A little moderation, please

Subject: A little moderation, please
From: Carl Millholland <millholland -at- ACRONET -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 09:50:32 -0600

Dear listees,

I just spent one and one half hours reading through the 62 messages
totalling 3520 lines in the Dec. 8-9 TECHWR-L digest. I probably read 60
to 70 percent of original text, and I did write a five paragraph email
to someone from the list during that time.

I've been on and off this list for over a year. I usually give up
because it just takes too much of my precious time. Besides working a
full day, I could be doing something productive such as working through
Microsoft's new HTMLHelp package. Instead, I spent it reading what
amounts to largely people's opinions. Although I found some of the
threads interesting, I dare say few topics were useful. Apart from the
silly (email viruses), the misinforming (to prevent macro viruses, make
your template files read-only--how does one then save one's template
changes?), or semantic hair-splitting ("dynamic HTML"), there seems to
be far too much theme and variation in many of the threads: you say your
experience is x,y and z, while mine is w, y and z, and the original
poster was x, y and q. In reading this, how critical a reader must I be
to extract some useful meaning out of all this discourse?

Included in the digest is Eric Ray's "Guidelines for Posting Messages",
for which I am grateful. Perhaps, on subscription, each new member
should get a copy of this. Still, that doesn't solve all of the problem
for me.

If most of you have the hour or two a day to spent on this list, I guess
I'm in the minority. I also subscribe to the Windows Help list. There,
the ratio of fact to opinion is probably 5 to 1. I can quickly cull
through the list in ten minutes, picking out the nuggets I need to know,
skipping over the irrelvant.

It's much more difficult to sort the relevant from the irrelvant on this
list. Due, in part, to the fact that the discussion is at a higher level
(an occupation/profession versus a software compiler), and perhaps in
part because we are all writers. And judging from this length of my own
screed, I as guilty as the next contributor in my love of putting words
to computer screen.

I guess opinion is fine, in moderation. As technical communicators, we
all face problems in our work environment, and it's nice to have a forum
where these problems can be addressed, but the volume is just too great
for me to spend so much time sifting essential answers from
inconsequential opinion.

On the premise that other subscribers to this list would like improve
its usefulness, in addition to Eric's Guidelines I'd like to propose the
guideline that before we post to the list, that we stop a moment and
weigh the post's usefulness. Are we only contributing to the volume, or
are we adding something new to the subject? By something new, I don't
mean simply unique--everyone's experience is unique, and that's part of
the problem. New should mean something other readers my not have yet
considered, something altogether different. If more posters did this,
maybe this list will become digestible for the likes of me.

Carl Millholland
Technical Publishing Services
11400 47th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53142
(414) 697-9948

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