Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(December 1992)
 

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Subject: newbies
From: Jim Lick <jim @ pi-chan . ucsb . edu>
Date: Fri, 25 Dec 1992 17:20:28 -0800 (PST)
To: list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM

(As an aside, around these parts we don't call them clueless users,
we call them 'newbies' because much of the time those who make the
mistakes are new to the net.  People who have been around a while and
still Just Don't Get It are called 'perpetual newbies.')

Anyways, to throw in my 2 currency units, this is probably the number
one social problems with running a list or just being a subscriber.
I've spent some time thinking about the problem, and have done my
best to inform subscribers to my lists, but the problem never goes
away entirely.

First, upon subscribing, the user will receive a welcome message,
which includes the address they subscribed under, how to change this
if a mistake was made, and then the basics of using the list, and
getting unsubbed later.  It then goes into greater detail about how
lists work, what is and isn't appropriate, covers chain letters and
Craig Shergold, and all that fun stuff.  I've noticed that there
are a lot of lists out there that don't send any acknowledgement
of subscription; articles just start showing up.  They also don't
acknowledge unsubscription.  Other lists will just send a message
saying basicly "you've been added," but don't tell you anything
else.

However, just as many people never look at the manual when they buy
a VCR (and then complain about how they can't get the damn thing to
do anything right), many subscribers will briefly glance at the
welcome message and then hit the delete key (and then complain about
how they can't get the damn thing to do anything right).  The first
line of my welcome message tells them in all caps to save it for
future reference.  This probably has little effectiveness though.

For a while I would simply post reminders about how things work
whenever there were problems.  This works for a while, but people
forget or get sloppy, and the problem reappears.  So I took to
experimenting with adding informational tags to all postings.  At
first the tag was added to the top of every message, but I had
numerous complaints.  I subsequently moved it to the bottom of
each message, which doesn't seem to bother people much.

There are still problems, but this seems to be the best I can
do, short of making the lists moderated, which is not something
I have the time for.  I think I have done more than enough to inform
subscribers how to do things, and thus my policy is to ignore
administrative requests unless they are sent to the request
address.  This at leasts gets the most stubborn ones to take a
few seconds to read how to do it the right way.

While we're at it, and since I still have some time before Christmas
Dinner, I'll share some of the other social problems and what I've
done about them:

Similiar to the misguided requests problem, I also have problems
with subscribers posting messages either to the bounces address,
or by replying to another poster.  I don't look at the bounces
file often enough to repost misguided messages sent there.  By
the time I read it, the subject of discussion has already come
and gone, and little would be added by reposting them now.  I just
let these pass, so there's no real solution here.  I have been
pondering changing the envelope from address from 'listname-owner'
to something like 'listname-errors' or 'listname-bounces', but
someone I discussed this with pointed out that some might see that
on incoming mail and think they were getting bounces instead of
list postings.  This usually shows up as the first line in the
header, so it could be an easy target for confusion.  Maybe
something like 'this-is-not-a-repliable-address' would work.  I'm
still thinking about this though.

Another problem, although thankfully fairly infrequent is the posting
of inappropriate material.  The way my welcome message defines this
is that anything not related to the subject of the list is inappropriate,
no matter how important it may otherwise be.  This is fairly
subjective, but I've been very liberal about things that are only kinda
sort of related, but related none-the-less.  However, the penalty for
those who have clearly crossed the line is for them to be immediately
unsubscribed from the list, and possibly a note sent to their postmaster,
depending on circumstances.  This has fortunately only happened a few
times.

Flaming is of course a long-standing net-tradition, but I try to
discourage this as much as possible.  However, debate and argument
is by all means allowed, but personal attacks and name-calling, and
other flaming type attacks are not allowed.  Again, this hasn't
happened very often.  The one notable case was an individual who had
just subscribed, and immediately began attacking the subject of the
group, calling us life-less losers, and all that sort of thing.  I
saw similiar messages from the same user show up on other lists around
the same time, so it was quite obvious that the user was just getting
kicks from pissing off people.  As a result, the user was unsubscribed
from the group, and the problem was solved.  (I can also block mail
from certain users from being posted to the list, but this was not
necessary.  In fact the only time I've had to use it, and the reason
it was added was because of a UUCP site bouncing mail to the list
address.)  At times some otherwise valued subscribers would slip
into some flaming, but this is pretty much inevitable.  Many times
it's just a one time thing, but otherwise a short note asking them to
please be nice will solve things.

Well, that's about all I can think of for now.  I hope everyone had
a Merry Christmas, or at least a nice day off from work.

--- jim @
 pi-chan .
 ucsb .
 edu --- Jim Lick --- jim @
 tcp .
 com --- jIngOrO @
 CaveMUCK ---
--:):-- perfect little dream the kind that hurts the most -- |\| | |/| --:(:--
--- CaveMUCK is back! --- Telnet to cave.tcp.com (128.95.10.106) port 2283 ---


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