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THE HTML WRITERS GUILD

List Guide Standard Operating Procedures

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance and procedures for the HTML Writer's Guild (HWG) Mail List Management Team. This includes the Mail List Managers (MLM), List Guides (LG) and List Owners (LO). This document supplements the netiquette guide.


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1.0 Introduction

These people will act as liaisons to the general membership and the Governing Board (GB) where the mail lists are concerned. They will in the end fall under the reporting control of the Executive Committee (EC) President who is their liaison with the Governing Board.

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2.0 General Overview

The principle idea behind the lists is to allow for the discussion of relevant topics between peers. The actual topics covered will depend upon the specific list. We want to allow the lists to operate as freely as possible. We do not want nor condone draconian management, but can and will resort to these methods as a last resort on specific occasions, as the need arises. This is not a license to freely act in this manner.

2.1 List Guides

The List Guide's function is to provide assistance to all who request it, keep the lists on topic, and occasionally play 'cop' by helping enforce Guild policies for the mailing lists.

As List Guides, they will not condone, nor tolerate, any actions in direct violation of guild policies. Use of good judgment and thorough knowledge of the rules is required. A fair dose of common sense will certainly help also.

There is a fine line between discussion and argument, particularly in e-mail, where the tone of voice and nonverbal cues are not apparent and cannot assist in determining what is really meant. The List Guides are expected to patiently provide people th e pointers to where the requested resources are located, or pointers that may lead to the requested resources (such as tutorials, FAQs or white papers). They are expected to provide topic monitoring on the lists they are assigned to. They will also keep f lames and off-topic postings to a minimum.

As a general mode of operation, the List Guide will operate in the background, only acting in public when extreme situations require it. Most of the actions will be of the 'nag-nag-nag' nature, with occasional stronger actions needed. The List Guides also must help control those who try to do the List Guides' job for them. These individuals usually worsen the situation, so control of this issue must be taken. The List Guides are authorized by the Governing Board, while the other individual is not.

List Guides must act in an ethical manner. They have to comply with all rules of the Guild on a continuing basis to maintain credibility to the membership. They are expected to be the teachers, guides and principle authorities on each list to whom members may request help from. (Although they may or may not be experts on the subject, they should be well versed in the resources that support the subject and the rules that control the Guild operations.) In light of this responsibility, List Guides are expected to act in a manner that is consistent with the position.

List Guides are authorized and backed by the Governing Board. This implies a trust placed on the List Guide by the Governing Board. DO NOT abuse this trust.

2.2 List Owner

The List Owner's function is to provide the administrative technical support (and sometimes the machine resources) for one or more of the mail lists.

List Owners who are not functioning as List Guides for their lists should not participate in any of the 'nag' level activities for a particular list. Leave it to the List Guides. That's why they are there. Keep the list running smoothly in technical terms and deal with the sub/unsub issues as they arise.

List Owners are expected to deal with the nondeliverable mail address issues, new subscribing and unsubscribing problems, general "how do I do this with this mail list server" questions, etc. From the List Owner's standpoint, the actual content on the list isn't necessarily of interest or required reading, other than what is required for administrative issues.

It may be intelligent to get involved with the list, but it is not required.

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3.0 Definitions Of Functions

List Guide (LG): is one of several persons assigned to a particular list to provide guidance when necessary, cool flames, cut off improper subjects, identify problem posters, gather FAQ material, and in general aid making the content of the list they monitor be the best possible.

List Owner (LO): is the entity (person or persons) is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the mailing list they support. They support the tasks of getting the messages out in a timely manner, receiving and verifying valid addressing of incoming mail, subscribing to and unsubscribing from the lists, and other functions related to these. In general, they act as a liaison between the HTML Writers Guild and the Internet site providing the machine space and resources for the mailing list they manage.

Mail List Management Team: consists of a team of people who develop and institute policies and procedures used by the List Guides and List Owners. They recruit and manage these people. They also act as the next line of decision making for what action to take for a particular problem not identified in the guidelines. They have the power to revoke a member's access to any particular mail list (with the exception of hwg-news). Their decisions are appealable to the Executive Committee. They may be approached to aid in identifying resources that a List Guide may not know of. The List Managers are the first line of appeal for any member to approach concerning practices of a particular List Guide or List Owner. The makeup of the management team is the Mail List Manager, the List Guide Manager, the List Owner Manager, and the Area Guide Managers.

The Membership: Anybody and everybody who subscribes to the Guild's mailing lists. This includes the Governing Board, Mail List Management team, List Guides, List Owners and general members of the Guild. All are subject to the rules, and no person will be immune to following the rules.

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4.0 Actions to be Taken

The offense levels are outlined and detailed in the mail list netiquette guide. Note that a member more than likely has not violated ANY of these rules intentionally. Yes, if they knew the rule was there, at some logical level they may recognize that there's a rule that they broke - but they will believe that it was justified. ALWAYS start by asking for their cooperation, then detail what it is that is required to be changed - which is their behavior.

4.1 Suggestion to Improve

This class of infraction is of the type that most people can ignore once. They irritate more than inflame other members on the list. List Guides will send private e-mail to the perpetrator pointing out the note deficiencies and suggest how to improve their posting next time. Always request their cooperation in the matter. Be polite, assume that they did not know, or that they forgot, and that they are more than willing to comply with the rules. This is a friendly reminder

4.2 Major Offense

This class:

  • includes an individual who chronically ignores the rules of netiquette. "Chronic" is determined by the consensus of the List Guide and the Management Team.
  • or when a member disregards the Guild's published netiquette and/or usage rules that are ranked as major rules.

Since the rules are, in general, only breakable when posting to a list and since the first offense may or may not be intentional, the first such offense will be cause for voluntary nonposting to any or all HWG mail lists for one week, minimum. The probationary period will be decided per case by the List Managers, dependent upon the severity of the offense.

Ignoring the probation period restrictions, or a second (2nd) major offense in a 6 month period will result in a critical offense, detailed below. Penalties will range from a one (1) month suspension of posting privileges, to the maximum allowable under the critical offense rules.

If the transgression has initiated problematic response postings, the List Managers will post a "cease and desist" message to the list. Anyone violating the "cease and desist" statement will be treated as if each public post were a Suggestion for Improvement.

4.3 Critical Offense

Repeatedly willful and blatant disregard of the rules laid out for the lists will result in a member being removed permanently from one or more of the mail lists. This action will be taken at the direction of the List Managers. The member has the option to appeal to the Governing Board. A person who has been permanently banned from all the guild mailing lists, whether over a period of time, or at one time, may be forwarded to the Governing Board with a recommendation for removal from the Guild. All notifications and actions will be done in private e-mail. Again, if the violation(s) have causes a furor on the lists, a public statement to the effect that the matter is being addressed may be made as long as it directs that any comments by the members are to be shipped via private e-mail to the List Guides or the affected member.

4.4 Guides Who Commit Violations

Guides who are found to have posted one Major violation will be on probation for no less than one month. A second Major violation, or one Critical violation will result in the Guide being removed from the Guide program, as well as be subject to the usual rules applied to the level of violation. The Suggestion to Improve level violations will be closely monitored, and appropriate action will be taken if too many violations of this level occur. All punishments will be handled privately, and on a case-by-case basis.

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5.0 List Guide Job Description

5.1 Teachers

The List Guide's primary function is to act as teacher, guide and advisor to the general membership. The List Guide will answer questions, point out where resources are and advise about published Guild policy. Manners are expected, as rudeness will not be tolerated. Sarcasm can be used as long as it isn't aimed at the member receiving the mail. It is recommended that sarcasm is clearly bracketed with fake tags like <SARCASM> </SARCASM>. Respect the person you are communicating with, because that is the minimum they are due. This means that if you cannot answer politely - pass it off to another List Guide to answer, pass it off to the List Guide Manager, or let it sit for a little while, until you can answer in a respectful way.

The List Guide is acting on the Guild's behalf. The List Guides are expected to conduct themselves in a complementary manner. This is not to say that humor is out of place in the performance of List Guide duties - just be careful of cultural differences.

5.2 Traceability

Each LIST Guide must maintain a log of all actions taken. This includes a record of disciplinary messages. This is for the protection of the List Guide, List Managers, and Governing Board, as well as aid in the detection of the chronic offenders. This log will be implemented via a mail list with essentially no subscribers. The list will be archived and will be searchable. The easiest form of keeping the log is to mail the message to the perpetrator, then forward a copy of the message and reply to the mail list set up for this purpose. A copy of the perpetrator's message should be included for completeness of documentation. This will be used to substantiate and clarify the reasons for the actions being taken.

All entries will include the complete message, including headers. This will enable the search and recall of any important data at a later date. In the case of critical offenses, these will be immediately escalated to the next level for validation and escalation to the Governing Board as necessary. Log entries for these events should be kept as usual.

5.3 Knowing the Information

Since the List Guides spend so much time on their time on their list and since they have a vested interest in knowing where to find information that new subscribers typically ask, they have a strongly vested interest in the maintenance of the lists' FAQs.

5.3.1 Gathering FAQ Materials

Each List Guide should pay enough attention to the ebb and flow of commentary on their list to identify new FAQ material. If the same question is coming up on a cyclical basis on the list, the List Guides should attempt to gather the material together to provide a section in the content FAQ for that question. This material will then be submitted to the FAQ maintainer for that list. FAQ posts will be done on a biweekly interval minimum, on opposite weeks from the Policy posts (below).

5.3.2 Policy posts

The "Welcome Message" post will be sent biweekly to the list, with a policy section added to the beginning of the document. The policy section should outline the rules and reasoning for the rule that was most violated during the week on the list. Make it a celebration and a pat on the back for the entire list membership if no rules get broken - congratulate them on a job well done. The info post should include pointers to the list FAQ, the list netiquette guidelines, and contain the subscribe/unsubscribe information.

5.4 Preemptive Posts

Direct posts to the lists involving correction actions are generally not deemed as necessary or allowable. Under certain emergency situations a single preemptive post is allowed.

5.4.1 An unacceptable thread

This message will clearly state the thread's subject matter is unacceptable to the Guild and explain in a brief form why it is unacceptable (remember that teaching thing mentioned above?) It's SUBJECT: line will include the word OFFICIAL at the start of the line, then the subject, and finally the word CLOSED! There will also be an advisory note informing those who continue this thread that they are in violation and will be treated as such. Again, judgment and discretion are needed. Remember that some mail systems are slower than others, so allow a reasonable amount of time before declaring a violation. This message will only be issued by the Assistant Managers, or the levels above them. The Guides will request the Assistant Managers to take this action.

The suggested format for this message is:

<in the header>

Subj: OFFICIAL: re: some bogus pricing thread CLOSED!

<the body>

***DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE ON THE LISTS***

This thread is now closed! It is contains pricing information,
which is forbidden on the Guild's lists. Please refer to the
netiquette guide (http://www.hwg.org/lists/netiquette.html)
for more information.

Any person responding to this message on the lists will be
cited. If you must respond to this message, then do so
privately.   

Thank you for your cooperation.

<.sig block, etc.>

5.4.2 Redirecting inappropriately posted threads

In the event of a thread really belonging on another list, post a message advising the members that the thread has been moved to the appropriate forum, and to "come on over and join the discussion there". It's SUBJECT: line will include the word REDIRECT: at the start of the line. Include the reason why. There will also be an advisory note informing those who continue this thread that they are in violation and will be treated as such. This is a Suggestion to Improve level thing if violated. Again, judgment and discretion are needed. Remember that some mail systems are slower than others, so allow a reasonable amount of time before declaring a violation.

The suggested format for this message is:

<in the header>
Subj: REDIRECT: <name of thread>

<the body>

***DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE ON THE LISTS***

This thread is being moved from <current list name> to
<new list name> Please continue your discussions of 
this thread there. 

To subscribe to <new list name> do the following:

<list subscription directions> or a pointer to 
http://www.hwg.org/lists/

Please do not respond to this post on the list. You will be
cited if you do. If you need to reply, please do so privately.

Thank you for your cooperation.

<.sig block, etc.>

Note that the above message does not include the original message in it's content.

The message for the list the thread is being moved to will contain a normal header, a brief explanation that the poster is not the original author, all answers should be to the list and cc:'d to the original poster, who may not be subscribed to the list.

5.4.3 Content of messages

When a message must be sent to the list about some action taken by the List Guides identifying action taken against a member the following things should be used to determine exactly what content is contained within that message.

  • Members do not need to know details of a problem.
  • Members do not need a recap of the situation.
  • Members do not need to know any compromises required to clean up a situation.
  • Members do need to know that a situation is resolved and everyone can move forward to new things.

5.4.4 Any unforeseen situation

Sometimes emergency actions are required that can not be foreseen. The Guide will request that the List Managers act on the matter. The Guide will support their request with reasons why and documentation showing the case. The Managers will decide and act, if appropriate.

5.5 Disputes

Disputes should be handled in a professional manner. List Guides will not under any circumstances engage in and/or further a dispute. If the member objects to the List Guide's actions, the member should be referred to the next step in the List Management team for arbitration, resolution or escalation. All disputes can be escalated to the next level, with the Executive Committee's decision as final. The member should be advised of his right for arbitration/escalation if a dispute arises, then escalated to the next level. The List Management team will have final say on most matters that are day-to-day problems, subject to Executive Committee review. Escalation above the List Management team by the List Management team is a joint decision between the List Managers. A member who is receiving disciplinary action may choose to elevate the issue to the attention of the Governing Board.

As always, the Governing Board has the final word in all matters.

5.6 Documentation Maintenance

List Guides are responsible for assisting the Mail List Management Team in the maintenance of the list's rules and regulations. If an occurrence that is not listed happens, the List Guide should compile the text for inclusion in the appropriate documents. Once the change is finalized, the newly revised document will be sent to the list's subscribers as an advisory of new rules. This should be worked out in advance between the List Guide and the Mail List Management Team. The List Management Team will assist the Governing Board in maintaining the general documentation. As changes are included and approved, advisory messages will be posted via hwg-news to inform all members of the changes and where to get their own copy of the documents for future reference. New members should receive a copy of the general policies automatically upon membership in the guild. As members subscribe to their respective mailing lists, the List Owner should send a copy of that list's rules and regulations to the new subscriber.

5.7 Exceptions to the rules

There exists certain specific exceptions to everyone having to follow the rules at all times. The exceptions involve certain posts made by List Owners and the Governing Board members.

The List Owners will not be cited for messages involving the maintenance of their list. This includes ADMIN: and various test messages. They will be expected to follow the netiquette rules established in all other ways.

The Governing Board has the right to play 'cop' at any time. They have been asked to let the Guides handle the situation unless it is extreme and needs a GB voice to correct it. They are expected to follow the rules like anyone else otherwise.

Any offense committed by the above entities that is not covered above is a violation and will be cited.

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6.0 Reporting Chain of Command

The Guild is based on a corporate model, and as such has a defined chain of command for reporting and accountability. The following shows the levels involved:

The Governing Board Contact functions as an advisor to the Guides. This person will act as a conduit of information between the Mail List Program Members and the Governing Board.

Governing Board Contact (GBC)

The structure of command for the List Guides appears as follows:

This allows for compartmentalization and a clear way for the various levels to interact. Some positions of various levels may be occupied by the same person. Those occupying positions at the same level are considered peers - i.e. List Guide Manager and List Owner Manager are peers.

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7.0 General List Guide Policies

7.1 Scope of Powers

The Guides have a limited scope of powers. They are allowed to cite members for violations at the level of the Suggestion To Improve and post redirects of off-topic threads. They will refer all MAJOR and CRITICAL level posts to the List Guide Manager for resolution. Any request to close a thread will also be sent to the List Guide Manager for action. The Guides are empowered to take action against any member of the HTML Writers Guild. This includes the Governing Board Members, The List Managers, other Guides and the general membership. All are accountable for their posts, and therefore actionable.

7.2 Discretion

All List Guides are expected to exercise good judgment in the handling of list duties. Discretion is paramount - if you can not handle the situation, escalate it.

7.3 Arbitration

Arbitration starts with the Mail List Management Team.

List Guides will forward all materials involved in the requested arbitration to the Area Guide Manager. The Area Guide Manager and the List Guide Manager will consult and decide if it needs further escalation. If it is decided that no further escalation is needed, a decision will be handed down, with a cc: to the List Guide. If escalation is needed, all materials will be forwarded to the next level of Management.

7.4 Complaints about List Guides

If excessive complaints are received about an individual List Guide, they will be advised of the investigation and relieved of duties in the case of flagrant abuse. The List Guide Manager will consult with the Mail List Manager and Area Guide Managers to reach a decision of action needed. As a normal course of duties, it is expected that there will be complaints lodged. All will be evaluated by the List Guide Manager and acted upon in individual cases. Only complaints of flagrant or persistent abuse will warrant action. We expect a slip once in a while, but List Guides will be expected to answer for their actions also.

7.5 List Rules

As previously mentioned, List Guides should help build their list's rules and regulations, as well as enhance the general information base available to the Guild. List rules and regulations may override general policies, if the Mail List Management Team concurs.

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8.0 List Guide Manager Policy

The List Guide Manager is responsible for managing the List Guide teams.

8.1 Staffing

Note: This section also applies to the Area Guide Managers, as they may have to take over as acting Manager on short notice. Their day-to-day duties will also have to perform a subset of the regular managerial duties.

The List Guide Manager will deal with staffing issues for the List Guide teams. This includes recruiting and discipline when required. It also includes the organizational structure of the Guides. The Governing Board will authorize and assist in these e fforts.

The List Guide Manager will delegate duties, and the authority needed to perfoem the duty, as is needed.

8.2 Discipline Actions

The List Guide Manager will be responsible for disciplining errant Guides. The Manager is also responsible for deciding punishment in Major level transgressions of members. This may be in conjunction with the Mail List Manager. Critical Level violations will first be handled as a mandatory one month suspension from all lists pending Governing Board members making a decision for further punishment/expulsion. The Manager will recommend said actions to the Mailing List Manager as appropriate to the situation.

8.3 Arbitration

The List Guide Manager handles first level arbitration with the assistance of the Area Guide Managers and List Guides. Any arbitration escalation is determined by a joint decision of the List Guide Manager and Area Guide Managers OR the member/List Guide under discussion

.

8.4 Investigation

The Governing Board has the right to investigate any complaints it deems justified about List Guide Manager misconduct. Inputs from the List Guides and Mail List Manager involved must be solicited during the investigation.

8.5 Documentation

The List Guide Manager will help develop mail list policies and procedures. All policies and procedure must have Governing Board approval before releasing them to the membership. The List Guide Manager will assist in the actual documentation of the policies and procedures.

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9.0 Mail List Manager Policy

The Mail List Manager is responsible for managing the List Owner teams.

9.1 Staffing

The Mail List Manager will deal with staffing issues for the List Owner and List Guide teams. This includes recruiting and discipline when required. The Governing Board will authorize and assist these efforts.

9.2 Discipline Actions

The Mail List Manager will be responsible for disciplining errant List Owners. The Manager is also responsible for deciding punishment in Critical level transgressions of members. This may be in conjunction with the List Guide Manager. Critical Level violations will first be handled as a mandatory one month suspension from all lists pending Governing Board members making a decision for further punishment/expulsion. The Manager will recommend said actions to the Governing Board as appropriate to the situation.

9.3 Arbitration

The Mail List Manager handles arbitrations with the assistance of the List Guide Manager. Any arbitration escalation is determined by the decision of the Mail List Manager OR the member/List Owner under discussion.

9.4 Investigation

The Governing Board has the right to investigate any complaints it deems justified about Mail List Manager misconduct. Inputs from the List Owners and List Guide Manager involved must be solicited during the investigation.

9.5 Documentation

The Mail List Manager will help develop general mail list policies and procedures. All policies and procedures must have Governing Board approval before releasing them to the membership. The Mail List Manager will assist in the actual documentation of the policies and procedures.

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