A Guide to Moderating Announcement Lists
by Doug Bates
Most people are very weary of giving out their email addresses these days. They fear that someone will get ahold of it and start sending them so much useless mail they can't weed through it all. Even on "private" lists, these users are forced to listen to others bantering on about trivial and unrelated topics. For these reasons, email holders often avoid email lists despite the tremendous amount of useful information that would be available on them.
Announcement (only) Lists
Lists don't have to be open to conversation. Users inboxes can be protected by persons serving as list moderators. These moderators can control what messages are deposited to all those people. Using modern list services like eGroups, moderators can painlessly keep even the most active communities aprised of upcoming events, coordination efforts, and pertinent news. Plus, the work of the moderator can even be delegated out to more than one person.
Using multiple lists can add a lot of flexibility! I recommend providing two seperate forums where users can recieve announcements and chat amongst themselves seperately. This way, they can choose if they want to participate in the discussions or not. Also, look for significant sub-groups that might exist and consider giving them seperate lists to better focus their interests. But avoid splitting it if you'd foresee a lot of announcements being cross-posted to both groups.
As a Moderator
Before approving any message, consider these criteria:
- You should know your audience... So, on their behalf would enough of them benefit from this announcement to warrant ALL of them having to read it? Don't send the message if it is off-topic. Or, if it is loosely related, consider shortening it to a quick blurb and including a link or email for more information.
- Keep the message subject concise, descriptive, and specific. Include event names, dates (if it's soon), and enough information that the reader knows if they really need to read further or not. Also, post one announcement per message.
- Avoid cross-posting or forwarding messages to similar lists. Keep in mind that you're probably not the only one who's on both lists. These folks will get a seperate copy of that same message from each and every list. If you do feel you want to forward some pertinent information from another list, take the time to write a quick, yet personal addendum at the top; tell people why you felt it was worth forwarding to THIS group.
- Make sure each announcment answers all the critical questions. Who, what, where, when, why, and how is a good start. Think of other things people will need to know: cost of admission, directions, appropriate attire, RSVP deadlines, etc. Whenever possible, include the internet URL where more information is available and keep the announcement brief just answering these basic questions.
- Keep things accurate. Check that dates haven't passed, directions make sense, odd little acronyms get spelled out, and so on.
- Set replies to be sent diectly back to just the message author. If people do have questions, encourage 'em to reply to the announcement and ask the original author.
- Automated announcement like event reminders and monthly summaries can be very useful. But be careful to understand their limitations. (E.g., eGroups event reminders get clipped at a few paragraphs long!) And avoid hammering your audience with repeating reminders (e.g., each week); ussually once every now and then is sufficient.
- Remain open to the diversity of your community. While it is your responsibility to prevents things from getting off-topic, do keep and open mind to what all your group might consider on the fringe, but worth hearing about. Never be so petty as to let your personal views censor your list from any relavant opportunity.
- Be cautious of for-profit events and resources. There's more than enough advertising on the internet and plenty of ways your users can find the things they want to spend money on. On the other hand, a lot of worth-while things cost money. Jus' ask yourself if most of your audience would appreciate hearing about it.
- Censor out any potentially confidential information. This includes email addresses other than the main contact's, similar phone numbers, and personal notes.
- Is the announcement something your audience can actually act upon. There's tons of information on the internet about any given topic. Here, we're only interested in actionable opportunitites.
- Keep the information local to this community. Typically, this is defined as "within driving distance."