VAML Plays Bocce (and other activities)

VAMLers play bocce
VAMLers play bocce
(social mixer/beach party of Tue 15 Aug 2006)

VAML plays bocce. Because bocce is the new World of Warcraft. This photo was taken at a VAML social mixer/beach party on Kits Beach about a week and a half ago.

VAML (usually pronounced as a word: /vam-ell/) is the Vancouver Activities Mailing List. It’s…a mailing list. For activities. In the Vancouver area. There’s no parent organization, no board of directors, newsletters; it’s just the list. Anyone can subscribe. Any subscriber can post. Amazingly, there’s next to no spam (knock on wood); most posts that comes in are on topic. No for-sale ads, little chit-chat. Actual announcements of coming activities is the norm.

VAML sign on umbrella
VAML sign on a marker umbrella
(held on with a sticker from a sushi box)

Sunset at Kits Beach,
end of VAML beach party

Started nearly six years ago (in late 2000), VAML seems to have reached a steady state of sorts at 1100 or so subscribers. Most of them are lurkers. At any given period, only about two or three dozen people ever post, and infrequently at that. The message frequency averages out to two messages per day, though it comes in waves–days may go by with no messages, then half a dozen start coming in at once. It’s not an overwhelming maillist to join.

This has both pros and cons, naturally. With so few of its subscribers actually posting at any given period, the activities you actually hear of are limited to whatever the active participants are interested in. The same small set of recurring activities keep popping up: science fiction fans meetup, volleyball at the beach, dancing, music at a club, business networking/mingling, strictly-social mixer, eating out (restaurant sampling), hiking, skiing, cycling, Grouse Grinding. Many of these are activities organized or co-organized by the poster himself or herself, rather than the passing on of someone else’s event.

About the outdoorsy activities. These tend to come in with very short notice, often just a day to three. (One memorable announcement of a weekday afternoon skiing or snowboarding trip at Whistler came in only on the morning it was on.) Why this is so, I don’t know. I haven’t been to any of those events. I’ve posed the question to other VAMLers, and most are equally bewildered, though the best explanation I’ve gotten is that VAML has lots of close-knit sub-groups who are simply using VAML instead of setting up their own. A short-notice message about a coming activity, nominally an invitation to everyone, might really be mostly to a much smaller, already-established group. But I really don’t know what the situation is; I just see the phenomena. Indoorsy activities, in contrast, tend to come with a bit more notice given.

From personal experience, having been on VAML for somewhere between a year and two, it’s a very manageable list, with just a few messages trickling in rather than the flood of many other maillists, and they’re on-topic. It’s almost as if it were a moderated announcements list, but it isn’t–other than being self-moderated. As far as being an information source for activities, it’s limited, but no worse than any other calendar of local events you can find. (There’s nothing even close to an ALL-events calendar to be found anywhere.)

It’s been useful for me in publicizing events I have a hand in organizing, bringing in new people to them, and in turn, has brought to me events I wouldn’t even have heard about otherwise, let alone attended and enjoyed myself at. There’s a personal touch to them: the organizer’s name is familiar (the organizer’s usually the one who personally posted the announcement, as I mentioned). They’re very informal, usually not requiring you to know anything about the activity at hand (if there’s any formal one at all), or anyone else already to be invited into the group. The VAMLers I’ve met at them are a mixed bunch, with many different interests, but great, friendly people whom I found easy to have conversations with.

But I do wonder where most of the 1100+ list subscribers are, because I keep seeing the same faces at different activities. So not only are most subscribers not posting activities, most don’t seem to even attend activities (unless they go to all the ones I don’t–those short-notice outdoorsy ones). Maybe just reading about and knowing that there are people organizing activities in Vancouver is pleasure enough; I don’t know. In any case, it’s a kind of an odd maillist in that sense.

VAML’s website is utilitarian, not doing much more than it needs to, which is describing the maillist itself and telling people how to subscribe to it. Give VAML a try; it’s lasted a very long time in Internet time and is still going strong–it’s doing something right.

3 Comments so far

  1. Pat (unregistered) on August 24th, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

    As I recall VAML came out of the ashes in response to the demise of the Westcoast Activities Club. For a long time in town The Inside Edge Club was the best club in town, overtime it evolved into a club where the average age was 45. In reponse for the perceived need for a club for the 20s & 30s set a former member of the IE club created the Westcoast Activities club. This club was especially popular in the late 90s. I don’t recall the story as to why WCA folded but I had heard that VAML emerged as a result. In fact, I’ve known a number of ex-Inside Edgers and ex-WCA members that use VAML.

    As for why not many seem to come out (of the 1100 members) to a lot of event… I would surmise that people are just busier than they used to be and have become more selective about what activities that they can fit in to their schedules.

  2. TK (unregistered) on September 7th, 2006 @ 4:15 pm

    Love that VAML is playing the bocce. A fun time will be had this weekend at the Third Annual Don Giuseppe Boccefather tournament as we close the official tournament season. Come dressed to impress!

  3. TK (unregistered) on September 7th, 2006 @ 4:16 pm

    Love that VAML is playing the bocce. A fun time will be had this weekend (Saturday, September 9) at the Third Annual Don Giuseppe Boccefather tournament as we close the official tournament season. Come dressed to impress!

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