[Homeroast] The gift giving system on this list.

Greg's Gmail Address olawai at gmail.com
Fri Dec 17 17:36:58 CST 2010


That is awesome.  I hope the findings get published some day.  The world
needs more of this kind of research.  I am also wondering if any of the 42
students ended up becoming home roasters as a result of that reading (and if
the ones reading more hateful emails were less likely, etc.).

On Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 3:21 PM, Jim Gundlach <pecanjim at bellsouth.net>wrote:

> A few, or some would say many, years ago I started an ongoing gift giving
> system on this coffee list.  The gift I offered was a new set of burs for a
> relatively small coffee grinder that I had bought from SweetMaria's back
> when they were in one of those states that was to the north and possibly a
> little to the east of me down here in east central Alabama.  I decided not
> to install the new burrs because I had bought a great grinder from a used
> restaurant supply store in Atlanta and was never going back to that little
> thing.  Now typically I would have put the burrs for the smaller grinder up
> and kept them forever thinking I might find a use for them in the future.
>  But, I am a social scientist and decided to do something that is generally
> considered immoral these days, conduct an experiment on the members of this
> group.  From my anthropological studies I knew that every one of the so
> called simple societies had gift giving rituals that required people to give
> gifts to people they tend to be in conflict with, for example their spouse's
> mother.  Now the theory was that this gift giving system was created to
> reduce personal conflict and help maintain stability in the simple
> societies.  At that time, this list, like every other email list I had
> participated in had a relatively high rate of hostile, hateful, mean,
> vulgar, and even disrespectful email messages posted.  So, to create an
> ongoing gift giving system among members of this list, I set the requirement
> that the winner of these burrs would have to offer a gift to the list and
> that the winner of that gift would have to do the same thing and that the
> winner of every gift offered in succession would be expected to repeat the
> offer of something coffee related.  The winner of the burrs remains a member
> of this list and lived up to the obligation to offer another gift and the
> ongoing offering of gifts has continued rather irregularly on this list.
>
> After the gift exchanging  system was in place, it seemed to me that the
> hostile email postings had substantially declined.  To collect data to
> evaluate the hypothesis that a gift giving system reduces conflict, I
> assigned the students in a social research methods course that I taught a
> couple of years later to randomly select a hundred postings to this list
> from the time before the gift exchange system went into place and another
> hundred from a time at least six months after the gift exchange system
> started.  These forty-two students read a fairly large number of postings on
> this list and, while I don't remember the exact numbers, I recall that the
> frequency of the hateful emails after gift exchanging was started was less
> than a third of the frequency counted in the earlier emails.
>
> I never published these findings because I considered it inappropriate, but
> I do believe list members should know that keeping the gift giving system
> going is a small price to pay for having this list as pleasant and useful as
> it is.
>
>       pecan jim
>
> PS:  I wrote this rather quickly and I still don't have all my writing
> skills I lost in my encephalitis brain infection a little over a year ago,
> so please excuse rough writing.
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