Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
If I walked up to you and said, "I'm taking my son to the movies today," would you then reply to me with, "Do you think hamburgers are better with cheese?" Not likely. Most likely your reply would be something about the movies, thus staying on topic. And if you wanted to talk about cheeseburgers you would change the topic and we would move on.
So, if you wouldn't do this in face to face conversations why is it OK to do in e-mail or online conversations? It isn't. Following are several examples of where I see people doing this exact thing in day-to-day online conversations.
- Mailing Lists: There are more than 30,000 genealogy mailing lists devoted to specific topics, localities, or surnames. People frequently join mailing lists and participate incorrectly. Sometimes messages are sent that are off-topic. Sometimes people reply with unrelated questions or comments to messages for specific topics. And people often send new messages to the mailing list by replying to a pre-existing message, so that the "RE: Subject Line" appears in their new message. Solutions: Find a mailing list for the topic you need and post your message there instead. Don't reply to messages unless you're actually replying to *that* topic. Start new e-mail messages to begin a new conversation and topic.
- Message Boards: Ditto the points made above. Message boards (some call them "forums") have the same issues as mailing lists. The difference is that you receive mailing list posts by e-mail, but you have to visit a message board to read and participate.
- E-mail: Sometimes an e-mail message, especially a genealogical query, will contain numerous topics or questions. Often, replies to such e-mails will address one or two of the topics/questions, but not all of them. As the replies go back and forth between the correspondents threads of conversation are lost, points are not made, and answers are not given. And sometimes an e-mail message is sent about the movies and the reply comes back about cheeseburgers. Solutions: Before you reply think about what you read and be sure to read it carefully—more than once if necessary. When writing an e-mail query stick to one topic per message. Or if you have three questions about an ancestor, separate them into three paragraphs that stand out and indicate separate replies for each would be best. And when you start a new conversation, start a new e-mail with a new subject line. If your conversation has changed topics it is okay to change the subject line to reflect the new topic.
- Blogs: A blog is a personal online diary. Some people use them to post articles, to post genealogical findings, or as a substitute for a traditional web site. But the original concept is the same—messages on the blog are posted by the author. The nature of blogs allows for readers to post comments on blog entries. Blog authors can allow or reject those comments if they like. A blog is not a place for people to post comments on unrelated topics. A blog is not a place to ask unrelated questions. A blog is not a place for a reader to post a new topic. Since I started this blog I've rejected several messages that were attempts to contact me rather than actual comments on the topic the comment was attached to. Hey, if you want to e-mail me, then go through the web site and regular e-mail. If you have a comment on the topic, then use that blog feature. Otherwise, look for another more appropriate way to communicate with the author or find an answer to your question.
Overall, the theme here should be one of courtesy and common sense. Before you post a message anywhere ask yourself these questions:
- Is my question relevant to the topic?
- Am I sending my question/comment to the correct person or group?
- Is there a better place I should take this conversation?
- Should I start a new topic or separate topics?
- Does my subject line and conversation thread reflect the intent of the original conversation or the purpose of the mailing list, message board, e-mail , or blog?
- If I were at the receiving end of my message would it seem appropriate and would it make sense?
All that said, this is my official rule for this blog: if you comment on my posts make sure that your comments or questions relate to the topic. If you post a comment that doesn't match the original topic I will reject the post. As simple as that—let's stay on topic folks!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
"Is there a site where genealogy websites are rated? There are so many out there and the descriptions of each are confusing to me. It seems they overlap each other an awful lot, and subscribing to more than one site will provide little more than a subscription to one or the other. Has anybody ever created a chart where they lay out what each site has access to and compared the sites in that way? I am interested in subscribing to a site where I can upload my gedcom file, but there are so many, that I don't know which would be the best.It surely would be more convenient for one huge website to contain all databases at once, but then they could charge whatever they wanted--and get away with it."
This is how I look at this topic: "Is there a book somewhere that rates genealogy books, publications, and records? There are so many out there and the descriptions can be confusing and they overlap each other. I really just want to read one book and want to know which one is the best for me to use."
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
- Why do these people not understand that this is an automated process, not something that I did to them?
- Why do these people expect me to re-subscribe them to the list? They managed to do it themselves the first time they joined, so they should be able to do it again.
- Why can't people think first before they hit the reply button and then wait for someone else to fix the problem? It isn't my fault that AOL bounced them, but they expect me to fix it.
At my end I believe I've already done everything I can think of to prevent the AOL problems. I've contacted the listmaster at RootsWeb and they assure me they deal with AOL on these issues regularly. I have a web page for my mailing list with all the subscribe and unsubscribe instructions: www.CyndisList.com/maillist.htm. I have a section on that page with tips for AOL users on how to help make the CyndisList mailing more happily accepted by AOL's e-mail filters. And I periodically send those tips to the mailing list and I hope they read them or keep them for future reference (please!). For a while I even changed the way I was sending out the messages to the mailing list, sending them one at a time with a half-hour or more between the posts. The problem with that was that I would lose track of time and forget to send the next batch. The more obvious problem with that, for me anyway, is that the whole purpose in using the automated mailing list is to take some of the work off of me.
So, I'm done accomodating AOL users. This isn't my personal attack on them. This is just me working to preserve my own sanity. If you're an AOL user please know I'm not picking on you. I just don't have the time to clean up problems created by AOL's e-mail filters.
BTW, I sent out the AOL tips to the mailing list yesterday. So, what did I get today? A message sent to the list address (1st error) asking me to update their e-mail address (2nd error) by first confirming that I'm acceptable through their automated address book update service (3rd error).
Where's my chococlate?!!!??!!