L-Soft Interviews an Industry Expert
Q & A with Gabe Goldberg, technology consultant/writer/editor
Q. You support and participate in several organizations, can you tell us about any main issues you are trying to promote?
A. I've been involved in computer user groups since starting my second job in 1971, at Mitre, a Washington, DC, area non-profit consultant to the federal government. SHARE (www.share.org), the group I joined then and still participate in, provided a great environment for professional and personal growth and development. Other groups such as HillGang and MVMUA (www.mvmua.org) (respectively, Washington, DC, and New York VM user groups) and CPCUG (Capital PC User Group, DC-area PC-oriented organization) all have similar orientations: helping members use technology more effectively. I'm now getting active in STC (www.stc.org and www.stcwdc.org) (Society for Technical Communication), which supports technology writers and editors. All the groups have a similar orientation: members helping members, mutual aid, providing the antidote to feeling alone with one's technical or writing or work-related problems. All the organizations provide strength in numbers when dealing with vendors,
learning new skills, solving problems, sharing information, etc.
Q. Do your books discuss your opinion on these topics?
A. The three books cover technical topics the Rexx programming language and IBM's VM operating system. They're not exactly "opinion" works. They each contain chapters written by 50-75 contributors, so you might consider each book a mini-conference or user group, with expertise and advice shared by experts for community benefit.
Q. Given all of your activities, can you explain how LISTSERV® has made an impact?
A. It's a powerful tool for building communities. Groups which meet occasionally use mailing lists to link members between meetings, and many groups which never meet only exist because this kind of technology provides a virtual meeting place. Mailing lists are in many ways better than real-world meetings, because they're asynchronous and ubiquitous: you can participate anytime, from anywhere. And there's never a dress code!
Q. Have you expanded your use of LISTSERV® since you initially received your donation?
A. Sure, we've created numerous mailing lists for CPCUG SIGs (special interest groups, really user groups within a user group). SIGs typically have two lists: announcements and discussion. That allows subscribers to filter list email to be most efficient, perhaps assigning higher priority to announcements from SIG leaders than to ongoing SIG member discussions. And LISTSERV® has facilitated CPCUG partnering with other organizations, since we have sophisticated email management tools.
Q. What LISTSERV® feature or features have been most helpful to you?
A. The Web interface simplifies list-management and subscriber chores. And digest mode allows reading full list content while reducing the number of interruptions during a day.
Q. How could LISTSERV® be improved?
A. Provide subscriber-side tools to manage subscriptions. Once someone joins more than a few lists, it becomes a chore to remember each one's parameters, implementation, passwords, commands, email addresses, etc. This cries out for the same sort of automation that LISTSERV® provides for list owners.
Provide more automated ways of creating and maintaining list headers.
Q. How long have you been involved in the technology industry and where did you get your start?
A. In college I majored in math, took computer and programming courses. As graduation approached it was clear that programming was the most appealing career path for me. My first job after college, in 1968, was working for IBM in Poughkeepsie, NY, designing and developing mainframe operating system software.
Q. What main challenges do you feel that the technology industry as a whole is facing today?
A. The pace of change makes it hard to become and remain a general expert, and fragmented technology makes it hard for different groups to exploit elements they have in common. Standards are nice, or would be if there were fewer of them and they were better followed.
Q. What is your opinion about online dating services?
A. I have no direct experience, but I know people who've had pleasant results with them. So they seem a fine application of technology to solve a real-life problem. Same for job sites, etc.
Q. What is your opinion about the e-mail marketing industry today?
A. True opt-in subscriber request plus confirmation should be mandatory by law and industry standard. Anything else leaves loopholes for spammers.
Q. Do you have any crucial advice for managing an e-mail list?
A. Identify list's goals before defining it characteristics of announce-only lists are very different from discussion list. Test small-scale before opening list to the public. Then pay attention to subscriber comments, modify list definition accordingly. Within reason, allow subscribers to develop consensus regarding list culture, don't be heavy handed.
A technology journalist and consultant, Gabe Goldberg focuses on the Internet and enterprise computing. A frequent conference speaker/organizer, he also volunteers with DC-area groups helping professionals and consumers apply technology to their daily lives.