Re: THANKS! Re: It's time to go

Subject: Re: THANKS! Re: It's time to go
From: Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- jci -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 10:43:01 -0600

OK, I'll pop in with a few things:

On the subject of bouncing someone from the list: In a nutshell, it can't
be done. Period. In this day and age of web email, it will take just a few
minutes for the bounced individual to come back on the list with a
different return address. Bounce that address, and another will show up.
Give up forever the idea that barring any individual will be an effective
deterrent to a determined troublemaker. (And one wonders why a
non-determined troublemaker would *need* to be bounced.)

Oh, there *are* ways to make life harder for the troublemaker. You *can*
approach ISPs and mail providers with the evidence, but you'll spend all
your time policing and have no time left to do what's actually paying the
bills. So what do we do?

1) Rely on the listowner. Sorry, folks. As much as I like and respect Eric,
he *isn't* capable of delivering a great list. Nothing personal, old sod;
I'm not either. Nor is any single person within the reach of these
electrons. A great list is made by the list inhabitants, not the owner. The
only thing an owner can do is provide the hardware and the opportunity. He
can suggest guidelines, as Eric has done, but if the list participants
decide the guidelines are wrong, or don't apply to them, that's it. The
owner's only option is to let the list continue or shut it down.

Note to Eric: Shutting it down isn't giving up on the idea of running a
tech writing list, nor is it accepting that you can't run a list. It's
simply acknowledging that this particular community has gone beyond utility
to self-destruction; it's hit an evolutionary dead-end. Derek Powazek tells
of a list community he came to that conclusion about, and held a "buring
down the house" kind of ceremony where all interested could have closure
for the list. Then he started another one, same kind of list, and let the
word spread by word of mouth and a new community was born. That's always an
option. Drop this list, create another one, and invite a few of the members
in. The word will spread slowly and eventually you'll have a new community.
Because it's spread by word of mouth, you might find a new level of people
in it. Or not. It's a crap shoot, like everything else.

2) Rely on the members. That's the only real option left. Here's how it
works. We, collectively, decide to ignore those whose posts always seem
more filled with heat than light. Oh, we'll get the usual inflammatory
abuse about not wanting to hear dissenting views, and the rest of the crap
that folks who have personally outlived their usefulness or overstayed
their welcome will spew. But all it takes is individual decisions. We can
all choose which subset of posters we will ignore and which we will listen
to. If we learn how to use filters on our email programs, we can even have
this done automatically.

What happens then? Those who love rants can tune the broadcasts in on a
regular basis. Those who don't can listen on "another channel,"
figuratively speaking. And the list becomes a collection od sub-lists (a
frame sublist, a word sublist, a robohelp sublist, etc.) which have enough
cross-pollination that ideas and communication can still reach all members.
Note, I'm not talking about trying to force everyone to use extra tags on
their email, that shifts the burden from the listener to the speaker, and
we're choosing what we're listening to, not who is speaking.

What does it take? A deliberate decision on the part of list members *not*
to "get back" at someone who posts something they personally don't like.
Andrew riles you? Set your filters to kill anything he posts. I disturb
you? Then kill my posts, too. STC knot your shorts? Then delete anything to
do with them. The full stream of techwr-l is too much for anyone to drink;
I'd never get any work done if I read the entire feed. You like to argue
and debate? OK, there's a debate sublist in this too. Just be aware that
whatever you decide to post will have consequences, in that someone may as
a result stop reading you. It's called "freedom," for those that might not
recognize it. You're free to say what you think applies to members of this
list. They, however, are free not to listen. This is a public commons, you
can't really control what happens here, but you can choose not to encourage
it by being an audience.

That's going to require a degree of self-control that hasn't been much in
evidence on this list, but that's OK. Because if you can't exercise the
self-control to do it, but rather choose to waste our time complaining
about it, those of us who can exercise it will do so, and you'll no longer
have an audience.

Think of it as self-moderation, a la Slashdot. You create your list of
credible posters (I've a short list) and your list of excreble posters, and
start from there. Filter the list into three bins: love, undecided and
delete. Then read the first completely, skim the second with an eye towards
promoting, and let the third segment go, unless you have some time to kill
and feel like issuing a repreive.

All large lists are ill-tempered and lack manners. Never saw one that
wasn't. Perhaps some suggestions for developing the skill set necessary to
survive that fact would be good for the intro to the list message.

Eric says he's been here 9 years. I have a sign-on message that says I've
been here seven and a half. (Has it *really* been that long? Man, I feel
old!) I couldn't have made it half this long without learning those skills.
I used to write messages when someone said something I considered stupid on
the list. Now I just update a filter and move on. Life's too short and
deadlines come too quickly for any other approach. Some folks will moan
about how much I've lost by cutting out the sort of things I've been
cutting. I think of how much I've gained by having time to read the Good
Stuff. Maybe I *have* missed something good along the way. So what? If I'd
tried to miss nothing, I'd have ended by not having time to enjoy what I
*did* find. I call it a fair trade.

Anyway, that's my advice to the rest of the list. My advice to Eric? If the
parting shot bothers you a lot, my advice is shut it down and start over.
What would *I* do? If I were seriously bothered by the list tone I'd kill
the e-mail, grab a copy of slash, and set it up on the website. E-mail's
too easy to abuse. But bear in mind at the same time that I'm about to
start up a whole flock of e-mail lists myself, and draw your own

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.

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