Date: Tue, 9 Dec 1997 15:00:15 -0500

From: Jesse T Sheidlower jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PANIX.COM

Subject: The list; FAQ

A number of people have made thoughtful posts here about the perceived

problems of this list and possible solutions, and I'd just like to add

my feelings.

There are two major functions that people seem to want ADS-L to have:

to allow professional linguists to communicate, and to educate others

about language in general and American dialects in particular. I think

that these desires, while worthy, are incompatible. The more people

who ask very basic questions we have, the more the serious and time-

pressured scholars will stop bothering to respond. There are already

a number of ADS members who don't belong to (or who belong to but

rarely participate in) ADS-L because of the traffic from beginners.

There are also other places people can go to have basic questions

answered--aside from dictionaries, which would solve most of them,

there's always the Usenet group alt.usage.english, which is enormously

clogged with mostly basic questions and which exemplifies what I think

we do not want ADS-L to become.

This is not to diminish the importance of educating beginners; on the

contrary, most members of ADS are educators by profession and realize

the necessity of teaching.

At the same time, I feel that creating a moderated version of ADS-L, or

restricting it to ADS members, would enervate the list. Besides, any

formal moderation would take too much effort, I'm sure.

Right now I think that the S/N ratio is pretty good; I don't think we

need to immediately consider any drastic steps. If it gets much worse,

though, it will be time.

I'm not sure an FAQ will be worth the effort involved, unless we just

make a short, basic introduction to the list and its purpose. My main

reason is that, as experience of other on-line media has shown, the sort

of people who ask basic questions are those who are least likely to first

search for the answer in a FAQ or elsewhere. Other reasons are that many

of the likely questions are already answered in other on-line documents,

including, for example, the FAQ to alt.usage.english.

I want to add that this is simply my personal feeling on these matters,

and I am not claiming any special power as co-owner of the list.

Jesse Sheidlower