I remember hearing Bob Moog relate how he was at a conference, (an ASA meeting in Montreal
if I recall correctly), where, among many esoteric scientific papers, there was at least one
that the public could relate to – hearing loss in teenagers due to loud rock music. I surmise
that the name Bob Moog was likely the only name among the many presenters that was at all well-known.
It was inevitable that a “reporter“ covering the event should make the connection. “Dr. Moog,” the
reporter demanded, (shouting into Bob’s ear!), “How do you justify producing products that cause
young people to go deaf!”

This was interesting enough, but even more revealing was that when Bob complained about this to the
event organizers they replied, in essence, that “Any publicity was better than no publicity.”

Likewise, I wonder about the publicity Electronotes has gotten over the years from the various internet
mailing lists. Certainly, some mention of our very existence was enough that at least some people
looked into it and found that they wanted to take advantage of what we offered, and this brought us much
business. Also, there are many posters to these lists who have been strong supporters, and we appreciate
that. But we have also had problems from some posters, which I have related several times elsewhere.


I should start out be saying that I myself seldom use these mailing lists and don’t really know how!
There are three I know of, probably more. The ones I know are Synth-DIY (synthesizer do it yourself –
about home building), Analogue Heaven (mostly commercial), and Electro-Music.COM (also technical).
I am offering this here in the hope that some readers can tell us more about these, and how to best use
them. Here is my take.

First of all, you can sign up for these and get the mailing for free. I strongly suggest that if you
do this, you get a separate email account for them, otherwise they may bury your private emails. I have
such an account and when I don’t read it for a period of time, when I look at it (like just now) I have
23,775 items in it. I think it may be useful to concentrate on the archives, which is what I have listed
on our “FRIENDS” page. The advantage of the archives is that this is an internet site, not email, and does
not accumulate. In fact, you can use it to list by search terms and time frame, or to list all the mailings
for a certain date, (recent - like today or yesterday, etc.) without a search. It works like most other
internet sites – except you can’t mail into it.

This raises another point – how do you post? It says you can just email a particular address, and if
you are not a member, the moderator will review your material and post it (or not?) and notify you either
way. If you are a member (which I believe means you receive all the mailings automatically), you can just
post from that address. On a recent try, neither of these options, each tried twice, worked for me.


So what happens. Well, these are like threads, but you have to follow all the parts yourself, looking for
the “Re” prefix, (or perhaps someone replies, quoting a whole sequence of previous offerings). Electro-Music.COM
is different in that it seems to be actual threads, but I have not been able to figure that out.

Much of what does not work well with these mailing lists is the same thing that is true of similar attempts
to discuss technical matter using email. I had an academic colleague who always knew, and used, the most
appropriate means of communications. When email would work, he sent me an email. At other times, he picked
up the phone and called. At still other times, he came over to my office. It was a matter of estimating the
need for iteratively clarifying questions and answers, and if we needed perhaps to draw on a blackboard, and so on.

If we had our choice, we might well all gather around a blackboard. This being impractical in many cases,
we find the next best thing may well be to read papers and books ourselves. That is, we expect the authors
of these materials to be first of all knowledgeable, and secondly, to have made an effort to assemble and
present a body of information, with due consideration for the problems a supposed typical reader might have
with the material. The writer does not expect the reader to need to (for the most part) or be able to (usually)
ask direct questions to the author. Of course, the reader may be able to ask others about the material, to
look for other related publications, or to just go back and start again. This is a more-or-less standard model
for education.

There are some questions that ARE suited to email, and very well suited to broadcasting to a mailing list.
For example, “Where can I get an AD818, or can someone suggest a good substitute?” Virtually everyone receiving
this knows exactly how to respond. Either they have a useful suggestion, or they shut up. The question is clear.
The responses are quantized.

But a question like “Tell me how linearizing diodes on an LM13600 work?” is quite different. First of all,
what is the person asking: just how to do it, or do they want a whole dissertation on semiconductor physics
and engineering techniques? Secondly, every person who receives the question could likely be lined up – from
the person who has absolutely no idea, to a real expert. It’s continuous. Clearly, one or more of the top
experts should ideally respond, with a carefully constructed and well-document response. However, this is hard,
and it takes time.

Instead, the typical response of the posters on the mailing list shows a scattering of apparent knowledge
relating to the subject. Seldom is the question even all that clear, nor is it clear when and if a useful and
correct answer is achieved. Often it wanders away, or just gets lost in the complexity of the quoted and
requoted comments.


Knowing that apparently, many people find the lists useful (or at least interesting enough to participate in),
except when a posting concerns Electronotes directly, I perhaps should not say much. But here is what I think
should happen. Once an issue proves fruitful and reasonably fleshed out (relatively few questions will, or
even can, ever reach this state), one contributor should take charge, identify one or more other posters who have
made significant contributions, and suggest that that group provide a summary post, and provide a draft of such
a summary. After kicking the summary around a while, it should be posted somewhere (not necessarily the list
website), and an announcement of the summary post, its URL in fact, could be posted on the list website.

As an example of what a summary post might look like, please see my “Webnote” dated 8/15/2009 in our News
and Specials. This was based on an Synth-DIY question about the 748 op-amp. The question was eventually
answered correctly on the mailing list. What my summary post example or “Webnote” does is not just to
answer that question, but to expand on the question into the more general area of op-amp substitutions.
It also tries to anticipate follow-up questions. And, it does offer a couple of drawings - something that
is lacking from the mailing lists responses.