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CODE4LIB  February 2016

CODE4LIB February 2016

Subject:

Listserv communication, was RE: Proposed Duty Officer

From:

Julie Swierczek <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 26 Feb 2016 08:42:31 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (11 lines)

I just want to respond to let people know that Kyle and I have been discussing this further through private channels, and we agree on many points.  My earlier response was not meant to be a criticism of what Kyle said specifically; rather, I was responding to what I see are the larger challenges to the idea that codes of conduct should still be a main focus (as evidenced by Sue’s contribution about the backlash against diversity in the Naval War College).  We also talked about how people want to talk about things on-list and off-list, privately or anonymously. Kyle’s main issue was really a question about what to do with private and anonymous feedback – not that we should avoid it, but rather we should discuss how that should be handled.  For example, could someone summarize it, remove identifying details, and report back to the group?  Not about the Duty Officer candidacy, since those are personnel issues, but rather about other feedback about harassment, etc.  If we have those channels, what do we do with the information that is received through them?
 
We also agreed that listservs – both here and elsewhere – seem to have shrinking participation over time, and there does seem to be a drive to pull more conversations out of the public eye.  There is no question that some matters are best discussed in private channels, such as feedback about individual candidates for duty officers, or matters pertaining to physical and mental well-being.  But when it comes to discussing technology or other professional matters, there seems to be a larger trend of more responses going off listservs.  (I, for one, generally do not reply to questions on listservs and instead reply to the OP privately because I’ve been burned to many times publicly.  The main listserv for archivists in the US has such a bad reputation for flaming that it has its own hashtag: #thatdarnlist.)
 
Maybe we can brainstorm about common reasons for people not using the list: impostor syndrome (I don’t belong here and/or I certainly don’t have the right ‘authority’ to respond to this); fear of being judged - we see others being judged on a list (about the technological finesse of their response, for instance) so we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we will be judged; fear of talking in general because we  have seen other people harmed for bringing their ideas to public forums (cf. doxing and swatting);  fear of looking stupid in general.
 
That last one has me really puzzled because it seems to be a growing problem.  Whenever I teach basic tech stuff to people, I spend a lot of time telling them that they are not stupid and I will never judge them if they ask me questions.  I give them lots of excuses so they can ask for my help and not feel stupid.  I tell them that they should ask me questions because I'm easier to access than the product help manual.  I tell them to ask me because sometimes software does, in fact, have bugs in it, and the problem is not the user, it's the software. I tell them that if they are 'too busy' to do something themselves, they should just ask for my help. I tell them to ask me because it is *my job* to answer their questions and make this thing easier for them to use. I give them so many ways that they can think of themselves as 'not stupid' for asking a question, and they *still* contact me and say, "This is a stupid question, but..."  I feel like I need to start going to training sessions and tell people that I have a 'tip jar' online, and every time someone says "This is a stupid question", they have to put 0.05 bitcoin in the tip jar.  I could retire.
 
I think this is something we need to talk about, and I’d be happy to talk about it at the conference with anyone who is interested.  (Kyle unfortunately will not be in attendance this year.)  I’d also be interested to know if anyone has any info about psycho-social studies, reports, whatever, on whether there really is a growing problem with avoiding participation or asking questions for fear of feeling stupid and, more importantly, if there are recommendations for overcoming that tendency.  I suspect people involved with adult education might have some ideas, for example.  I once attended a session for math tutors where the instructor said, “Never tell the student “This is easy!”  If the student still can’t do it, they’ll feel even worse because they don’t get it AND it’s supposed to be easy.”  What other ways do we say things that are meant to be positive and helpful but actually end up making things worse? 
 
I have only been participating in code4lib for a year, and it definitely jumps up and down and shouts, “We’re inclusive!  If you are interested at all in tech, you belong here!”   Can we encourage more participation on this listserv (and others)?

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