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How a listserv works October 4, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

I was called a snot and a know-it-all on the ATA LTD listserv the other day. Some woman had asked about a PDF conversion program. This is a subject I know quite a bit about, having presented on the subject at ATA two separate times, so the attack was completely unwarranted. I had replied earlier that week that what she wanted the program to do was not within the program’s ability (as I understood it she wanted to be able to paste the English text next to the German in the OCRed file). She then proceeded to try to e-mail a file as an attachment over the listserv to one of the members to OCR for her. When the suggestion was made that the listserv allow attachments I simply replied that I voted no because I didn’t want my e-mail inbox cluttered with attachments from a listserv. The woman’s overreaction to my replies in this discussion and subsequent responses to other people’s replies defending me from her unwarranted attack (calling them scammers and spammers when they were in fact simply replying to the listserv) clued me in that the woman had absolutely no idea how a listserv worked. I’m sure most of you do, but in case you don’t, here is a quick explanation.

The term ‘listserv’ has been used to refer to a few early electronic mailing list software applications, allowing a sender to send one email to the list and then transparently sending it on to the addresses of the subscribers to the list. Incoming messages sent to the reflector address (in this case ataLTD@yahoogroups.com, but it could just as easily be ata_business_practices@yahoogroups.com, WPPF@yahoogroups.com or pt_@yahoogroups.com) are processed by the software and are
distributed to all email addresses subscribed to the mailing list. This means that every e-mail that is sent to ataLTD@yahoogroups.com gets sent to all 210 members of the listserv. Once you subscribe to the listserv you will receive all the e-mails that are sent to the list. You can’t pick and choose (although you *can* filter individual e-mail addresses into your e-mail program’s Trash, which I hope she has done with my e-mail address because I never want to hear from her again).

In the meantime, she looks like a total idiot who overreacted ‘in front of’ 209 professional translators, and, believe me, behavior on listservs plays a huge part in how people perceive you as a professional. Meltdowns such as hers last week or a few other notable instances in the past on various other listservs truly reflect poorly on the translator and influence whether someone will recommend you to their client if they are too busy to accept a job. Bad behavior on a listserv such as the ATA Business Practices listserv is even worse, because many agency owners subscribe to the listserv. So think before you write to a listserv.



1. Little Red Writing Good - October 4, 2012

Thanks Jill! I actually didn’t know much about listservs, and hadn’t specifically planned on learning until I saw your post. Now that I have a bit more info, I can see that it might actually be quite valuable to subscribe to a key few. (…and cross my fingers that I don’t become the target of a highly public and unprofessional meltdown…)

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 4, 2012

Meltdowns on listservs are actually very rare, so don’t be afraid.

Thanks for the feedback, because I wasn’t sure. Listservs are extremely valuable sources of information. I have learned so much from the various listservs I have been on and have even received work when colleagues have recommended me to their clients. It is always such an honor when a colleague who you have never met recommends you for a job based on your posts on a listserv. I think you’ll find them very rewarding!

2. Margaret Marks - October 6, 2012

There must have been something like that on a German translators’ or writers’ list last week, although not so rude. Someone sent a private message to the list and was unable to understand the helpful letters explaining the problem. Or so I gathered from a lot of funny tweets!

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 6, 2012

No, she was trying to undermine a former GLD administrator by forwarding the e-mail and was not greeted with the sympathy she expected. She was removed from the GLD list and voluntarily left the BP list. Both lists are now a joy to be a part of again. She had monopolized the listservs for her own personal gain. She has come back to the GLD list under her husband’s e-mail, but everyone can tell it’s her based on her writing style. But at least she is keeping it short and sweet (so far). I’ll have to go back and read the tweets 😉

There have been incidents on the French listserv and a well-known meltdown on the GLD list by a certain Canadian-based translator who fancies himself as a politician. But luckily these meltdowns are very rare – and funny enough always seem to happen just before the ATA conference. I don’t know if people are more stressed in September and October and therefore don’t have the time to write a mail and walk away for a bit or lose any sense of decorum, but it is a strange coincidence.

3. Sally Loren - October 7, 2012

Yes, lots of people don’t seem to understand the (clever) concept of a list serv. It’s the same on many forums I belong to. Last week when I was at the BDUE conference, I was shocked at the general lack of knowledge about IT in general and software that is so useful to translators in particular. So many people don’t even use Word properly and are amazingly unaware of one of its key functions (especially for us translators) shift + F7 (the thesaurus!). I use it all the time. And as to peope who translate certificates and put 1,000 tabs in the document instead of simply creating a table – why would you want to make all that work for yourself? The latter was an issue dealt with in one of the workshops on certificates (thank goodness). You can lead a horse to water… I totally agree that the woman on your forum just ended up with egg on her face.

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 7, 2012

I totally agree, Sally. I submitted a proposal for the ATA conference this year on formatting in Word that was rejected. I really think a lot of translators could have benefited from it! My clients are always commenting on the fact that I know how to format properly using one tab and/or tables where appropriate – and never use the space bar to format.

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