ADMIN: Why's the listowner such a jerk, revisited

Subject: ADMIN: Why's the listowner such a jerk, revisited
From: TECHWR-L Administrator <admin -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 3 May 1999 06:29:19 -0600


It's a benevolent dictatorship.

When people sign up for this list, they're signing up
for a list about technical communication issues.
It's my responsibility to ensure that they get what
they signed up for.

First, note that "of interest to technical communicators"
is not the same as "germane to technical communication."
Think of a context within the company or organization
of your choice...if it's a course or presentation on a topic
that the tech pubs group and few if any others would
be interested in, it's probably appropriate. If it's something
that would be of great interest to tech pubs AS WELL AS
the rest of the company (e.g., cut 45 minutes off your
commuting time), it's not.

How many postings a topic generates isn't a measure
of appropriateness--it's, in my opinion, both a measure
of how hot/inflammatory/volatile a topic is AND how
easy it is to dash off an answer. Some of the most
appropriate questions are also quite thought-provoking
and don't lend themselves to dashing off a response, thus
generate pathetically little traffic, while other questions
push buttons or can be answered quickly with little thought,
thus get lots of traffic.

Second, I'll freely grant that the definition of technical
communication is quite broad, but for the purposes
of this list I've narrowed it to exclude purely
linguistic discussions, purely sociological discussions,
and as far as practicable, purely computer-related
discussions. What does this leave? Anything with
_direct_ applicability to a technical writer/student/

Thus, discussions about political correctness, while
some argue a relevance to technical communication
(although PC issues haven't affected a word I've
written over the years) are far more the province
of politics, sociology, and linguistics than technical
communication. There are plenty of lists
for those topics.

Discussions about tech writer specific tools (Frame,
Word, etc.,) are marginally appropriate, when it's
a tech writing angle (e.g., doing huge books but
not boldfacing text). However, other lists exist for
specific discussions of Frame, Word, and most other
tools, and those lists will generally provide better and
faster answers to most discussions.

Providing appropriate information to an audience
in an appropriate way, determining who the audience
is and what the needs are, and dealing with the
political, linguistic, and tool-related issues to get to
that end are appropriate discussions. (Note that
this could be about hardware, software, medical
devices, scientific theories, wrenches and bolts,
circuit boards, or anything else that a tech writer
writes about.)

If you have questions, ask offline, but it's not open
for discussion on the list. I'm happy to entertain other
suggestions, interpretations, etc., and have (as Matt
notes) made changes in the past, but that happens
more frequently if the messages don't start with
"Eric, you jerk...".

Please, can we now return to technical communication


--New on 31 July 1998--


In the ongoing effort to make this list as useful
as possible, I've recast the Posting Rules (which
do still exist) in terms of responsibilities in a
number of areas--I think this offers a more
constructive way of looking at the list and can,
I think, help make things run a little more
smoothly. Additionally, this reflects my
philosophical view of how the list _should_ run--based
on responsibilities, not explicit rules.

With that...


* Make sure that the list continues to run and
be a valuable information resource. This
includes stopping inappropriate discussions
and silencing posters who cannot or will not
respect other list members' needs and time.
* Help members and potential readers learn about
and use the list.
* Help members with administrative problems, like
changed email addresses or similar issues.
* Handle off-topic messages, spam, and inappropriate
or unprofessional messages, through either
private or public means, as needed.
* Forward (anonymously and confidentially) questions
and messages for the list that could be
career-limiting or embarrassing if the name of
the poster were known. Sending private replies
back to the original poster is unfortunately not


To Other List Members:

* Be nice. Attack ideas, not personalities, and
stay nice in off-line commentary as well.
* Be concise and clear in your postings, and
edit unnecessary content before sending.
* Stay focused on the topic. Other people didn't
subscribe to this list for anything other
than professional discussions about
technical communication, and it's your
responsibility to do everything in your
power to remain focused on that topic.
* Post only appropriate messages. If it's not
clearly about technical communication, it's
not appropriate for this list, regardless
of how critical or vital it may seem to
you. Make the connection explicit if necessary.
* Respect other people's time. If the correct
usage/word/information is in a standard
reference book that you have, look it up
rather than asking 4000 other people to
look it up for you. If you've already done
your homework, then say so explicitly.
* Post only accurate information. If you're posting
verifiable technical information, tips, or
instructions, take the time to ensure that
they're accurate. If you don't have the time to
ensure that your message is completely accurate
using authoritative sources, don't post it.
* Use the archives and don't post questions
that have been beaten to death recently.
If it's been posted, it's in the archives,
so don't ask others to do the archive
research for you.
* Remember that few absolutes exist--for every
_rule_ of technical communication that you
have always followed, someone else always
follows a contradictory rule. What you post is
usually an opinion, and will be better
received when presented as one.
* Fix your email problems on your own or with the
help of the listowner. The other list members
have better things to do than to delete your
test message.

To Yourself:

* Remember that your postings go to potential
employers, co-workers, and friends. Additionally,
they're archived forever in several places.
* Post valuable messages. I know of well over 100
list members who have gotten jobs as a direct
or indirect result of their techwr-l postings,
and they're all people who send substantive,
well-thought-out, constructive contributions.
(Yes, these are the people who post the messages
that you print out and file.)
* Post good questions. Although there is truth in the
old saw about "the only dumb question is the one
unasked", posting the same question that was
addressed at length in each of the last 4 weeks
(and thus answered at length in the archives),
is a dumb question.
* Learn to use your email program well, including
taking advantage of mail filtering, searching,
sorting, and filing features. Send only plain
text messages and no attachments to the list.
* Learn to use archives and online resources
effectively, both for technical communication
information and for other information.

To Listowner:

* Keep the list instructions and use them.
* Keep the list rules and follow them.
* Contact the listowner if you have problems,
questions, or issues.
* Send list messages to the list, send administrative
messages, questions, commentary, or complaints
to the listowner.

Eric J. Ray RayComm, Inc. ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com

*Award-winning author of several popular computer books
*Syndicated columnist: Rays on Computing
*Technology Department Editor, _Technical Communication_

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

Previous by Author: Please Ignore - Test
Next by Author: ADMIN: Yes, Win95 vs. Win98 is off-topic
Previous by Thread: Re: Dreamweaver Question
Next by Thread: The Independent's Guide to the STC Conference

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads