TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Revised Guidelines for Messages: Please Read From:"Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 20 Aug 1996 06:40:18 PDT
Following are the posting policies, arranged as a
loose and inductive approach and as a rather more
precisely stated deductive approach. Reading both
might not be a bad idea.
Why do these policies exist? Many lists are available
on the internet to discuss thousands of different
topics. There are lists for PCs, Macs, woodworking,
viruses, linguistics, and virtually everything else.
There is currently ONE LIST to discuss technical
communication issues and the focus must remain on
If you want to discuss something other than technical
communication or if you want to promote your particular
jingoism in terms of tools or personalities, go
find another list.
If you don't agree with the list policies,
you have three choices: 1) Reason with me (generally
possible unless you start by addressing me as
hopelessly anal-retentive, which is true but
not a terribly good ice-breaker). 2) Deal with
it. 3) Sign off.
Q: How do I unsubscribe?
A: Send a message to:
LISTSERV -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
Leave the subject line blank, and include on the
first line of the message:
A particular issue:
Discussing tools with regard to their
relative usefulness for a
>>particular technical communication task<<
is fine. Discussing tools as globally "best or worst"
for technical communications is inane.
If anyone needs help signing off
the list, just let me know. If you have nothing to
contribute except complaints, you've probably
selected the wrong list to participate in and it's
time to leave.
Second side issue:
I've only kicked one person
off the list and those were extenuating circumstances.
That doesn't mean I won't do it again if I need to.
However, virtually everyone who should have been
removed from the list ended up looking like an ass
and signing off anyway.
If you have any questions or need further information,
please contact me directly.
ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com
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, therefore
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 exist.
(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 quibble.)
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
As you walk back to your seat, you try to make out the faces around you.
(Thanks to Lisa Higgins for this scenario)
WHAT TO POST
* If it is about technical communication and of general
interest, post it.
* If it is about technical communication and original and
humorous, post it.
WHAT NOT TO POST
* If it doesn't relate to technical communication,
don't post it.
* If it is a personal message to a single subscriber,
don't post it. Even if mail to that person bounces.
* If you aren't sure, don't post it.
* If it relates to language use but not technical
communication, it probably isn't appropriate.
Don't post it.
* If it continues an irrelevant thread in any way
(rebuttal, rebuke, rerun, revision, remark), don't
* If it is something cute, interesting, or funny that
you found on the Internet (e.g. Dr. Seuss on Tech
Writing, origin of spam), don't post it. I assure
you that most readers have seen it already.
* Please make sure your E-mail address is included in
the body of the message you post to the list.
* Please don't inflict LONG ads disguised as signatures
on the rest of us. Trust me, they're not effective at
anything except making you look silly.
* Please don't quote extensively/excessively from other
messages. Just include enough to provide context.
* This list is international. Please don't flame anyone
for using British spelling or conventions.
* Direct all commentary about this message to my
address, not the list.
Eric J. Ray ejray -at- ionet -dot- net
TECHWR-L List Information
To send a message about technical communication to 2500+ list readers,
E-mail to TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU -dot- Send administrative commands
ALL other questions or problems concerning the list
should go to the listowner, Eric Ray, at ejray -at- ionet -dot- net -dot-