the friend online
25 August 2006


Reweaving the web - preview
'The Wonders Of Electronic Technology' – first story
  • I woke with a start
  • It was my oldest friend's birthday and I'd forgotten it! She lives in New Zealand – all the more important to remember
  • But all was not lost
  • I flung on my dressing gown, rushed to my computer and wrote her a celebratory email
  • Magic! A bit late in the day, but I hadn't let her down

  • 'The Wonders Of Electronic Technology' – second story
  • Walking home one day, I saw a large new car slap in the middle of the road, stalled while trying to turn right
  • Inside was a driver rendered completely helpless
  • Her 100-per-cent-electronic vehicle was paralysed
  • With her magic key broken, she couldn't open a door or a window
  • We couldn't even release the handbrake and push it to the side of the road

  • Alison Leonard

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    David Sterratt, 05 January
    Yes, discussions by email must be treated sensitively, especially when members of a committee or meeting are not on email, but I think the "simple approach" may not always be the best.

    I believe that is is in right ordering for business to be discussed between meetings in order to prepare for the next one, for example by researching questions that cannot be answered during a business meeting (see QFP 4.03: "Monthly meeting time can often be used more efficiently if detailed matters can be prepared by a small group."). How members of such small groups communicate is immaterial, as long as the communication between them is on an equal basis - which may allow the use of email.

    Jon Bell, 13 December
    Having inadvertantly started something of a hare running by telling my
    good Ffriend Dai Jenkins that I was not altogether happy discussing quaker
    business by email, I feel it perhaps behoves me to join in the discussion
    (by emailing "the Friend"!).

    While there is undoubtedly a valuable role for email for distributing
    information and items of record among Friends, such as the tree-friendly
    distribution of meeting minutes, for example, there do seem to me to be
    difficulties where information that informs a discussion is so
    distributed, as there is a danger that this triggers a discussion by

    There are two drawbacks to this. The first one is that those Friends who
    have no access to email are excluded from the discussion, or at best have
    to catch up with the emailers when the topic of an email discussion comes
    before a Business Meeting.

    The more interesting difficulty that occurs to me is the relationship
    between conducting a discussion by email and the Quaker business method.
    Can one reach a sense of the meeting by email? On one hand, the fact that
    an email discussion is done in writing does mean that it is likely that
    points of view of the participants will be heard (that is, read) and this
    seems consistent with a quakerly approach to discussion. However,
    paricipants in such discssion will consider their reactions to the emails
    in isolation and so no real sense of the Meeting will emerge. I am not
    persuaded that any spirit of the Meeting can be downloaded along with the
    emails, even using broadband!

    This might not be too much of a problem if the matter that had been
    discussed by email is brought before a Meeting for Business, except that
    there might be a danger that the self selected working group (those who
    had been using email) has reached some conclusion of its own and the
    Meeting for Business finds itself doing little more than rubber stamping
    this previously (but partially) agreed solution. Not, I hasten to add out
    of any intention of that group to impose their conclusion, but rather
    because the conclusion is simply and inadvertantly presented to the
    meeting as part of the original topic for the Meeting. Also, of course,
    the email participants are likely to
    be more fully informed than others at this meeting and there is a danger
    that they will not be sufficiently patient in bringing other participants
    up to date when they feel that the conclusion of the discussion is already

    For these reasons, it seems to be that the use of email (or, of course,
    any other medium for pre-business meeting discussion) has to be handled
    sensitively and one simple approach to this is content ourselves with
    distributing items of record by email, and letting any discussion wait for
    a proper meeting for business. It also seems to follow from this that
    material that was distributed before the meeting by email is also made
    available for other particiapnts prior to the meeting.

    To summarise, email is a valuable tool for communication among Friends (as
    is the telephone and as was the quill, in its day) but does seem to me
    that its use for actual discussion must be treated sensitively.

    David Hitchin, 01 December
    Dai Jenkins seems surprised that he was admonished for discussing
    Quaker matters by e-mail (1st December).

    Dai, I also suspect thee of using a telephone, of going to meeting in
    a motor-car instead of using a horse, of abandoning plain dress and
    plain speech. Why was thy letter not written with a quill pen? This
    is surely not a matter to be passed over with mere chiding or
    admonishment. Why do we not disown Friends for such offences?

    Dai Jenkins, 24 November
    I have been recently been chided/admonished by a good Friend for using e-mail for discussing Quaker matters. His argument is that this is not in 'right ordering'
    Advice, comment, please.


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    Hope and success
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    Andy Stoller
    Reweaving the web
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