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Democracy in Action

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Back in early November, a series of e-mails began to circulate at a rather hectic pace among several industry people (shop owners, industry advisors, various media types, association and committee representatives, etc.). Typically, when you find yourself among the many who are copied on these e-mail strings, the tendency is to drop out quickly so as not to have your mailbox fill up with undesired e-mail “noise.”

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But this string of communication was different, and the value of it was apparent right away. I hung in there, and find myself writing about it today. What began as an appeal for full disclosure of a recent study quickly evolved into further discussion about the study and the basic premise upon which it was based. Just as the fair-haired heroine despises the very sight of her villainous pursuer — only to warm up to his wit, charm and unsuspecting heroic deeds — so too did the participants in this e-mail communication. They started out a tad cantankerous toward one another, only to realize that the healthy dialogue they were involved in was leading them toward compromise, consensus and a course of action.

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I’ve never been so impressed as I am today with the way this communication process has gone. Via the Internet, I witnessed true democracy in action. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this form of communication (at least as it was applied to this subject matter) was a more effective way to participate in the democratic process than any I had seen before. You see, in order to have published an effective response via e-mail, without embarrassment, one must thoroughly have read the content of the prior e-mail or string of e-mails. What a novel concept! In essence, when you participate in the dialogue of an excessive string of communication, you must actually think before you act!

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As the e-mails continued at a rate of several per day, that’s what made them so compelling and ultimately so valuable. Each participant had to put some thought in to what they were contributing to the dialogue. That’s also why the e-mail medium was so effective, for whenever someone wanted to add their thoughts or comments, they had to click on the “reply all” button and log their comments for the record. Sure, some “off the string” comments were passed, but the meat of the matter was openly discussed for all to see.

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Whatever the outcome of this particular topic (and we will inform you of it fully when it’s appropriate), it will have benefited greatly from this e-mail dialogue. The fact that the e-mail format practically assures that participants think before they speak, this process was able to produce effectively edited commentary, reveal long-forgotten evidence and facts, reduce grandstanding and intimidating rhetoric, inspire consensus and further investigation, produce valuable insight and anecdotal evidence, and lead the participants to define a next step of action in their goal to seek a higher standard that will, at some point sooner rather than later, greatly benefit the entire industry.

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For those of you who have been involved in this string of e-mails (and you know who you are!), let me say that both John and Bobby would be very impressed with your diligence and determination to seek and identify a higher standard for the benefit of so many. Let me say how very impressed I am as well, and that I look forward to assisting you all in this noble endeavor.

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