ROOTS-L Archives

Archiver > ROOTS > 2003-03 > 1047410347

From: Karen Isaacson Leverich <>
Subject: [ROOTS-L] Reposted from 1996: Do Unto Others...
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003 11:19:07 -0800 (PST)

Here's an oldie from my files. It's been almost seven years since
I posted the following! Nowadays, you can find the "welcome" stuff
via our Web site at and don't have
to muddle through the arcane LISTSERV commands (which won't work
anyhow, since we now use SmartList instead of LISTSERV.)


Date: Sat, 23 Mar 1996 14:53:00 -0800
Reply-To: <>
Sender: ROOTS-L Genealogy List <>
From: Karen Isaacson <>
Organization: RAND, Santa Monica, CA
Subject: Do Unto Others...

OK, OK, could we stop the shouting and the finger pointing? Helen
felt she had been flamed by some members of this mailing list, and
complained about it. Many of you are outraged that newbies (or anyone
making a mistake) would be flamed and have said so. At this point, I
don't think posting a gazillion more messages saying, "Me too!" or
"Oh, you horrible people, you know who you are!" will serve much
purpose: if we didn't have the idea in the first place, or had
forgotten, we understand now.

Moving on... First, an important caveat: I have =not= been privy
to the messages Helen sent or received (well, I saw one), and what
I write now is intended to be general, and in particular wasn't
inspired by Helen's experience.

This sort of thing "blows up" on ROOTS-L from time to time. Quite
often, it's a simple case of misunderstanding. I saw one series
of correspondence between a new subscriber and Steve S. last December.
The new subscriber had made that terrible horrible awful unforgivable
mistake: they had sent a message to ROOTS-L with the subject line
"Re: ROOTS-L Digest 15 Dec 1995". Steve wrote a very gentle
note (I saw it) suggesting that a better subject line might lead
to the message receiving more responses. New subscriber responded
by sending an =extremely= angry message to Steve, to the effect
of "How DARE you flame me? I'm NEW! Everyone makes MISTAKES!
Get out of my FACE." Etc etc. <blink> The message here, for
me: some people are very thin-skinned and take any criticism at
all as a flame, and often escalate.

Suggestion for old hands: Don't flame newbies. And if you send a
helpful message to a new subscriber and receive in return a message
like Steve did, just toss it. Although the temptation to flame back
at that point may be overwhelming, just write it off. Otherwise, you
may be the "seed" of the next "Don't pick on newbies" thread.

Suggestion for newbies: Yes, I know, it's silly making suggestions
for newbies, since the ones arriving next month will never see these.
But there's a parallel to the observation that we were all new here
once, and that's that we'll all be new somewhere else sometime.
Also, I think most of our new subscribers are here due to ROOTS-L
being recommended to them by their friends. So when you recommend
ROOTS-L to your friends, you might also give them a leg up by telling
them what the group is like, so they make fewer mistakes when they
start out.

OK, so, suggestion for newbies: you make a post, you make a mistake,
you receive ... criticism! What do you do? If it's cranky and mean,
just throw it away. There are over 6000 people subscribed to this
mailing list. That's an awful lot of people. Many of them are having
a bad day, hair or otherwise. Many of them are busy. Many of them
are simply feeling crabby. If it is advice, even if you don't like
its tone (and it's hard to send advice and get the right "tone"),
consider following it anyway. For every crabby person who was
irritated by your mistake and wrote to tell you about it, there may well be
20 or 30 nice people who didn't write but who were irritated all the same.

And please, don't assume any and all suggestions are just mean-spirited
flames, like Steve's correspondent did back in December. Sure, we're
all new once, we all make mistakes, but we'll keep right on making
mistakes if nobody tells us about them.

How to make fewer mistakes? Whenever you join a new mailing list
or group, watch and listen for a few weeks to get the feel of it.
Read the welcome messages. The ROOTS-L welcome message aims you
in turn at a couple more files you can order from the LISTSERV. Order
them, read them. One contains the advice to NOT TYPE ALL IN CAPS
mistake, anyhow, that can be avoided. ;-)

And finally: you did all this, were careful, but still did something
or another (LIKE TYPING ALL IN CAPS) that you weren't supposed to.
What now? Will all your queries be ignored, and your ancestors will
always be a mystery? Well, life has no guarantees (I'm still stuck on
my BURTONs after 10 years, sigh), but I wouldn't worry about it. The
group moves on. No one will remember that =you= were the one who did
whatever it was. (I doubt Steve remembers who it was he had that
interchange with, back in December.) Just keep reading and writing
and soon you too will be giving advice to newbies. Try to be gentle
when the time comes, OK?


ROOTS-L Co-Admin

This thread: