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A letter to the incoming chair

Over the past two weeks, I have been writing a letter to the incoming chair of the CS department. The letter is a brain dump, of sorts, of the information that I keep track of related to my role of chair and of tasks that I need to complete. Karla Erickson recommended that I write the letter as part of the transition. If you have been reading the daily musings, you’ve likely seen most of the letter.

I have now tied everything together into single letter. It’s long - more than thirty pages and over fourteen thousand words [1]. It should be shorter [2]. However, editing for length is not one of my best skills. I’ve also expended more than enough energy on the letter.

What does it mean to tie everything together into a single letter? Let’s see. First, I joined all of the sections together. I then incorporated the extra things I thought about after I’d posted sections. I rewrote parts of the introduction to better match the actual form of the letter. Since some readers had commented on various personal characteristics that come out in my writing, I added a note about those characteristics.

I reread much of the letter, which naturally led to me adding more things. I also found that I wanted to rearrange the letter a bit. I split off a section on divisional roles and responsibilities from the section on departmental roles and responsibilities. I found that a useful way to reflect more carefully on those roles and responsibilities. I also made a variety of small edits.

Although I had first written that [c]opying or summarizing the lists seems pointless, I realized that I derived some benefit from looking at those lists in an alternate form. I added those lists as an appendix.

I had elided some more confidential parts from the letter [3]. I created a second version in which I filled in the elided parts [4]. That caused a few more edits to both versions.

I muse in Markdown. I had to spend a little bit of time figuring out how to turn Markdown format documents into my standard memo format. But I have enough tools in place that the process was relatively straightforward.

Because the document is so long and because you’ve seen most of it before, I will not include the text in this musing. However, if you’d like to see the full letter, you can follow that link.

On to the next project!

[1] Concision is not one of my strengths.

[2] Much shorter.

[3] More precisely, I had written something like [elided] whenever I thought I might insert confidential information. The elided information was in my mind, but not in the document.

[4] Having two versions of a document is dangerous. But I did not see a natural way to have both a public version and a full version. I suppose I could use some markup that lets me transform the full version to the public version; that sounds like more work than it’s worth for a one-off letter.