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RE: Appropriateness

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Nigel, you asked "Are we really all that thin-skinned that we can't ignore a
remark we don't like, or jump into the middle of it to say why we don't? "
Unfortunatly, the answer is yes.
Approximately thirty individuals make up the majority of comments that
proliferate our list. However, the resounding majority of those 150
individuals who responded to my survey felt that they were unable to do any
more than "Lurk" simply because of the strong opinions and fear of being
challenged by others who may not agree.
I, personally, don't feel that the tone or commentary on this list should be
moderated, but I must admit from these many responses that a large group of
professionals, for whatever reason, are reluctant to participate.
I like the ablity to debate and express strong opinons. There are times,
such as Bill's recent comments where I half-heartedly commented that I
wouldn't touch the argument with a ten foot pole, and probably, feared
starting a civil war and succumbing  the wrath of the Conservative Right.
Drew's comments were the words of intellegent and professional reason. For
the sake of those who have not had their chance to step upon this public
soapbox, I recommend that we stay away from Politics and Religion for a time
until we build upon a number of contributers that will dilute the arena a
Rather than focus on Politics, let's start productive questions, albeit
social ones, that drive our profession and encourage new voices to speak.

BTW, I read the President's Message (the SEAOSC President) in the SEAOSC
newsletter this afternoon. Manny indicated that we now have 7,000
participants on this listservice worldwide. After my recent study I think
this number is a bit inflated.
Manny was responding to SEAOC members after learning of growing concerns
expressed on our list. If the majority will allow, I would be happy to scan
and convert his editoral to a text file and attach it to a post. This way
non-SEA members can understand how our professional organization evolves.
I am pleased, however, that this is the first editorial published in SEAOSC
(for those unfamiliar Structural Engineers Association of Southern
California)that directly addresses the remarks of this listservice - one
step for - well you know the rest.
I'd like to see some remarks on Manny's editorial. Personally, I think Manny
Morden is a fine man and talented engineer. Manny has always appeared
supportive of my efforts within SEAOSC and I appreciate him for this. But in
this editorial, Manny came off sounding more like a used car salesman who
wanted to sell the car but not lift the hood. The substance was missing from
his argument and I found myself still wondering why we needed to fork out
the additional $10.00 per year in dues increases.

Anyone want to jump into this one?

Dennis Wish PE

"Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy
for the worst of them all- the apathy of human beings."
Helen Keller

|-----Original Message-----
|From: nmends(--nospam--at) [mailto:nmends(--nospam--at)]
|Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 1998 3:44 PM
|To: seaoc(--nospam--at)
|Subject: Re: Appropriateness
|Might as well dip my oar in here, too.  I guess I tend to favor Bill
|past remarks in both their style and their content.  I've found some of his
|remarks *quite* offensive, sometimes generically, and sometimes personally,
|I do believe Mr. Allen serves a quite useful function in provoking really
|interesting discussions.  I think he should continue and be allowed to
|to make them.
|While I appreciate Mr. Norman's sensitivity, I submit that if, as he
|we must limit our discussion only to those comments found acceptable by the
|lowest common denominator, we will censor this list to the point of
|uselessness.  Further, it seems like some of the folks who constitute the
|common denominator in the subjects and opinions they will tolerate should
|lighten up a bit.
|Are we really all that thin-skinned that we can't ignore a remark we don't
|like, or jump into the middle of it to say why we don't?  Free and open
|discussion seems a lot more useful goal and likely to produce a more useful
|list than allowing only those topics and comments that *nobody* will find
|offense in.  Must this list, too, fall victim to political correctness?
|Bill Allen wrote:
|> This is the only post I have seen in response to mine yesterday that did
|> not put me on the defensive. Due to the tactful nature of Mr. Norman's
|> comments, it has caused me to pause and reflect. It is true, I have
|> feelings about a lot of things (O.K., everything) and I do get carried
|> (sometimes). I also realize that a lot of my viewpoints are not always
|> "mainstream". Sometimes, my friends like Stan Caldwell like to bait me
|> after watching "60 Minutes", it is sometimes difficult to apply the
|> amount of restraint. While I genuinely feel the way I do about some of
|> past Presidents we have had, I have no intention of personally insulting
|> those who participate in our political system even if it is for the
|> of the Democratic Party. For the record, while I am a registered
|> Republican, I have felt even they have become too liberal since Ronald
|> Reagan (my hero) left office.
|> Be that as it may, in reviewing my post, even I have come to realize that
|> it was not appropriate for this list nor was it proper to subject its
|> readers to my viewpoints; considered extreme by some. Not to use this as
|> excuse, but I am passionate about every thing I do. I'm an "all or
|> kind of guy. I just get wound up.
|> In the future, I will make every attempt to keep my comments not only
|> within the scope of this listserv but also to be more considerate of
|> who do not share my views.
|> Thank you Drew,
|> Bill Allen
|> ----------
|> > From: Drew A. Norman, S.E. <dnormanse(--nospam--at)>
|> > To: SEAOC List Service <seaoc(--nospam--at)>
|> > Subject: Appropriateness
|> > Date: Tuesday, March 17, 1998 4:25 PM
|> >
|> > My only previous contribution to the debate about inappropriate posts,
|> > response to Dennis Wish's request for votes, was in re messages that
|> > amounted to ads for technical software, which I voted not to censor so
|> long
|> > as they didn't get out of hand.  I am generally of the opinion that
|> > free speech often does little good it usually does no harm and is
|> > than the alternative.
|> >
|> > Bill Allen's post about the current and several former presidents
|> yesterday
|> > however, gave me pause.  Having reflected, I think a post suggesting
|> > Lee Harvey Oswald did his country a favor is inappropriate for this
|> forum.
|> >
|> > I think it common knowledge that many in this country (and thus
|> presumably
|> > many subscribers to this list) considered John Kennedy's assassination
|> > personal as well as a national tragedy.  Bill is certainly entitled to
|> think
|> > such folks (myself included by the way) to be deluded fools, but should
|> in
|> > my opinion have known that his comment would be offensive to us.
|> >
|> > My intent is not to flame Mr. Allen, besides which I gather he's an old
|> hand
|> > and probably wouldn't notice anyway.  Rather I am suggesting to the
|> > that we might all want to think about expressing political opinions on
|> the
|> > list the same way we have apparently been thinking about other
|> off-subject
|> > (non-engineering) posts.
|> >
|> > It appears at least from the period I have been lurking that
|> are
|> > in agreement concerning the types of humor that are appropriate for the
|> > list.  No one has posted jokes a reasonable subscriber would consider
|> > obscene, racist or otherwise offensive.  In short, the internet
|> of
|> > self censorship appears to be working for humor.  I believe this is
|> because
|> > we are generally respectful of one another's feelings and, at least for
|> > off-subject (non-engineering related) items, everyone recognizes that
|> > would be inappropriate to post a joke one knew was likely to be hurtful
|> to
|> > some or all of the subscribers.
|> >
|> > Inclusiveness to facilitate free interchange of information regarding
|> > structural engineering issues is important to the success of this list.
|> > Posting items which do not pertain to structural engineering and which
|> are
|> > not only uninteresting to most subscribers (e.g., ads), but patently
|> > offensive to some (e.g., goring of other people's sacred cows, as in
|> > Allen's post) is contrary to this goal.  To pick on somebody else,
|> imagine
|> > our Kathleen O'Brien (Happy St. Patrick's day), a.k.a. Wildwoman,
|> > posting really rude dirty jokes.  Some of those lurkers Dennis Wish is
|> > trying to court are likely to be offended and will be pushed away.  One
|> > could argue that if they can't take a joke to hell with them, but I
|> > our profession would be better served if we made room to accomodate
|> > prudes and Kennedy-lovers along with true Texans like Bill.
|> >
|> > Drew Norman, S.E.
|> > Drew A. Norman and Associates
|> >
|> >