Re: WTH is Going On? WAS: TechCommPros mailing list

Subject: Re: WTH is Going On? WAS: TechCommPros mailing list
From: "Huey Callison" <huey -dot- callison -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 14:59:32 -0500

Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net> wrote:

eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com wrote:
> As professionals, or at least as a group which often laments our
> professional status, shouldn't we be more concerned about the
> inner/behind-the-scenes workings of what is a major resource to us and
> stands in for a sort of professional organisation?
We do not own TECHWR-L; we subscribe to it. We don't get to make the
rules or enforce them. We all agreed to that provision when we subscribed.

Yes, as far as the administrative rules of the list are concerned, but
not as far as the community is concerned. The administrative rules say
"no ads", and the list operator enforces that. The community says
"don't post something that'd demonstrably untrue", and when someone
does that, the community as often as not enforces that by someone
responding "No, I don't think that's right, and here's why:...". The
latter has as much as or more to do with the utility of the list than
the former does. And there's a few rules that fall into both classes,
like "please try to stay on-topic", that are enforced at first by
folks like you saying "please try to stay on topic", and eventually by
the list operator saying something to the effect of "aw shaddap a you

The important distinction here is between the mechanical and
administrative parts of a list, and the utility of the community
centered around that list. The 'overhead' is just somebody's mailman
or listserv or something, maybe a webserver with an archive on it, and
a few peoples' time moderating the list. Most technically-minded folks
could set that up with a network-connected commodity linux box and an
hour or three. The community is the valuable part. Even though I only
post to techwr-l every eleventeenth Novensday, I've been reading it
for a couple years, because I find it to be a powerful resource. I am
therefore a stakeholder in seeing that it remains so.

There can be nothing, repeat NOTHING, gained by engaging in
he-said-she-said or airing dirty laundry on this forum; and there can be
a great deal lost. For one thing, it will reflect badly on anyone who
participates (remember the archives!). For another, the principals are
not seeking our (list members') opinions. They will or will not work out
their differences in private. They will or will not work out their
differences in court. It is their business--literally--and not ours.

Yes, it is their business, but it is our community. Forking a
community almost always results in weakening that community (I think
Eric Raymond talks about this in one of his books, if you're
interested) and because of that - and entirely because of that,
because, because because because BECAUSE:

I am not going to jump to any conclusions about one party being right and
the other party wrong, because I don't have the facts in front of me and
because "right" and "wrong" can be extremely squishy descriptors in any
sort of dispute. Lacking any reason to judge otherwise, I'm perfectly
willing to assume that both parties feel justified in their positions
and have marshaled compelling arguments in their favor.

...this is completely correct as well - I think forking techwr-l is a
bad idea, and without making any judgements about Lisa whatsoever,
nonetheless urge people who have found techwr-l a useful resource in
the past to not leave now.

So I suggest we all mind our own business and stay on topic.

Techwr-l has been, is, and will (hopefully) continue to be a very
useful resource for me. That makes it, at least emotionally, part of
'my business'. And as a list-mom myself (I'm on the moderation team
for the usenet group I'm aware of
how little reward there is for the work invested in running a list.
Most days, I can only tell myself "I hope that this is helping
somebody". Well? Techwr-l HELPS ME, and I'm thankful for it,
regardless of who is behind the curtain this week.

Here's some obligatory content:

Is there a good public or semi-public technical communications-related
wiki out there? Given that one of the most frequently asked questions
here is "how do I break into technical writing?", if there was a place
where people could contribute content that was relevant to the field,
that'd give people interested in volunteer work for resume-polishing
purposes somewhere to go, and they could give something back at the
same time.

And speaking of that, one of the things in my own group that's sadly
under-utilized is the FAQ, which is an honest-to-goodness listing of
the questions that are the most frequently asked to the group. A
cursory Googling turns up no Techwr-l FAQ (or even an
version of an old one) although there's a good sort of charter at
Next time somebody asks "How do I break into tech writing?", wouldn't
a good answer be "Here's Google, the techwr-l archives, the Word MVP
site, Framers, HATT, and all this other stuff: now go write a Techwr-l
FAQ, and when you interview, you can tell them 'I wrote the BOOK on
tech writing!" ?


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