So.o...., who is Eric?

Subject: So.o...., who is Eric?
From: Smokey Lynne L Bare <slbare -at- JUNO -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 22 Oct 1997 13:39:06 -0400

I am sure most of us immediately prioritize reading Eric's messages first
(unless there are answers to your posted questions) before reading the
newly received E-mails from the list. So..o.o, I thought I would ask
Eric about the 4 Ws in regard to being a list manager, or at times I
should say 'list master'. Finding it interesting reading his replies, I
though I would share it with the rest of you. Perhaps some of you write
for your local TC newsletters and would find this a nice short blurb to
promote TECHWR-L. If you would like to reprint this interview and story
on TECHWR-L, you may do so if the guidelines are followed at the end of
the article. Hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did interviewing

Eric, can you tell us.....

1. What exactly is TECHWR-L?

TECHWR-L is an Internet-based discussion group for technical
communication issues. In brief, it's just a big E-mail exchange. When
someone sends a message to the list, the LISTSERV software passes the
message along to all of its subscribers to read.

2. How long has the list been up and running?

I started the list in March 1993, so we are nearing the five year
anniversary. At the end of October, we just surpassed 3,100 subscribers.
This does not count the substantial percentage of users who read it
through company bulletin boards, the Usenet news group
[bit.listserv.techwr-l] , or directly from the list archives available
through the Web at [] or

I estimate that about 3,800 people actually read the TECHWR-L list on a
regular basis.

3. Where did the term 'techwhirler' come from in regard to this group?

>From a discussion a few years ago in which someone was looking for a
better or spiffier way to describe us, collectively, than TECHWR-L list
members. The actual list name, as you know, is cumbersome at best. When
I started the list, the software and platform dictated an 8-character
name, and tradition along with the system administrators
required the '-L'. TECHWR was the best I could do with the remaining
characters. I considered TECHCO, but it seemed a little off, and not
clearly communication in the information sense, as opposed to
communication in the data sense.

4. Who is the targeted audience?

Anyone involved with, or interested in, technical communication is the
primary audience. All are welcome to participate--students,
practitioners, teachers, illustrators, contractors, or anyone who has an
interest in technical communication-related information exchange.

5. What categories are listed for discussion?

Anything related to technical communication is fair game. I try to keep
the focus on technical communication per se, without getting too far off
into technical support, linguistics, or other
related-and-necessary-but-not-central issues.

6. How often to you read the list, or do you actually review each piece
of mail?

I read everything on the list, generally as quickly as possible. It's
easier to squelch way off-topic stuff up front than after it builds a
life of its own. I just couldn't in good conscience NOT read everything.

7. How does a person go about getting information for rules, regs, and
sign on?

Just send [ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com] a message and state your request. I send
out the form letter promptly! Or, if you'd rather check it out on your
own, go to our Web site [].

8. Who is the list manager, where is the office based, and what do you
do for a living?

I am the list manager, but my wife (also a technical communicator) and I
run our own
consulting business, RayComm, Inc. Our time is split between writing
computer books and doing a variety of consulting ventures. We're
currently working as contractors for Digital Equipment Corporation, as
well as revising three books.

We are currently located in North Logan, Utah, way up in the mountains.
Nearly every project we do is telecommuting-based, so we can live where
we want.

9. What were you studying in college prior to or during your start up
What was your degree? Were you working on the site during your student

When I started the list, I had been the full-time technical communicator
at Oklahoma State University's Computing and Information Services
division for nearly a year. While I was working at Ok State, I
simultaneously earned an M.A. in technical communication through the
program there.

10. Do you belong to STC?

I'm a senior member of STC (senior membership is conferred after five
years of belonging to STC), and am currently involved on the Internet
Committee. I was on the '' Administration Team from the
beginning, but other obligations (like our business) have had to take
priority. Additionally, I've been involved in judging the tech pubs
competitions (local and International) for a couple of years.

11. Where would you like to see this list go in the future?

Good question. I never expected to be approaching the five year mark. I
started the list completely on a whim--I thought there was a need for a
list dedicated to technical communication issues. Although, a couple of
professional colleagues told me point blank that the misc.writing group
on Usenet more than covered the tech comm needs of the
Internet, so there wasn't really any need for the list. I thought that
the demand was somewhat larger, so tried it out.

I worked at Oklahoma State University at the time, and the resources were
available for the asking, so I did it. It's been quite an educational
experience for me. The problems with off-topic and occasionally
belligerent readers pale in comparison to the E-mail messages from people
who say that the list has really made a substantial difference in their
lives. For example, some people have commented that the list was
instrumental in a career change, getting employment, or surviving a bad
employment situation.

I like those comments a lot, as it's great having an active role in
making a difference. Similar to teaching, but with odd hours and no pay
at all. I would like to see it continue to be useful and make a
difference. At this point, that means finding some way of effectively
dealing with the size, growth, and management. Right now it seems the
topics tend to be fairly basic. I'd like to find a way to step up the
level of discourse to meet the needs of more experienced writers and

Informal interview done on Eric J. Ray of RayComm, Inc. by Smokey L. Bare
of The Bare Necessities Information Network. 10/22/97.

Permission is granted to reprint this interview in any medium, as long as
a copy is provided to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com and slbare -at- juno -dot- com -dot-

Posts: mailto:techwr-l -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu
Commands: mailto:listserv -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu (e.g. SIGNOFF TECHWR-L)
Archives:,, or
Subjects: JOB:, QUESTION:, SUMMARY:, ANNOUNCE:, or none of these.

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