unfortunately, the address he/she used (presumably the only one known) resulted in the notification being circulated to all 500+ members rather than just reaching me, the moderator. Obviously, I took the requested action immediately, and the account in question no longer exists.

However, several people have responded to what was plainly a private message published unintentionally. A number of messages of condolence have been posted, via the Group (i.e. to everyone except the bereaved). Why? Who are the messages for?

Even if the deceased person's account hadn't been closed, and even if the family felt some strange urge to read messages ostensibly about music trading, would they really wish to receive trite expressions of sympathy from utter strangers?

I don't understand why the messages would be intended for the rest of the Group, either. As I mentioned, this isn't a Group with the remotest 'community spirit'; it's a noticeboard via which strangers meet to perform transactions, not a chatty forum frequented by close friends.

By a process of elimination, it seems to me that the messages are for the senders, to be seen to be doing the sensitive, 'right' thing, and consequently to make them feel good about themselves. Isn't that inappropriately selfish, and a little distasteful?

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