ADMIN: Wrapping it up

Subject: ADMIN: Wrapping it up
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 11:32:35 -0700 (MST)

We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such
as are both true and sufficient to explain their
William of Occam (Occam's Razor, paraphrased)

Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately
explained by ignorance.
Oscar Wilde

The unexamined life is not worth living.

I'm addressing the more popular issue first, then
will get to the rest of the list, then will conclude
by announcing that it's time to take this offline.
Please read this whole long message.

First, although TECHWR-L pretty well follows the
Mailing List Lifecycle, we have the special case
of "blame Andrew Plato" as a component. I regularly
get messages asking me to ban him from the list,
as a disruptive influence or just because they think
it'd be a good idea.

Here's my take on it--and hopefully I won't have
to write this again.

I do not think that Andrew is the cause of interpersonal
problems on this list. Taking the most recent depression
digression as an example, I think there's ample culpability
to spread around--and I can see by looking at the
archives that the discussion was VERY ugly well before
Andrew had anything to contribute. QED, eliminating Andrew
would not eliminate interpersonal issues.

Certainly he crosses the line sometimes, but
then I can't think of too many active posters who don't.
If I removed EVERYONE from the list after they posted
on a bad day or violated the rules, then Geoff would
have the list to himself in a month.

For the record, I need to point out that Andrew has
offered repeatedly to leave the list if I think it'd
be better for the list, better for me, or simply
easier for all concerned. Each time--most recently this
morning--I've said that I don't think he should leave.

Here's why: Andrew often makes unpopular, unsupportive, or
unwanted statements. That is good for the list and
good for the profession, although often not good
for individual egos in the short term. Yes, there
are times that people want to (and should be able to)
use TECHWR-L for a sympathetic shoulder, but just as
a good friend will tell the truth even when it hurts,
a posting to TECHWR-L is likely to (and should)
elicit responses that are more harsh or unvarnished.
Heck, they may even be relevant. Or they may not be.
Your mileage may vary.

It's quite easy to identify a scapegoat, and Andrew's
loud, acerbic, and visible enough to make a good one.
That said, a scapegoat, by definition, obviates the
need to take personal responsibility, and I think we
need more, not less, personal responsibility.

If you object so much to Andrew that you just cannot
read a message from or to him, set your mail filters
in your mail program to discard messages from him
automatically. If you filter on any header field with
his email address in it, you'll probably not get anything
that you find objectionable in this respect.

In short, I refuse to take the easy solution--I don't
think it's the right thing to do for a number of reasons
(many of which I just outlined) and can't see that
the precedent of removing someone from the list based
on the comments of a vocal few is a direction that I
want to take the list. That is, for years, the basic
rule has been "if it's about technical communication,
post it", and I don't think that amending that rule
to "if it's about technical communication, sufficiently
innocuous, and free of comments that offend or
disturb, then post it" is the right thing to do.

I think that many of the comments and points about
list behavior have been interesting, and I like the
idea of summarizing (and codifying) a concensus,
of sorts, on "appropriate behavior in this community".
I'll try to lift pieces from messages that have already been
posted, but if you have other points or want to make
sure I don't miss something that you found important,
please pass them along to me _offline_ with the subject of
"TECHWR-L Community Standards" to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot-
We'll see where that can take us. I don't think that
the list rules have outlived their usefulness, but
really like the idea of having a list admin document
authored _by_ and _for_ list members to describe
what appropriate behavior looks like.

It's time to take this offline and return to a narrowly
focused technical communication discussion. I'd welcome
any other comments people care to make offline
(ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com),
but we've had enough on the list for a while--quite a

ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com
TECHWR-L Listowner

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