Saturday, July 1

I have plenty of pet peeves about academics, here is one. If you are going to send a response to a query on a mailing list, how about taking the trouble to make it helpful? People will send notes that resemble thinking out loud more than actual advice. “I think I saw something along those lines in Journal X in year Y, or maybe it was Journal Z in another year, you could try searching those.” How is that helpful? Or, “Try Web site xyz.com (or maybe it was wxyz.com)”. Before sending a note to hundreds (if not thousands) of people, why not actually go and check whether it was xyz or wxyz? I find such behavior obnoxious. Do these people actually think that they are being helpful or do they at least realize deep down that all they are doing is posing? Either put the two seconds of work into being actually helpful or spare the list from your laziness. It suggests one or more of the following: sloppy work, disrespect, ambivalence, naivete for thinking that sending that kind of a note is actually going to accrue you anything positive from other list members.


Given the number of pet peeves we likely all have, I recommend commenting on this post if you have a mailing-list related pet peeve. Others are likely worth a post onto themselves.

6 comments:

Cerise said...

Of the thousands of academic mailing list emails I have received in my years of graduate school, like ten of them have been interesting and/or helpful. Hundreds of them have been nasty arguments amongst list members that a) I don't care about and b) have very little to do with the purposes of the lists anyway. And of course there are the replies to which you refer, the cyber manifestation of people saying crap that makes no sense in seminars so as to appear all thoughtful and shit. God, I hate that.

And yet, I stay on the mailing lists, because I'm afraid I'll miss something important and then everyone will say, "Well, aren't you on the LIST?"

Orange Ina said...

Exactly! Why do we continue to read them? Wouldn't you think if something really interesting/relevant/important were to happen it would make it off the list and we would hear about it anyway? But Cerise, as you note, that would have the possible side-effect as being outed as someone who doesn't read THE list!

Taking this to a next level, why do we continue to post on such lists? On occasion I will still send in an email with a question. But why? Why do I think it's going to yield anything helpful that one time. It's like some bad relationship where you keep hoping the next time the other person does something it will make it all worth it. Hah.

thistle said...

my pet peeve is when a grad student writes to a general-subject list asking if anyone knows any good research on ______, where _________ is so vague and gigantic that they would be able to find a whole section at Borders on it, let alone being able to find a plethora of useful resources in any academic library.

Anonymous said...

I don't read any mailing lists. The worst are graduate student departmental mailing lists, and I eagerly await the day a professor files a libel suit and gives universities a reason to force graduate students not to host them on university machines.

Cerise said...

Wow, nothing that interesting ever happens on OUR departmental grad student list. o.O

Navy Blue Blob said...

Anon's comment reminds me of graduate students confusing the grad student and the all-dept lists so they occasionally send the whole department their messages instead of just the students. Many an embarrassing moment has resulted from this. I guess that's where the whole libel issue could come into play.

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