Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(July 1997)

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Subject: Re: Subscription Problems
From: "Linda B. Merims" <lbm @ ici . net>
Date: Sun, 6 Jul 1997 07:57:38 -0400 (EDT)
To: List-Managers @ GreatCircle . COM

Amy Stinson <amys @
 amys-answers .
 com> wrote:

>I used myself as an example of how to send messages to the listserver 
>and put:  This is an example of how to send a command
>and had no fewer than 50 people sign up to the TEST list with the 
>name Amy Stinson.  How do I get them to stop that?  

I laughed at this.  I was doing documentation for Project Athena
at MIT in the mid 80s.  Athena was where the X Window System
was invented.  The way the network was back then, everybody 
effectively had to set the DISPLAY environment variable
before they could use a terminal.  So, I wrote a little blurb to
show students how to set DISPLAY.  I made the mistake of
using a real machine name, teela:0, as an example:

  setenv DISPLAY teela:0

Well, teela:0 became one machine on the system you *didn't* want
to be using.  As you'd sit there, other peoples' windows would 
constantly be popping up on your screen!  Shortly thereafter
we invented xhost.

I understand your frustration.  Really, most of what the job
of list manager consists of is helping people subscribe and unsubscribe.
The first time I saw somebody misspell subscribe I was floored.
Well, it turns out to be a fairly common mistake. I've got
"boilerplate" messages for the two most common mistakes:  sending
to the list instead of the admin address, and failing to
put the right thing on the subject line (SmartList).

It is just that most of the people using the Internet these days
don't exist and have never existed in a world that requires
the degree of precision required to interact with computers.  They are
literally incapable of resolving that degree of preciseness in
instructions.  They also don't seem to understand that they are
not talking to a person, they are talking to an automated system
where all the pleasantries they include ("Please add me to your
list, I've heard so much about it," "I am changing jobs so please
change my subscription") go unheard.

Linda B. Merims
lbm @
 ici .
Massachusetts, USA

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