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From Stefano Mazzocchi <>
Subject [ADMIN] keeping focus helps your points come across!
Date Wed, 13 Mar 2002 13:19:44 GMT
We use the mail list both as a media to transmit our thoughts and as a
virtual location to hang around and feel part of something.

In order for the second to happen, you just have to subscribe. That's
it, nothing fancy.

But in order for the first to happen (transmit your thoughts) it's an
entirely different matter.

Here are a few things that help a lot:

 1) reduce noise, increase signal: your email client will quote the
message you are replying to automatically, but it's *your*
responsibility to remove those parts that aren't part of the signal of
your email. Sure, you might let this operation to the reader, but you
must understand that the reader is not supposed to do this. Or, at
least, it should be *you* to make the reader confortable.

 2) be respectful, be aware of community dynamics: sending HTML in the
mail more than *doubles* the message size and interferes with text-based
mail clients. You want your point to come across, so make sure that
everybody can get to that point with the *easiest* possible effort, or,
otherwise, your signal might be wasted in the noise and the time you
think you are saving, you are, in fact, loosing it completely.

 3) promote your signal: people on mail lists are used to read tons of
email a day. Without a good 'promotion' of your points, they might get
missed in the noise. (note: 'noise' is a subjective notion, what is
signal for you might be noise for others, it's up to you to make your
signal stand up). Things that help in this respect:

    a) a simple yet effective email title. Geeks are ultimately curious
animals, tickle their curiosity!

    b) be elegant and visually effective. Sure, you have to use ASCII,
but there is a lot that you can convey with ASCII

          | I'm sure nobody will miss this! |
    c) structure your text. Whenever possible, use *strong* or
_underline_ or /italic/ or use bullet lists and so on. Consider textual
RFC, that's how you should write your emails. Sure, it takes a little
more time, but I guarantee you that it saves a lot of it later on.

    d) keep paragraphs short! you can go on and on forever, I'm sure you
do, but keep your point focused, so that the signal/noise ratio is

 4) be respectful of other's opinion: your email will be stored forever,
archived in several locations around the world, indexed by Google,
locked in magnetic tapes into the NSA caves and so on. Just keep this in
mind before you hit "send", this will keep your ego honest :)

 5) admit your incapacity/ignorance/mistakes: there is nothing more
appreciated in a community that someone that can stand up and apologize
for something. Remember: if you don't make mistakes, you can't learn.
And if you don't admit you made it, nobody knows you are learning :)

Keep all these things in mind and you'll be impressed by how much fun
and knowledge you can get out of all this open development thing.


Stefano Mazzocchi      One must still have chaos in oneself to be
                          able to give birth to a dancing star.
<>                             Friedrich Nietzsche

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