ADMIN: It's the time again

Subject: ADMIN: It's the time again
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 05:31:56 -0700 (MST)

Please take a look at the following...and consider how
it applies to individual and collective behavior
on TECHWR-L. Thanks,
ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com
TECHWR-L Listowner

Revised 12 June 2002


(Listowner's Note: The "thanks" notations are for the
contributions to the scenario, not pointed digs at
people who committed these infractions.)

You are in a large lecture hall full of people in your profession.
Included in the audience are students, educators, professionals.
You cannot make out their faces, but they could reasonably
include your employers or potential employers, your coworkers,
and the ever-present violently obsessive technical writing

Most of the audience members sit quietly as one member at a time
gets up, walks to the podium, and shares information or advice or
asks questions. Some of it is rich and detailed, some cursory but
helpful, some trivial but relevant in a roundabout way. Somewhere
in this stream of information, someone expresses an opinion or
gives a piece of advice that you feel obligated to respond to.

You get out of your seat and walk to the front of the room,
everyone's eyes upon you. ...

(Listowner's note: At this point, the paths may diverge.
Some of the following unfortunate cases have been played
out over the past few years.)

A) You approach the podium, clear your throat, and say "Me,
too." You are greeted with a combination of quizzical,
patronizing smirks and incredulous silence.

B) You relate that really good joke about Microsoft and operating
systems that you overheard at the restaurant last night. Some
laugh. Some wonder why you just now heard it. Many wonder why
you'd use their chance to discuss technical communication to
tell a old joke.

C) You take your turn at the microphone to clarify a point. One
of the previous speakers had mentioned, in the context of
developing and using context-sensitive, interactive help files,
that they used MS Word v3.0. Obviously, that's incorrect,
you clarify that they MUST have used a different version because
that one didn't even exist. Not only that, but the incompetence
of anyone who could make such a mistake is certainly astounding.
It only takes you about 10 minutes to impress upon everyone that
you know far better than the speaker what versions of Word
(You don't make any points about the issue at hand, but your
audience has already made their assumptions about your knowledge
in that area.)

D) "Does anyone know how much the cheapest Internet service
provider in Kansas costs?"

E) You replay the entire videotape of the MS Word v3.0 speaker,
including the introduction, the walk to the podium, and the walk
back to a seat. The quality isn't all that hot, but it's
important to make sure everyone knows the context in which you
speak. 12 minutes later, you point out that there is in fact a
version of MS Word v3.0 and you had used it once, briefly, but
didn't like it much and would always choose Frame. Furthermore,
anyone who uses any version of Word is a certifiable idiot and
if your company or clients require Word, you should quit and
find a real company.
You return to your seat satisfied about your demonstrated TW
proficiency and wonder about the copy of "How to Win Friends and
Influence People" that ended up on your chair. (Thanks to Jim
Barton for the initial suggestion and Arlen Walker for the

F) You take your chance at the podium to publicly mock the
pronunciation and diction of the three speakers before you, not
to mention their poor spelling on overheads. As you return to
your seat, someone passes you a note pointing out that one of
the three is hard of hearing, one is not a native speaker of
English, and that many people in the world don't see a problem
with spelling "defense" as "defence". Whoops! Oh, well, you
think, they'll get over it.

G) You walk up to the podium and say "I'm glad you all
finally stopped talking about that subject, because you were
wasting everyone's time. I'm so relieved we're not discussing it
any more." (Thanks to Tracy Boyington for this one.)

H) You reach the microphone and say the exact same thing that all 8
people before you have said because you didn't bother to listen
to them. (Thanks to Chris Boehm.)

I) You piously denounce the majority of subjects that have
been discussed thus far as irrelevant to the original
scope of the conference, berate the conference organizers
for allowing such irrelevancies to be introduced into the
dialogue, and announce that you will leave the auditorium
if discussion of such issues continues.

J) You complain that the seminar does not provide a wide enough
scope for discussion of your particular interests (which may
be of only cursory interest to a minority of people attending
the conference), accuse the conference organizers of promoting
censorship, and ask if anyone knows of another conference
organized by nonfacists. (Thanks to Bill Burns for these last

K) You try to leave the auditorium, but forget how, so instead of
looking for exit signs or asking the usher, you go to the front
and ask everybody. (Thanks to Lorin C. Ledger for this one.)

L) "I know that we're supposed to be talking about technical
communication here, but I figured that I'd go ahead and
take this opportunity to pass out a questionnaire for you all
to fill out. There are only about 87 questions. And no,
they don't really have anything in particular to do with
technical writing, but they'll certainly be of interest."

M) "I just got here and didn't have time to check the program
or agenda, but wanted to tell you all that I need a new
job, 'cause my current boss is a jerk, and that I'll only
use Frame on Windows 2000, 'cause all other systems pretty
much suck. So anyway, I didn't check the program, but wanted
to talk about how to get those insufferable developers to
provide worthwhile information...I'm leaving now, but you
can follow me back to the hotel if you want to talk. ...
Say, is that a video camera back there? Is it on? ..."

| N) You decide to leave. Instead of getting up quietly and making
| your way unobtrusively to the exit, so as to disturb as few
| people as possible (perhaps passing a private note or a
| business card to the few people with whom you want to keep in
| touch) you walk up to the podium and embark on a lengthy
| speech explaining that you're leaving because people have been
| mean to you, you've been wronged, no one is rushing to your
| defence, and the 5000 people here in the auditorium had
| better change their ways if they want to continue to enjoy
| the honour of your company. Then you walk out, feeling
| smug, hoping that this Parthian shot caused everyone,
| especially the convention organiser, maximum disruption
| and annoyance. Maybe now they'll appreciate you. (Thanks to
| Jane Carnall for this one, and Arlen Walker for the Parthian
| shot reference.)

As you walk back to your seat, you try to make out the faces around
you. (Thanks to Lisa Higgins for the original scenario)

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