Stop me if you've heard this one...

I've searched through numerous Boidem columns, and it seems that though I've used the following story in numerous conversations and presentations, I've never printed it in one of these columns. I could be wrong. After all, it's had a good share of use by me.

I do know that I've mentioned that Tzippi subscribes (or more precisely: has on and off subscribed) to an e-mail based discussion group of horn players. I've often tried to figure out why members of this list receive about 300 messages per week (a good deal of which, according to Tzippi, aren't of any interest whatsoever) yet continue to subscribe, while teachers' groups (from what I've seen in Israel, at least) attract only a limited number of ardent subscribers.

There are probably many factors that affect this phenomenon, but I continually come back to one central factor - the need for contact.

In a major symphonic orchestra there are usually eight horn players; in a regular symphonic orchestra, four, and in a chamber orchestra, two. Members of the horn list who play professionally are therefore in frequent contact with, at the most, only a few other horn players. Those who don't play professionally have even less contact. Assuming that their instrument is an important part of their being, it's understandable that these people are hungry for contact with others like them. They want to discuss questions of performance, of health related issues, of historical performances, and even simply to be able to tell jokes to a group of people they identify with. As in most groups, the horn list has a core of active members and a much larger passive readership, but the core consists of quite a number of people, and the number of daily messages is quite high.

Teachers, on the other hand, are in daily contact with other teachers. Rather than being starved for contact, they usually have too much. When they get home they're more than likely to want a bit of quiet than to continue their work day online. Thus for teachers, the opportunity of being in contact with others members of their profession online seems to be much less appealing. An online "community" doesn't necessarily offer them anything that they can't get in their daily work. Though I don't have any statistics on this, it might be a good guess that when teachers go online after work, instead of seeking a "community" of teachers, they seek "community" that springs from other aspects of their hobbies and interests.

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