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Making more work for myself

One of my many professional tasks is to co-run the mailing lists for SIGCSE, one of my professional organizations. A few weeks after the 2018 SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, I heard indirectly from someone who had joined SIGCSE when they registered for SIGCSE [1] and wanted to be added to the mailing lists. And then I thought to myself there must be others. So I wrote to the registration team to get the list of new members. I quickly learned that there were a few hundred new SIGCSE members [2]. So I did what any reasonable mailing list moderator would do. So I sent a mass email [3] explaining the two lists and inviting people to join the lists. I probably should have asked my advisory board first [4].

As you might expect, many responded. Not all, because not everyone wants to be on mailing lists and because some of the new members were student members, including undergraduates. I expect that most undergraduates don’t really want to see what CS faculty discuss on their mailing list. But even with fewer, I now had new work to do.

Why did I make more work for myself? Because it’s the right thing to do. But it also made my life easier. Normally, when someone asks to join the mailing lists, I have to check the database. The database is slow. Then I have to go to the listserv Web site and copy and paste their data. Then I have to compose a reply. In this case, the first things I did were to (a) open the Web site and leave it open and (b) set my mail signature to be the template for a message to the effect that I have subscribed you [5]. That made the whole add a new member task much quicker. Let’s see … Copy email address. Paste it on Web page for SIGCSE-members. Click Add. Switch to the Web page for SIGCSE-announce. Paste. Click Add. Hit Reply. Quickly edit the template. Send. Yup, I can do all of that in under a minute and a half.

How many did I add? 44 within six hours of sending the message. 31 over the next few days. A few have already posted messages to the listserv [6]. One has already left; they had not anticipated as many messages as the mailing list generates [7].

Did I make more work for myself? Probably. I spent about two hours this past week on adding new members. But we now have 75 [8] new members on the list. They benefit from the list. They list will benefit from them. It’s worth my time. And it’s part of my job [9].

What’s next? When I have a spare moment [10], I plan to work with some of the SIGCSE board on crafting an appropriate Welcome to SIGCSE message. What new members get right now does not suffice.

[1] That is, they joined the professional society when they registered for the conference. It’s not my fault that the two things have the same name.

[2] 563 to be exact.

[3] Did you know that our mailer gets upset if you try to send email to more than 500 addresses at once? I didn’t. But I learned. So then I split them into two lists, each with the same messages.

[4] I’ll explain my advisory board in a future musing.

[5] Some time I’ll write about how I use signatures to manage the templates for email messages that I regularly send.

[6] Members can only post to SIGCSE-members.

[7] I think we average about three per day, but they clearly come in clumps. Some messages are announcements and pass by. Others ask a question or raise a controversial issue (e.g., when to teach recursion or relationships with the IT department); those tend to generate a lot of dialog in the day, but then die down.

[8] 74, with the one person who unsubscribed.

[9] Not my Professor of Computer Science at Grinnell College job but instead my SIGCSE mailing list moderator job.

[10] That is, in seven weeks or so.

[11] This endnote has no antecedent. I’ve just added it so that I have a place to add a comment. I’m not sure about my choice to start four paragraphs in a row with questions. But I’m letting that choice stand because it’s late and this musing is not about a substantive enough topic to warrant significant editing.

Version 1.0 of 2018-03-26.