Conclusion: Online technical writing workshops

Subject: Conclusion: Online technical writing workshops
From: Rowena Hart <rhart -at- XCERT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 13:48:46 -0800

Hello everyone!

A few months ago myself and a few other people on the
TECHWR-L listserve tried to organize an online
technical writing workshop.

Everyone who "signed up" -- by sending me an e-mail
message saying they were interested in participating --
was placed into an online workshop. They were sent
an FAQ and instructions for getting started. After that,
it was up to the group to share their writing, edit each
other's work, and keep the workshop alive.

Despite the initial interest (over 150 people signed up)
very few workshops got started or survived past the
first online review. There are perhaps three active work-
shops remaining. Here is my impression of what happened:

+ Most people thought the idea was great;

+ Everyone who signed up intended to participate;

+ Despite their good intentions, almost everyone was
too busy to stay active in (or even start) the workshop;

+ Because of their hectic schedules, most workshop
participants were slow to introduce themselves. It took
some groups more than four weeks to exchange "hellos";

+ As the chief name-collector and administrator, I was
overwhelmed by the number of requests to join a work-
shop. It took me over two months to set up and initiate
all of the workshop groups;

+ This "administrative delay" caused considerable
confusion among participants, some of whom thought
they were signing up for a commercial (ie. professionally
facilitated) workshop;

+ Just as I finished setting up the last workshop groups,
I was laid off from my job. In the ensuing scramble to
find another employer, some of the correspondence
from workshop participants went unanswered;

+ Half of the people who signed up for a workshop
were too shy, or lacked the confidence, to participate.
Unfortunately, you can't "lurk" at a workshop.

I still think the idea of free, self-organized and self-
administered online technical writing workshops is
valuable. However, the idea has floundered badly
on the first attempt.

I am open to suggestions from the List about how to
resuscitate the online workshops. I would also be
happy to hand over the administrative reigns to another
volunteer. [It took me more than 35 hours to set up
all of the workshops, and about two hours a week
to answer questions from participants.] I'd still like to
play a part in the workshops, but I think I've exhausted
my interest in organizing online communities for now.

My new contact info is:

rhart -at- xcert -dot- com


Rowena Hart
(formerly known as rhart -at- intrinsyc -dot- com)

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