As I mentioned before, I like keeping up with you all, and helping out in some tiny way. Not bugging me by email at all. I’m sorry I do not feel like talking on the phone today but I did want to get something off my chest. I want to tell you some of these thoughts because they come out of a desire for the collective to improve, rather than from criticism of the attitudes of individuals.
Remember writing letters? There is a certain tone of consideration in the form of a written letter. We would always sign letters so people would know we wrote them. We used a form that was not particularly strict but conveyed common respect to the recipient. With emails, a lot of the things that format a letter are recorded by the computer, like the date, return address, the subject, etc. One conveys the concept of courtesy in email in the same way one does in a letter. The writer just fills in the parts that are missing. The tone can be casual but should avoid rudeness. The last couple of people who contacted me as the moderator of the email list, I really felt, were lacking in courtesy in their emails. When someone asks a complete stranger to do something, it is generally polite to introduce oneself. If you wrote a letter to someone and didn’t sign your name, just left your address, that letter might get thrown in the trash as a waste of time.
This reminds me of how the collective, frequently out of a fear of the technology, was discouraging towards my contribution. It is very counter-productive to vocally oppose tech improvements when you need people to help get the project to a more stable footing. I should have stood up against the more irrational accusations and expectations directed at me. But because a lot of it was due to unfamiliarity with technolgy, my political sympathy for technophobic perspectives allowed me to dismiss the behavior. But objectively, I’d advise more care in negotiating the donation of time and energy from volunteers who have specialized skills. I, personally don’t have a problem so much with the anti-technology attitudes because in many ways my anti-technology beliefs are more extreme than most. I understand the potential for misuse that widespread use of technology presents. But as far as future potential volunteers, it will offend most people with a tech background when fellow collective members hurl technophobic dogma around.
It’s ok to feel suspicious, but be diplomatic. Surely, long-time volunteers at this project have good reason for some paranoia. It is more important to move forward so that new programmers are encouraged to share their tech skills for the health of the project. Fear and paranoia directed at specialized knowledge is counter-productive. Regardless of knowledge, anyone has the ability to cause the equipment to fault, just by cutting wires.
The collective should avoid domineering behavior towards technology contributions. For example, it’s good to tell a tech volunteer, in a timely manner, when their assistance is needed. Regardless of the urgency, be careful not to come off as if giving orders or assigning projects. If an emergency is happening, one should sound urgent without being dictatorial. There was a tendency to place blame when I was contacted, that I found particularly alienating. If people accuse a tech volunteer of causing equipment faults, that volunteer will feel like their assistance is not being appreciated. Members of any collective should always ask for assistance rather than berate someone “to do their job.” Because we are all volunteers, ultimately, we are each responsible for our own scheduled times and leaving the equipment ready for the next shift. Individual volunteers would call me up and demand that I get the equipment up and running for their shift. I should not have jumped to the rescue again because it sent a message that collective members were entitled to treat me like an employee.