[OS X TeX] Keeping this list healthy

Fernando Pereira fcnpereira at mac.com
Fri Dec 1 10:33:07 EST 2006

I've been on various lists since the early days of usenet (back to  
1979). I've seen many flame wars and been involved in a few myself  
that I'd rather disavow :( This medium attracts many articulate,  
technically very knowledgeable people. People of that kind -- and  
this is not a criticism -- can get impatient or snippy when they feel  
that their points or contributions are being misunderstood. When  
people know each other well, expression of those feelings can be  
helpful and eventually worked through. But most of us here or in any  
other such forum do not really know each other. We may *think* we do  
because we have ben reading each other's posts for years. We may  
especially feel that we know well the main contributors of this group  
(you know who they are). But we don't have the kind of knowledge that  
comes from face-to-face social interaction, that tells us  how to  
interact successfully with someone much better than we can put in words.

So, it's way too easy to annoy or offend someone online, because we  
don't have access to most of the relevant emotional signals. Knowing  
that, there are some useful responses:

- Think before pressing send: how would this *public* communication  
be interpreted by people beyond the sender's immediate circle
- Think before replying: Is a reply venting feelings that are never  
well expressed on this medium? Does the reply go beyond factual  
issues relevant to the group?
- Suppress ego: to paraphrase a famous New Yorker cartoon "On the  
Internet, no one knows that you are a feeling person". Issues of self- 
worth and the like are best kept to one's full social interactions;  
this medium can be good for building shared knowledge, but it is  
terrible for establishing and maintaining emotionally healthy  

I enjoy the contributions and thoughtful questions of many here, even  
when I disagree with with them. That's a value that all of us share,  
otherwise we wouldn't bother to subscribe. The occasional snippy  
interaction here is a natural leakage of human reaction to  
difficulties in communication. If we start interpreting those  
glitches as more significant than they really are, we'll destroy this  
forum. I've seen that happen in other groups. We would all lose a lot  
if it happened here.


-- F

PS. I also subscribe to the red wine theory, looking forward to a  
nice bottle this weekend :)

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