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Re: "New Framers" <framers@omsys.com>

At 01:51 PM 9/25/98 -0300, Bill Briggs wrote in response to my post:

>I'd have to agree with most of that.  I read very little of the traffic
>these days (granted, there are other reasons, like the arrival of twins
>last year that killed a lot of "spare time").  I find the PDF questions
>tiring, I resent people not reading the manual and wasting others time
>because they're lazy, and there is a low level of challenging problems.
>And people who post are, as you indicate, not good about providing clear
>complete explanations of their problem, attempted solutions, etc.  Often
>they don't even give the platform and version, which may be critical.  All
>in all it has not been an inspiring list to be on of late.
One constructive thing we could do on the new list would be to "suggest"
a rough outline format for various types of posts. I think, in particular,
people asking for help could be persuaded they're much more likely to get an
answer to their problem if they use a prescribed structure for describing
their problem. Another type, important to all of us, is a format for
reporting suspected bugs.
>I don't have any objection to people posting questions that an expert
>wouldn't need to ask - after all, the list is to help them (and us), and
>there are corporate users, like me, who don't have access to a manual
>unless we buy it ourselves (Nortel has 23,000 such users without manuals!).
>Some of the things about getting TOCs, indicies and autonumbering to work
>right is difficult for the newcomer, and I don't want to belittle them for
>that.  But I'll only answer those posts if I have time, which these days
>mostly I don't.  What I miss on the list are the really clever solutions to
>difficult problems of the kind that Wim van Gijsel at Philips used to post.
>And like you, I read Conrad's posts no matter what the subject line - he's
>always worth reading.  I don't know if maybe we're dreaming thinking that
>we can raise the quality level to that lofty height, and get rid of all of
>the dross, but we can improve it for sure.
I'm not suggesting that we should even try to get rid of the dross, although
the idea I proposed about suggesting outline formats for various types of
posts might help. What I was really getting at is that, if we successfully
sign up the heavy hitters, and they actively contribute from the outset, the
initial quality of the traffic will be much higher than Brad's, and we
should take advantage of that. It will convince people who "subscribe" to
both lists that if they decide to "unsubscribe" to one of them so as to
reduce the email volume, it will be Brad's list that they drop.
>The content of the list is certainly not Brad's fault (although he could
>nudge people in the right direction if he had any skills as a diplomat),
>but it does bolster our case for making a new list.  And I think you're
>right that he'll go to war over it, which strikes me as odd because my
>impression is that a lot of the problems with the technical aspects of the
>list are because he doesn't have the time or interest to maintain it.  I
>think we could expect almost anything from him, but he'll have to tread
>carefully in order not to look like a twit - we've been on this list longer
>than he has and are certainly battle hardened framers.
>However, in order to maintain the upper hand in this venture, we have to
>not only keep the *appearance* of integrity, but we have to act that way
>too.  For this reason I'd want to stay away from the "If Brad Goes to War"
>recommendation number 4.  It would not look good on us if it was ever
>suspected or revealed that we were filling his list with dross (and because
>we'd have to recruit people to do it, people will know, and we don't know
>who would talk).  I think that's way too risky - sort of like unzipping
>your pants the first day in the oval office ;-)  Not to mention that it's
>the kind of thing I'd expect Microsoft to do, and I'd like to keep my hands
>clean.  There's plenty of natural dross on that list and I'd say that we
>need to focus on the quality of our submissions and let his list continue
>to generate its own.  We can be successful without resorting to sabotage.
>I think the scenario that you describe in which the heavy hitters leave and
>the list sinks into oblivion is quite likely to happen.  It would be best
>if we achieve that by operating totally above board.
I always tend to toss at least one extreme idea into the pot, and
recommendation 4 was that one. I do it to stimulate ideas that are less
extreme and more effective. I didn't recommendation 4 to be serious. The
others are.
>So how long do you think we should wait before a public announcement on
>that list about this one?  Does it depend on the success of our recruiting
>efforts?  At some point we have to make it known, otherwise someone may
>announce it for us, but with a negative spin (say if Brad trashed us
>publicly himself).  I'm going to try to have my campaign letter out by the
>first of the week.  What time-frame are you two working toward?
Why don't we start by just trying to reach and sign up the heavy hitters
before of "going wide" to the entire Framer's list. That way, we'll have a
chance to kick around ideas with those people. To get the list off to a
strong start with high-quality posts, we could ask them to post some
contributions that would be of general interest to most framers. Jeremy
could cache these. Then, when we open the list up to all, Jeremy could fire
off that cache of high-quality postings to each new subscriber.

Maybe, while the heavy hitters are being recruited, we don't call it the
Framers list but something else instead. The recruiting pitch to the heavy
hitters is that we're interested in starting a new list that eliminates the
problems people are experiencing on Brad's list, and, more importantly,
provides a forum for more serious discussions. We could tell the heavy
hitters that the initial trial period will be used to iron out the kinks,
establish the rules, and, most importantly, to determine whether we should
later "go wide" and invite all Framers to join. That way, if Brad gets wind
of it, he can't accuse of of rape and pillage, or if he does, he appears to
be more interested in maintaing his monopoly than fostering the exchange of

In other words, our initial line is that we're trying to establish a "niche"
list for a limited group, but if it's successful, it will be opened up to
everyone. If some of the people we recruit blast us for trying to take the
list away from Brad, we simply say that would be foolish unless we can first
prove that the new concept is better.

During that initial period, we could continue to try to persuade Brad that
he should give up the Framers list and turn it over to Jeremy. If the new
list is successful, and he sees his list traffic declining as key people
drop off his list, he might perceive turning over the list as a way to save

Dan Emory
Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design
and Database Publishing Specialists

Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971
E-Mail: danemory@primenet.com
10044 Adams Ave. #208
Huntington Beach, CA 92646

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