The bell tolls for long running UFO community resource

The once prominent UFO UpDates central email listserve is now dead. The List Fades To Black.

The world has moved on, apparently beyond the need of a centralised service such as this List – witness the dramatic drop in List-bound traffic of the last few years.

Since 1996, this was the place where news was announced and major discussion occurred. But its decline was inevitable.

Originally one of the most dynamic UFO lists, UFO Updates, started by Glenn Cambell of Desert Rat fame has finally folded. Back when my wife and I were publishing UFO Magazine, UFO Updates was the place where all the news, rumors, and people were gathering. When Cambell left he turned it over to Errol Bruce-Knapp, host of Strange Days, which came out of Canada. This really does leave a void, although for quite some time I could tell that the list was winding down.

According to our tipster, Terry:

[M]any prominent researchers and commentors made announcements, discussed preliminary findings, debated case details, and shared documents. A very educational forum — when it wanted to be. Lately, acrimonious debates between partisan die-hards and fact-respecting researchers drove the serious people away[…]

Over the years, Terry notes, participants were UFO insiders such as Jerome Clark, Steven Aftergood (Federation of American Scientists), Graham William Birdsall (UFO Magazine), Peter Brookesmith (UK Fortean writer), Dr. David Clarke (UK folklorist), Stanton Friedman, A.J. Gevaerd (Brazilian ufologist), Dr. David Gotlib (publisher of Bulletin of Anomalous Experience), filmmaker Paul Kimball, Isaac Koi, Don Ledger (Canadian ufologist), Philip Mantle (UK ufologist), Kathleen Marden (MUFON, Betty Hill’s niece), Kevin Randle (author), Jenny Randles (UK ufologist), John Rimmer (UK ufologist), Chris Rutkowski (Canadian ufologist), Mac Tonnies (UFO writer), and Greg Sandow (UFO writer).

It appears the archive will remain – a valuable sociological treasure trove, 90,000+ messages. Many commenters on the close of the list have fond memories.

Where is UFOlogy going? Has it accomplished anything of value? What’s next? Is the move to nuts and bolts investigation going to catch on or is that simply another iteration of investigation that won’t prove fruitful. It’s hard to say. Questions remain but answers are elusive.

Thank you to Terry the Censor for the information

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  6 comments for “The bell tolls for long running UFO community resource

  1. Anthony
    December 29, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    “Lately, acrimonious debates between partisan die-hards and fact-respecting researchers drove the serious people away”

    I have left many a cool “para” site for this very reason. One just gets tired of arguing with stubborn fools who insist on invading your every thread with their tripe. I LIKE paranormal topics and like to participate in interesting conversations that use facts and the scientific method. Some people prefer to drown a good thread with their idiotic refusal to participate in a reasoning manner.

  2. December 30, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    As one who has seen a UFO I am disappointed that another research site has fallen by the wayside. There are many sightings that are misinterpretations of what is seen, while many others cannot be explained. Those that are convinced that all sightings are bogus, are not even willing to consider the possibility that some may not be. The search for proof will continue on other sites.

    • December 30, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      Is a list serve a “research” site? I would disagree unless it was set up for individuals just with that purpose of discussion. It seemed to be characterized more like a forum. Real research needs to be published more formally.

  3. PurrlGurrl
    December 30, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    List serve is a communication tool who’s time has long passed. I’m surprised UFO Updates lasted as long as it did in that format. Communications technology has moved on, and so has much new thinking about what the UFO phenomenon might be, since the list serve was set up. The “nuts and bolts” theory favored by Updates members has never been proven and Updates became a place for a handful of old timers to spew vitriol on newcomers who rejected the ETH in favor of exploring other avenues (e.g., quantum physics).

  4. jveeds
    December 30, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    In my humble opinion, it may be time to simply retire the term UFO as something that describes anything and nothing. As RJ notes, he has “seen a UFO”…but who hasn’t seen something they haven’t been able to identify. As someone who use to drive to a general aviation airport next to a large aerospace company every day, I can say that I noted UFOs at least once a week — and I not only was expert at identifying aircraft but knew they must belong to the airpot. Yet it was hard to brush aside a Cessna or Piper angling in at an unusual aspect without…for a moment…saying, “Wow, a UFO!”

    Since UFO essentially and unalterably simply means “I can’t identify it,” what’s the point any more? Making the leap from “I can’t identify it” to “alien craft” is of no apparent use to anyone and simply seems to give a place at the table to every optical illusion that comes along.

    • spookyparadigm
      December 30, 2013 at 8:30 PM

      Giving up UFO for something more specific (and not just a synonym like UAP, but something really more specific, not unlike the old term “daylight disc” which ufologists used to describe decently lit sightings of what appeared to be actual structured objects, and not just lights in the sky) would be a good first step towards science.

      But this would be a terrible marketing move, precisely for the reasons you note. If you define UFO as “I don’t know what that was, and it felt kind of mysterious” everyone knows someone with a decent UFO sighting. But if you roll that back to “I clearly saw a silvery craft” you’ll lose a bunch of those people. And just as bad, the remainder will have a substantially higher proportion of hoaxers or the deluded. In fact, you’d basically be going back to the early days of the flying saucer, when a smaller number of people believed they saw structured craft in the day (or significant formations of lights at night, ala the Lubbock Lights), and a significant proportion of those talking about saucer sightings were contactees that met Venusian princesses.

      The combo effect would be to strip out many of the well-meaning misidentifications, leaving much of the UFO to conspiracy theory, mysticism, and recovered memory-fueled abductionism. I believe this is going on anyway (with the heavy emphasis on Roswell and conspiracy theory in the 1990s blowing up in the nuts-and-bolts UFO mainstream faces), but to openly narrow the field of inquiry would speed the process. This would ironically be scientifically sound, but it won’t happen because it will leave a lot of authors and speakers holding a bag only of interest to a radical fringe or to folklorists.

      It’s the same principle behind the term cryptozoology. In reality, the vast majority of interest in cryptozoology is on legendary creatures akin to giants, dragons, and demons of folklore. And these do have popular appeal. But by using the cryptozoology tag, the subculture and its promoters can lay claim to every actual discovery of a more mundane, non-monstrous, species. A cryptozoologist, as Sharon would put it, sounds more sciencey than being a dragon hunter or demonologist.

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