Moderation or a newsgroup?

Subject: Moderation or a newsgroup?
From: Stephen Arrants <arrants -at- BRIGHTWARE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 17:05:27 -0800

You know, I really didn't mean for this to turn into a religious war. I
didn't want this to take up more bandwidth than necessary (what is
necessary? how many messages?). But this list is turning into the
electronic equivalent of a mall courtyard.

Every mailing list has guidelines (or should). They are there for a
reason. They serve to let new members know what the list is for, how to
send messages to the list, and, probably most importantly, what is and
isn't acceptable to post to the list.

Every member of every mailing list has violated these guidelines. Yup.
Everyone. And the list, being a community, has to regulate itself by
continually reviewing and changing guidelines, by enforcing those
guidelines, and by each member participating according to those
guidelines. You are responsible for knowing and obeying those
guidelines, even if you've never read them. The first thing any new user
should do, if he hasn't gotten the guidelines when first signing on, is
to ASK the list. "Is it OK to post job openings here or is there a
better list for this?" "FRAME or PAGEMAKER? Or am I coming in just after
a month of discussing this?"

But when a member violates the guidelines, especially after they'd just
been resent to the list, he needs to be told that he violated the
guidelines. Some have written that it should be done in private email.
Others don't see anything wrong with it being in a public message.
Well, what's done is done, and I'm sure we all won't be seeing that
damned doggerel again.

My point (and I do have one, thank you, Ellen) is that the list is
serving so many different people with so many different interests and
skill levels that it IS and it ISN'T a Technical Writing list anymore.
I mean, there are folks who write software documentation, folks who
write for the (gasp!) government, for appliance manufacturers, real
estate firms, medical device companies... There are some who've been at
it for over 20 years, some in their first job, some still in school.
I think the list has grown too large and too diverse to be effective
anymore. We all write, but we don't all write the same things. And
we're all not interested in the same things. I'm really not interested
in the certification debate. Others are. I'm more interested in
presenting information online effectively, or how to do something that's
complex (to me) in Frame, or what strategies are effective when working
in a very small writing group.

What is there to be done? I think one of two things. Moderation (in
some form) or a newsgroup.
Moderation could be anything from having all articles sent in "OK'd" by
a group of list members before posting to limiting the topics allowed.
I co-manage a mailing list with over 2800 members, and this isn't as
time-consuming or difficult as it sounds. Three of us take turns
clearing the submissions for posting, which go out in a digest once or
twice a day. We average 40-45 messages each day, whihc is low by this
list's standards.

Or, we could limit the topics discussed for a period of time. For
example, "During January we'll be discussing Certification, Which Fonts
are Most Effective for Print Pieces, How to Rewrite really Long
Procedural Lists, and Your First Job Experiences as a Technical Writer."

The list could also ask for subject area volunteers who would answer
questions on certain topics. For example, when you sign onto the list,
you'd get a list of folks who you can email for help with WORD
formatting, page design, etc.

But all this sounds a little too regimented.

Perhaps the best thing would be a newsgroup (moderated or not). I don't
know what the solution is, but day by day we see more dross on the list.
And it ain't getting any better.


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