Listserv Misgivings and the WcORD

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 8.25.38 AMThis blog post is courtesy of Patrick Hargon, the Associate Director of the Learning Commons at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. 

If you haven’t checked out the Writing Center Online Research Database, enter a term in the search field at this link. It is like a micro-Google just for writing centers. You can find annotated exchanges from WCenter, links to writing center websites with all of the handouts and videos and resources so many have created, links to journal articles, blogs, podcasts, etc.

Perhaps its most useful function, for me, is that it offers a new site to check whenever I get the feeling that I want to post a question to the WCenter listserv.

Last Friday, as UNK’s Learning Commons neared closing time, I pulled one of our writing tutors aside and asked her to tutor me. She said she would, but I couldn’t judge her. “That’s got to go both ways,” I said, knowing that I was about to drag her into a house of mirrors: I wanted to send a question to the WCenter listserv, and I just needed to verbally release, like static electric discharge, all of the misgivings I cycle through beforehand. Should I this, should I that? Should I not? No, I should not. Okay, just do the thing. Hit send.

I’ve never been browbeaten on a listserv, I’ve never sent a message and lost sleep over it (I haven’t hit “Reply-all” by accident yet), and I’ve never come up with a single rational reason to go through the anxious protocol of searching the archives, writing, deleting, searching the archives again, rewriting, thinking, overthinking, finishing, almost sending, rethinking, etc., before simply hitting send. Furthermore, WCenter has an admirable record for polite responses to questions that have been asked many times before.

The tutor and I looked over recent posts to assess the tone of the salutations, to look at folks’ preferred sign-offs, to just get a feel for the different intonations of queries. We didn’t come up with a coding or classification system or anything, so I have nothing to report from our findings. But it was fun.

After that, she asked, “What are you worried about?”

“Well, creating an international wave of eyerolls throughout higher education,” I said.

She said, “Seriously, what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

From Pixabay.com. Used under Creative Commons license.

I told her that if I struck the wrong tone, “people will, like, hit the wasp key!” Some people have a key on their keyboard, I told her, and it shoots wasps at people. I pretended to hit a wasp key, up by the DELL logo on my keyboard, over and over, going “Wasps! Wasps! Find him!”

I admit, I might have been giving her a pretty distorted representation of what communication on professional listservs is really like. And then I hit the wasp key again. Wasps!

It was late on a Friday, foot traffic was low, and it was fun to dramatize the paranoia. I did reel it in after a while, and I did take my time to calmly assure her that no harm comes to those who do not search the available resources before posing a question to a listserv. Also, I overemphasized that listservs are an essential platform for professional discourse. I just encouraged her to always do a little footwork before posting; research the questions first to spare yourself responses linking you back to the archives, where you’ll go and see your question has been posed before and answered before. It’s not even that bad, I assured her, to get linked back to the archives. It’s actually really helpful. It’s just, there’s no way around wishing you had researched it first.

As a way to share some of the interesting digital artifacts the WcORD links to, I’ve created a Facebook page where I post links and search results from the WcORD, linking to WCenter threads, blog posts, videos, journal articles, and other really interesting traces of our profession’s digital footprint. To “like” the facebook page, click here

If you know of online resources that you’d like to include in the WcORD, use this form to submit them.

If you happen to receive a question on the WCenter listserv that you know has been asked before, look away from the “wasp!” key, and consider linking folks to the WcORD as well as the listserv archives.

ev.owaPatrick Hargon oversees writing tutors, subject tutors, supplemental instruction leaders, language table leaders, and he frequently pilots new services, all well intentioned, not all well attended.  At the 2015 Nebraska Writing Center Consortium, he nominated himself for a position on the board he called, without significant forethought, the “additional person,” who has no specific duties but is involved in helping the organization keep Nebraska writing centers connected. He works, records and plays music, and lives in Kearney, Nebraska.

Questions? Ideas? Comment below!

2 thoughts on “Listserv Misgivings and the WcORD

  1. Patrick,

    I love the visual of the dreaded “wasp” key! I definitely have been stung online before, so I won’t be sending the wasps to you. I actually just checked out the WcORD and found a source that helped with my personal writing and helped with my tutoring strategies. I will be sure to check it out more often when I am struggling with a certain aspect of tutoring.

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