Date: Wed, 14 May 1997 17:46:45 -0400
From: I'm not a complete idot <mbarker@MIT.EDU>
Subject: WOW: FAQ: Reminder - 14 May 1997 - EVERYONE, PLEASE READ!

Welcome to Here you can learn about Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.

For those of you who haven't done this before--welcome! This may look a bit long, but give it a read. Print it out. Keep a copy around. Go on, I want you to do it. Okay?

Keep your eyes open, we have contests, exercises, and just plain fun starting up all the time, and you may find your fingers doing the working.

Take a look at for the latest and greatest contest soon to be coming our way. Sharpen those pencils, put your thinking caps on, and start getting your entries ready now! Submission dates: June 11 through midnight June 24 (your time).

walking down memory lane, I stumbled over this old thinker... thought some of you might enjoy taking a stroll with me.

[for those who wonder what the heck this is, keep reading...]

the janitor


-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+= Pedal Down on the Infohighway
Sat, 2 Jul 1994 18:35:02 JST
Revised Wed May 14 17:43:53 EDT 1997

I was rolling along at an easy 40 or 50 Kb per second, thinking about just what the old infohighway had coming up out there in the high-speed lanes--fractal environments dripping down and around your visor, jumpspeed datadumping at 100 Mb or better when the cybercops aren't monitoring, and those huddling melts of mixed infospace where human and AI rarely dare venture--daydreaming about a fast game or two of RPG, maybe a little IRC chatter.. when I caught a datalink reflection and flashed the place I really needed to scramble.

So I backed down, hit the blinker, ignored the tired cursing of the serious infotruckers swerving and dodging down the lines, and took a write. Slid down the lines, slower, slower, and there it was.

The infocrossing known as WRITERS. Coming from the internet, the roadsigns said

Backed it way down, and started looking for an empty slot to fill.

Can't go too fast here, the place is always jammed with words and strings and themes and conceptual gridlocks and dilemmas and all the rest of that runaway vegetation that springs up in the corners and gratings where writers hang out. Keeps your reflexes toned up just watching, and when you're trying to drive, it can be wild.

No matter what you think of the clutter, it's a good place to stop and check your map. I know some people always think their map is tuned into reality, but this is one of the finest places for finding out how far out of touch you've gotten. And it only stings for a while...

It's pretty scenic along this part of the road less taken. Whether you just sit by the side and watch for bumperstickers and traffic jams or go speeding down the passing lane honking your own horn, you'll find plenty to read. Watch for the inforunners breezing along, maybe a Sunday writer wobbling in and out of the traffic, and those serious truckers working their loads. Check out the talegating around here, too.

Say, why do all the infotruckers have MAC written across their foreheads?

This place has some of the best diners with gas to go and all the amenities around, too. 'Course they're all self-serve, so don't go abusing the help or you'll find yourself in a vicious circle. Just help yourself--and give other people a hand when you can, too.

And every bit of it is home-made originals--none of that prepackaged slop from the factory around here. Gives me a shiver sometimes, meeting all those real authors in the virtual like this. And when you serve up your goulash of words, they'll help you spice it to the taste of editors everywhere. Without complaining--too much.

If you're lost, there are backseat drivers who will happily tell you where to go, griping about the way you hold the handle or telling you to brake or speed up. There's a few old coots who hang around and try to show you how to tune up and burn words, though. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes nonsense, so just listen to what helps you, and ignore the rest.

Plenty of hitchhikers around looking for a short ride with you, or even a long one if you'll put up with them. It's all part of the traffic here on the strip, and after watching a while, you'll probably want to do a wheelie or two. Go ahead, just watch for the curves and don't crack up. If you end up in the gutter--you aren't the first.

If you happen to get lost in the interchanges, slow down and pull off for a while. Don't get overheated or take a chance on boiling over, it just isn't worth it. Then when you're ready to go again, signal and move on with the traffic.

There's a lot of construction along this way, and sometimes the road gets awful bumpy. Don't be afraid to point out some of the dips, but watch out for falling stones, wild lightning, and other infotrail hazards.

I always watch for oil slicks and heat mirages here after rain storms. The oil slicks make some of the most beautiful rainbows and sliding colors, and those dancing heat waves hide some of the best illusions of our times.

Watch for your own visions, the little reflections of your headlights or the major lights of our times, and let us know what kind of roadkills you find along the information highway. Heck, we'll even let you spin us a road never taken and guide the whole bunch write off the beaten track over the ruts and byways of your mind.

Fasten your seatbelt! Green light!


Hey, let's do it in the road!
Come on, come on, just one for the road?
A little intro, a little poem, maybe a short story...
pretty soon you'll get your kicks on WRITERS 66 ...
lots of good intentions around, so this must be the road to...
well, I thought so.
Speed limit 9600 baud, eh?
Roll on little bits... read all about it on the infohighway!
Be reading you on the flipside--we goin' write-write!
-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+= So, did that answer all your questions?

okay. you still want to know how things work. read on...


Please read this section when you want to know how to:

  1. Introducing yourself to the list
  2. To get off the list, take a vacation, or even cut down daily mail:
  3. To check your mail settings
  4. Select postings by TOPICS
  5. To receive a copy of a FAQ
  6. To help avoid stepping on toes
  7. FAQS about sub'ing and crit'ing
  8. Submissions
  9. Replying to something on the list?
  10. To get information from the archives
  11. To get a copy of our very own newspaper
  12. Poke around with the web...
  13. Commercial or Information?
  14. Message Overflow at Listserv
  15. Worried about the "Good Times" virus?
  16. Using The Ol' Subject Line
  17. A Quick Tug on The Ropes of Interactive Stories
  18. ArcadiaMUSH -- The Official MUSH for Writers!
  1. Introducing yourself to the list
  2. Most people start with a little bio or other hint about just who they are. You can include BIO or INTRO in the subject line. For example:

    -Subject: FILL: BIO: Once Upon A Tink

    It can be useful to include your email address in the body of the bio (mail systems sometimes modify it, and including it in the text will help people who want to write directly to you). Also, if you don't mind, please list your town/city, state, (and/or country). That helps if someone is "in the neighborhood" or when we get into discussions of regional quirks.

    The listowner (that's me!) will try to keep copies of the bios online (at for the web enabled). If you want specific information kept out or your bio removed, please write to If you want to make sure your bio is included, please send a copy to

    Mostly, though, step right up and introduce yourself. We like to meet new folks (I'm not going to mention new blood in front of the critical vampires...:-) and appreciate anyone taking that first step.

    "Hi, I'm tink. I'm a writer..."

  3. To get off the list, take a vacation, or even cut down daily mail:
  4. How do you get off the list?

    send email to LISTSERV@MITVMA.MIT.EDU (NOT WRITERS!) with the text:


    No one on the list can remove you, you must do it yourself.

    [NOTE: listserv sometimes is comparitively SLOW! also, the internet often runs two hours to two DAYS behind in delivery of mail. so--especially when signing off, which is known to take time, be patient. I recommend setting yourself NOMAIL, then SIGNOFF. okay?]

    for temporary vacations, use the text


    then to get your mail again:


    To have all messages collected and mailed to you in batches:


    To quit digest,


  5. To check your mail settings
  6. (or check if email is working! this is better than sending a TEST message!)

    send email to LISTSERV@MITVMA.MIT.EDU (NOT WRITERS!) with the following text:


    if LISTSERV says you aren't a member, please feel free to subscribe again

    SUBSCRIBE WRITERS yourfirstname yourlastname

    if it sends you settings that don't match what you like, change them.

    [NOTE: this is also a good way to check if email is getting through without filling the list with test messages. if you get a response, email is working. if not, well...]

  7. Select postings by TOPICS
  8. normally, readers get all the postings here on writers. For those who want to limit their mail, the TOPICS system provides a way to cut down.

    when people post using these TOPIC tags


    you can choose to receive any combination of these specific areas. Send LISTSERV@MITVMA.MIT.EDU a message with the following


    or whatever selection of topics you want to try.

    You can also add or subtract topics with messages like



    To return to getting ALL, send the message


  9. To receive a copy of a FAQ
  10. The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) provides a quick introduction to services of the list and additional resources you may want to investigate.

    for those with web access, FAQS can be found at or (more specifically)

    so be good little webcrawlers...

  11. To help avoid stepping on toes
  12. I recommend looking at a copy of a FAQ that discusses some topics which have caused problems in the past. The title is:

    FAQ: A Preliminary List of Sparks and Irritants - some upsetting topics

    it is available on the web at

  13. FAQS about sub'ing and crit'ing
  14. You may also find these useful in understanding how to work and learn with the members of the list

  15. Submissions
  16. To send something to the list, send a message to Everyone will get a copy. [NB: You must be a member of the list to post on it.]

    Please use the Subject line to tell us what you are sending. It should look like: (no dash in front)

    -Subject: TOPIC: title

    You can have re: in there, too, without hurting anything.

    The topics are:

    So your first bio might be entitled:

    -Subject: FILL: INTRO: Bio of A Budding Ogrette

    Please try to avoid attachments, Microsoft rtf formats, and other extensions. Use plain ASCII text.

    To file things in the archives, send a copy to the address It will be filed.

    You may want to also post it, or simply send notification to the list that it is available.

    Basic length guidelines: Some mailers cannot handle messages longer than 50 Kbytes. Assuming a word is about 5 characters, that works out to a little over 8,000 words. If you use big words, put fewer in a single message:-)

    If you have something longer than that, put it in several messages and post it over a period of time (not all the same day, please?). Use a subject line that links the pieces together.

  17. Replying to something on the list?
  18. If you include the message you are replying to, make sure you remove any header lines in that message that refer to WRITERS. See for more details.

  19. To get information from the archives
  20. first send a message to LISTSERV similar to the one between the dashes

    //  JOB  Echo=No,Reply-To=None
    Database Search DD=Rules Echo=Yes
    //Rules DD *
    search * in wfiles from 1 jan 1995 to 1 feb 1995
    you may also want to use search lines such as:

    search * in wfiles where sender contains ( barker )
    search exercise in wfiles since 1 jan 1995

    LISTSERV will send you a list of available postings matching your search.

    second, send a message with the number(s) of pieces you want to get a copy of in the body.

    it's that simple.

  21. To get a copy of our very own newspaper
  22. Send a message to with this number as the only text:


    you will get your very own copy of the PM&I, suitable for lining birdcages or other festivities...

    psst? If you click here, you can read PMI V4 N1 On the Web NOW!

  23. Poke around with the web...
  24. try this URL (go right to the url with all the writers, to give you the links that you'll endorse...)

    tink's pages are at

    (we're rarely on a steady course...but click a link anyway?)

  25. Commercial or Information?
  26. "Here's my rule of thumb on the subject: Why am I supposed to be interested? Because I'm a writer, or because I'm a WRITER? If neither of these two, then it's advertising. If Jane Hamilton were to announce that _The Guardian_ was going into another printing in September, I think that the members of the list would have a legitimate interest in knowing where and how they can order it if they choose... If Joe Blow @ has a book out called _Jumper Cables: Ten Ways to Restart Your Writing,_ I think it's legitimate to call it a pointer to a resource rather than advertising. But when the information has no particular interest for us that it wouldn't have for any other mailing list, I think that's taking advantage of our group." (quote from

  27. Message Overflow at Listserv
  28. Occasionally, our flock gets noisy and overflows the number of messages allowed per day (currently 200). When this happens, the mail stops until the listowner sends a special message to listserv.

    If you happen to post during this period, you may get back a message from listserv that looks like

    -Subject: Output of your job "YOURUSERNAME"

    -> > I am fairly careful to crit only stuff
    -Unknown command - ">". Try HELP.
    and more repetitions, as if LISTSERV tried to run your posting as commands.

    When this happens, please don't just keep posting, it doesn't help.

    You may also get this message:

    -You had  20 tries.  From now on  your requests will  be ignored  without any
    -reply. You can restore your access to LISTSERV by having another person send
    -the following command to LISTSERV@MITVMA: SERVE youraddress
    -All subsequent commands have been flushed.

    If you get the message saying to get someone to send SERVE youraddress to listserv, tell or any other member of the list about it, and we'll help.

    For all those who have asked why I don't just increase the number... the agreement with the MITVMA system administrators when I moved the list here was that we would use 150 as a quota. Frankly, they were worried about such a large list (about 200 people) having that many messages a day, and wanted it set at 100. We are already 50 over the agreement, and our membership has grown almost five times.

    [brnnng? brnnng? brnnng?

    excuse me while I see who that is.


    Oh, I see. Some people don't seem to know that we have a limit, and you thought you'd just interrupt the show to tell them? Okay, but make it fast...

    We only have a limited number (200) of messages each day. This means that flamewars, unlimited chat, and similar variations can shut the list down fairly easily. For this reason, and because you are writers who should think before simply flooding communications, the management (that's me!) does ask that you try to follow some of the simple guidelines to make your communications effective. Some of the most critical of these are simply "think before you post" along with "think of your audience". In any case...

    If you have a web browser, you might like to look at these

    1. FAQ: A Preliminary List of Sparks and Irritants
    2. FAQ: Assorted Rules! (was: Re: Practice Safe Postings)
    3. TECH: Making the Most of Posting
    4. In Praise of Having Opinions
    5. FILLER: Expectations...
    6. FILLER: A Tasteful Proposal: Post Your Best
    7. FILLER: List Abuse and Great Writing
    for other discussions and considerations somewhere about this region.

    *****And in late-breaking news of the bits, we find that the automatic reply address now is set to return to sender, address wellknown... so when you hit reply, check the address if you want to tell the list all about it!*****

    we now return you to your irregularly scheduled bemusement and other blinders:-]

  29. Worried about the "Good Times" virus?
  30. There are several hoaxes and urban legends that appear repeatedly on the networks. One is the "Good Times" hoax--which is mail claiming that there is a virus spread by reading mail with the title "good times". THERE IS NO SUCH VIRUS. (there is, however, a FAQ on Good Times or this one)

    There also are chain letters of various sorts. One of the famous ones claims to be from someone who was sold a cookie recipe by Neiman-Marcus for $250, and is "fighting" this outrage by giving everyone the recipe. DON'T SEND IT TO US, WE'VE ALL SEEN IT!

    There are books and interest groups devoted to keeping track of this kind of twisted thinking. For more details, try

  31. Using The Ol' Subject Line
  32. [a bit of the boredom and foolishness of listserv, served up...]

    A Model Subject (for the Queen to rain on?:-)

    Please use the Subject line to tell us what you are sending. It should look like: (no dash in front)

    -Subject: TOPIC: title

    The topics are:

    (yes, I know this seems simplistic - there are only nine openings, and this does the job, mostly.)

    You can have re: in there, too, without hurting anything. I.e.

    -Subject: SUB: title
    -Subject: re: SUB: title
    -Subject: re: re: SUB: title

    are all the same (a SUBMISSION) to listserv! Re: is simply ignored by listserv when it is checking for the topics.

    NOTE: The COLON is necessary! Listserv does not understand
    -Subject: SUB title
    or even
    -Subject: SUB stuff: title
    as being submissions.

    NOTE TOO!: Multiple TOPICS are combined. So doing this:
    -Subject: FILLER: EXER: unhappy mixtures
    would send this message to both the FILLER and EXERCISE readers (and probably make some of the EXERCISE readers struggle against their rubber bands...). So please try to use one topic, okay?

    Incidentally, listserv uses a very simple method of deciding what topics are. It does NOT recognize FLR or other innovative versions - it does recognize any of these


    as the same thing. (i.e., it starts at the first letter and matches against the topics until it hits a colon or a letter that doesn't match.)

    If listserv doesn't understand the topic (e.g. FLR:), it gets put in the OTHER bucket (I think that's the right name). it only goes to folks on ALL or those few who have specifically subscribed to this oddball topic. it won't bother the people who are using topics filtering at all.

    and a bit of slander about keeping subject lines matched up with the contents of the messages...

    [short pause while our hero clashes lance and shield in front of a windmill]

    Just a reminder:

    -Subject: re: SUB: The Never Ending Soap Suds

    is considered a submission by LISTSERV. If you want to make a comment or critique, use

    -Subject: CRIT: The Never Ending Soap Suds

    and when the content isn't about the writing anymore, try

    -Subject: FILLER: The Never Ending Soap Suds

    I.e. try using the topic tags correctly, and change them when the content of the message changes.

    (oh, let's not forget to praise the humble colon. Without it, listserv doesn't know the word is a topic, and postings gang aft algae. So exercise that right little pinky and colonize:)

    One could even imagine people doing:

    -Subject: SUB: (Poem) Wordy Durds
    -Subject: SUB: (Romance) Shaving His Hairy Chest
    -Subject: SUB: (Essay) Terrorism In Human Relations

    which would let those who dislike certain genres delete from the subject line, although it doesn't do automated filtering for them... While such a convention has been mentioned from time to time, and some few have even tried to follow such a discipline, it is most often honored in the breach...

    (and the windmill grinds on, little minding the cavorting figure before it...)

  33. A Quick Tug on The Ropes of Interactive Stories
  34. The basic keynote of what we call an INTeractive story (INT: topic!) is that INTeractive stories are multi-authored tales, somewhat along the lines of round robbins and other "do it together" ways of enjoying a group write. To avoid stomping on each other's characters, we have some suggested conventions used in some of the interactive realms. Others prefer their play unlined, and take their chances. If you aren't sure about one of the tales in progress, ask one of the participants. And have fun!

    One set of guidelines can be found at

  35. ArcadiaMUSH -- The Official MUSH for Writers!
  36. [I'm sorry, but you have reached an interruption! So read along with me, and we will see where the gold brick road leads, shall we?]

    If you would like to chat real time with other WRITERS, and you have telnet capabilities, you can visit the WRITERS Bar and Grill on ArcadiaMUSH, The Official MUSH of Writers. Just telnet to 6250...(click here The WRITERS MUSH (ArcadiaMUSH))

    [*okay, you're confused. Arcadia is indeed a place for playing games, not far from the Elyssian fields, and mush is a breakfast cereal. However, in this context, it refers to a place! this is the magic of the internet, allowing us to turn mush into a place for games...telnet, by the wayside, is an older method of connecting hither with yon. it actually makes your monitor and keyboard temporarily part of the other computer, and was one of the amazing things invented on the internet once upon a time. try it, you'll like it! and yes, MS users, it is part of the networking software. Go to your msdos window and type telnet. Open the connect window, tell it and port 6250, then go mush!*]

    when you get there... create a character for yourself. You can use your real name or not, whichever you prefer.

    For example, if you wanted to create a character whose name is Shakespeare with a password of hamlet, you would type:

    create Shakespeare hamlet

    You may also log on as a guest if you'd like to check the place out before creating your own character. To do so, type:

    connect guest guest

    If you have any problems or questions, e-mail Lady Jane at

    [*so, the answer is, that at the other end of the gold brick road--here symbolized by the somewhat aging technology of telnet--lies ArcadiaMUSH! where you--in your guise of yourself, a mysterious guest, or even some one you have always wished to be--may venture to meet...well, who knows! try it!*]

    [and thus endeth that interruptus, although our cognition continues... keep reading!]

Welcome! We look forward to your contributions.


-=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=- To get a copy of a similar FAQ, send (NOT WRITERS!) a message with the text


If you have web access, you can also look at

(sometimes addressed as

-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+=-+= Butterflies Flutter
Kleptomaniac: A rich thief.
-- Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"