atw: Let's calm down, apologies, and other things

  • From: "Geoffrey Marnell" <geoffrey@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 12:54:09 +1100

Hi austechies,
There have been some sharp, some blistering and some downright nasty
postings on this list this week. I no doubt contributed to this with a
fairly sharp posting myself (prompted by my interpretation of a statement by
Christine-now patently disproved-that she wished to be excused from being
challenged). Michelle, Janice and others have pointed out what really didn't
need to be pointed out: there are ways of challenging people that are likely
to spark a flame and those that are not. My apologies to Christine, and to
the list, for choosing the former.
This would be a dull, indeed redundant, list if all it offered were tool
tips and techno-raves. But there are long periods when that is all we see on
it. I set up this list eleven or so years ago to be a forum about technical
communication, and technical communication is much much more than tools,
operating systems and the like. Moreover, it seems that it is now more
important than ever to be discussing the core issues of technical
communication (especially their continuing relevance). Hence I want to
encourage discussions that go beyond tool tips and techno-raves, to
encourage discussions like that initiated by Christine. 
But I think we all need to remember that email is not an ideal medium for
even moderately complex discussions. We cannot see the body language of a
message poster, and emoticons are, obviously, a weak substitute for
communication. We mostly have just the words in front of us to go on. It may
be wise, then, for message posters (initiators and responders) to craft
their messages carefully, leaving no ambiguity in place. For it seems that
much of the heat in recent discussions has been sparked by literal
interpretations of what later turn out to be misinterpretations (although
understandable misinterpretations). That said, it might also be wise for
responders to consider if a statement they take exception to might have been
meant in another way, and then to seek clarification rather than pounce
blindly. And that's advice for me too.
My fear for this list is that many of those who could make valuable
contributions to it turn off or churn out because of the vehemence of some
of its threads. (I know that this is already happening from the emails I get
as the list administrator.) It's in all out interests to minimise such
churn, and it's in all our interests to encourage more discussion and
debate. We are all sure to learn something, no matter how long in the tooth
we are. But discussion and debate will dry up if we don't show each other a
little more respect.
So let's all calm down. If we don't, I fear that this may have to become a
moderated list (which carries the risk of it being abandoned altogether).
Geoffrey Marnell
Principal Consultant
Abelard Consulting Pty Ltd
T: +61 3 9596 3456
F: +61 3 9596 3625
W:  <>

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