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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 12/20/1999


Deleted Postings Roasting on an Open Fire

Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas! Doesn't everyone on the list want to receive my greetings of holiday cheer? Maybe, but maybe not.

Deciding whether or not to post a holiday greeting to the list is a question every list member should ask. There are times when the decision is clear. There are times when it is not. While not all genealogists are grinches, there are some things to remember:

    1) Not everyone on the list knows who you are, much less cares to get a Christmas greeting from you.

    2) Do you send Christmas cards to everyone who attends your local genealogical society meetings? Probably not.

    3) Do you stand up at your local genealogical society meeting and wish everyone a "Merry Christmas?" Probably not.

A point can be made that the "grinches" out there can simply hit their delete button to remove your message. This is true. However, it should be remembered that:

    1) There are still people out there who pay per e-mail received.

    2) There are people with limited hard drive space.

    3) There are people who can receive a limited number of messages per day.

    4) There are people who pay per minute charges to get their e-mail at home.

    5) Many lists archive their messages. Archiving 500-1,000 messages of Christmas cheer eats valuable space.

Instead of posting a holiday message, how about:

    1) Assisting a "newbie" on the list who asks a question;

    2) Posting an offer to do lookups in a resource that you have access to;

    3) Briefly posting to the list how you researched your ancestors in the area or region that is the list's focus;

    4) Offering to share your expertise about a specific subject;

    5) Or writing any other message in the "spirit of giving." After all, that's what the season is supposed to be about.

Place a brief holiday greeting at the end of your post or message. Readers of your message will get the greeting without you posting a separate message to the group. And they are less likely to flame you in the process.

Spreading Christmas cheer to your online friends is great. However, it should be done privately. Keep an address book with the e-mail addresses of the online friends with whom you correspond. This will facilitate sending them holiday wishes.

Also, if there are a few holiday posts from well-meaning people, don't let traffic on the list turn into an argument about whether or not holiday wishes should be posted. There are several reasons for this:

    1) Regardless of your religious conviction/persuasion, arguing generally isn't considered to be in the holiday spirit.

    2) Others on the list really don't want to listen to arguments about non-genealogical items.

    3) Many people have less time during the holidays to read the normal amount of listserve traffic, let alone to sift through holiday posts and/or arguments. You don't want to increase the chance that someone who could answer your post, inadvertently deletes it amongst all off-topic traffic.

    4) All of the resulting nastiness of the arguments, both for and against, may also be archived, wasting more valuable space.

    5) It's a "no win" situation to reprimand others for posting holiday wishes. You will be labeled as a "Scrooge" by some (who will undoubtedly fill your mailbox with "Bah-humbugs"), and championed by others (who will undoubtedly fill your mailbox with "Me toos"), and the resulting flame war will only add to the congestion.

If a flame war erupts, resist the temptation to join in. It will die of its own accord if everyone ignores it and everyone will have more time for Christmas cheer and spend less time pounding away at that delete key.

    Twas the Night Before Christmas—Listserve Version

    Twas the night before Christmas and on every list
    Rooters were posting to each Mr. and Miss.
    Greetings and tidings of holiday cheer
    From computer terminals far and near
    And Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap
    Had just settled down to a long winter's nap
    When down in my office there arose such a clatter
    I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter
    When what on my terminal's screen should appear,
    But miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer
    It had been posted to RootsWeb, you see,
    It arrived in my inbox at quarter 'til three
    Within all my mail of genealogy.
    I looked through the email and what did I see
    Greetings of holiday cheer sent to me.
    From here and afar, more than I could read
    Truly more messages than I did need.
    I'd never be able to sift them all through
    To locate my cousin from Salagadoo
    Sending me ancestors, names, dates, and places
    And maybe a scan of their long-dead faces.
    I'd have to erase them all at one time
    I'd never get through them, even in rhyme.
    The holiday greetings! I was aghast,
    And the angry rebuttals sent en masse
    Filled my computer, just like a stocking.
    The rebuttal's rebuttals just sent me walking
    Back up the stairs and back to my bed,
    Knowing my ancestors would have to stay dead,
    Buried in messages that never got read.

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing.

Used by the author on his website with permission.

Other Genealogy Articles by Michael John Neill